I’ve been traveling out to our State Capitol this spring with a group from PROMO Missouri, including several clergy colleagues. On March 1, I participated in a 4 hour hearing on Missouri’s proposed “Don’t Say Gay” legislation along with others from Holy Communion.. This is my testimony:
Good Morning. My name is the Rev Mike Angell. I am the priest and pastor at the Episcopal Church of the Holy Communion in University City, Missouri. I pastor a church with many young adults who received bullying and abuse for their sexual orientation or gender identity at school. If you want to pass a law to protect vulnerable kids, pass a law that prevents bullying in school. If you want to pass a law safeguarding kids’ mental health, outlaw conversion therapy. I can’t tell you how many reports of bullying I hear that have faith at the root. As a Christian, my faith is supposed to teach me how to love my neighbor, not how to bully them. My Bible is not meant to be about homophobia, or transphobia. My faith is not a reason to hate.
I am also here as the spouse of a public school teacher. We could talk about the text of this legislation, but the text feels far from final, so let’s talk about the intention behind this legislation. This law seeks to chill speech. This law seeks to make schools less safe for students to come out as gay or trans.
As the spouse of an educator, I’ve got to tell you, the vast majority of educators don’t want you legislating their classrooms this way. Part of our teacher crisis in Missouri has to do with government overreach into instruction. The Senate Committee heard a similar bill, and after the hearing it changed the bill entirely into a bill that would force educators to out their students or risk losing their license. As you “perfect” this bill, please stay miles away from the forced outing of kids. You will make our schools less safe. You will make our kids less safe.
Let me be clear, I don’t want you to pass any version of this law in Missouri. My husband and I adopted from the Missouri foster system. Our son, next year will enroll in either pre-K or Kindergarten. He’s four. We’re working it out. Pray for us.
I hope that in my son’s classroom, his teachers will be allowed to read books which portray families like ours, families with two parents of the same gender. I hope my child can see himself, see his family, reflected in the curriculum. I’m sick of hearing my family described as a “controversial topic.” We’re not, we’re just a fact.
I hope he sees his friends’ families in the curriculum as well. I hope his class has books about Jewish families, Muslim Families, Black families, families with trans kids, immigrant families. We are at our strongest as a democracy when our kids are taught to trust their neighbors in school. We are at our strongest as Christians when our churches teach love. Thank you.