Last month, the Portland Gay Men’s Chorus in Oregon held a charity concert at Newman United Methodist Church. Everything seemed to go well, and they raised $3,000, which they wanted to donate to Hearts With A Mission.
That’s a faith-based homeless shelter that caters to kids ages 10-17 — which is why the chorus members wanted the money to go there: “We know that LGBTQ youth comprise approximately 40 percent of all homeless youth, which means the mission, which is the only youth shelter in Jackson and Josephine counties, is serving LGBTQ youth.”
Besides that, the shelter, which normally gets $50,000 a year from the Grants Pass Department of Public Safety, had a budget shortfall, so they were already requesting $26,000 from the local government. The $3,000 wasn’t just a nice gift; it was something they desperately needed.
… and you all knew exactly where this story was going when you saw the phrase “faith-based,” didn’t you?
Hearts With A Mission Executive Director Kevin Lamson said that the decision not to accept the money had to do with public perception.
“By branding something with our logo, what we are essentially doing is endorsing it,” Lamson said. “It’s a shame that that factors into how somebody else perceives our organization.”
They rejected the money because it came from gay people, and they were worried it’d make them look bad to their other Christian donors. That’s what this boiled down to.
And the worst thing about that? There’s a perverse logic to that thinking.
Executive Director Kevin Lamson defended the board’s decision, saying it had nothing to do with not wanting the money raised by a gay men’s group, but rather the nuance of what some may think when they accept money.
The Boys & Girls Club, for example, was peppered with threats of withheld funding and canceled memberships after it allowed a rally by Rogue Indivisible, an anti-Trump group, in February.
“Many of the kids that we’ve worked with have been abused or they are struggling with their own sexual identity,” Lamson said. “If they see in the paper or hear their parents saying that they don’t support our organization anymore, that’s going to have an effect on them and whether they come to us.”
By accepting money from an openly gay group, Christian bigots might withhold funding, which hurts the openly gay youth they want to serve.
Christianity: It solves one problem while creating another.
Lamson’s decision had other repercussions, though. By rejecting the $3,000, the city council is now rethinking the $26,000 aid request:
“The idea that they would turn down any sort of philanthropic donation if they need more funding is not right,” City Councilor Tyler Flaming told the Daily Courier.
“I feel an obligation to make sure that this organization is maximizing their philanthropic potential for raising money before the city is asked to provide money,” Flaming said. “When money is tight and we have a magnifying glass on how the city is spending its money … I take that very seriously.”
If it’s any consolation, Lamson urged the chorus to donate the $3,000 to the Maslow Project, another local group that helps homeless youth.
It looks like the shelter now regrets their decision. Who knew acting like bigots in order to appease bigots wouldn’t go over so well?!
On Tuesday, Hearts With A Mission issued an apology, saying in a statement, “On behalf of the Hearts With A Mission Board of Directors, we would like to extend our sincerest apology to the Neumann United Methodist Church for the decision to not accept a donation from the Portland Gay Men’s Chorus event.”
“We realize the decision to refer the funds to another non-profit was a mistake,” the statement read. “We sincerely apologize to the LGBTQ community for the offense we caused. This decision did not reflect our commitment to foster relationships within our whole community.”
At least they’ve learned their lesson. By rejecting a kind gesture from a gay group, even with the best of intentions, they have probably screwed themselves out of even more money from potential donors who now perceive them as anti-gay.
An editorial in the Mail Tribune sure felt this decision backfired on them:
If Hearts With A Mission wants to continue operating shelters for homeless youths using taxpayers’ money, it needs to stand up for the principle of helping those who need help without judging them, and that extends to having the courage to accept help graciously offered, regardless of what some in the community might think. This unfortunate decision is likely to damage its ability to raise funds from the public far more than simply accepting the donation would have.
Before it asks for any more money from anyone, Hearts With A Mission needs to decide what its mission is.
It’s unfortunate that it worked out this way, because Lamson was clearly trying to make a decision in the best interest of the kids he serves. But the toxicity of Christianity hurt his group, just like it hurts LGBT people.
He made the wrong decision. He should’ve accepted the money. And he should’ve proudly and openly thanked the chorus for making a donation, encouraging others to follow suit. And if any Christians complained about it, he could’ve told them he accepts donations from all generous people and the Jesus he follows doesn’t discriminate.
Instead, he took the low road. And look what happened.
(Thanks to Jaynee for the link)