Sunday afternoon at Rock City church in Lubbock, several Lubbock Area religious leaders gathered to tell their congregation and the local media that they stand in opposition to a directive released by the Department of Education and the Department of Justice days earlier.
“The pastors of Lubbock Texas who join me on this stage and many others who are unable to be here at this time, stand united this evening as we address the issue, the order of president Barack Obama’s administration released on Friday the 13th of May 2016,” said pastor Jeff McCreight. “This is the order concerning the restrooms and showers facilities of our government schools. As ministers of the gospel of Jesus Christ and of the kingdom of the one only God of the bible, we are assigned to watch over the souls under our authority and in our city. Our biblical stance, our biblical authority: we sternly oppose the order that the president’s administration has issued and we will not in any way stand for its implementation in our city.”
The guidance issued on May 13 was actually not an executive order, rather direction that public schools should allow transgender students to use bathrooms matching their gender identity. The guidelines also clarified a number of other components of Title IX, all working toward creating a safe and nondescriminatory environment for all students. The joint letter which these guidelines came in said that schools should comply in order to be eligible for federal funding.
At least six religious leaders from the Lubbock area contributed to the press conference, which was attended by around 70 people. Rock City Church leaders said that the community leaders in attendance included Sammy Murimi, David Shelburne, Ed Ainsowrth, Mark Elvers, Steve Shaw, and Jeff McCreight.
McCreight who is the pastor at Rock City led the conference. He repeated that the federal guidelines are a government overreach, a statement that was met with heavy applause from the audience.
“If people in D.C. can tell your children where and how to use the bathroom, then there is no freedom that is safe for you as citizens of the United States,” said David Shelburne to those in attendance.
McCreight added that he agrees with Texas’ Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick’s rejection of the federal guidelines.
“In Texas we will not yield to blackmail from the president of the United States and I will add especially when it pertains to children and our young people,” he said.
In this political controversy, McCreight believes the law of God trumps the laws of men.
“It was a corrupt move by a corrupt agenda to remove moral boundaries that have existed as long as human kind has existed on planet earth,” he said of the federal guidelines.
One of McCreight’s greatest concerns was that allowing children to encounter people with different sexual organs than their own in public bathrooms would interfere with their moral development.
“It is our conviction that gender dysphoria or gender identity disorder, is a condition that should be treated like any other health condition and that is privately by a medical professional or psychiatric personnel, this should never have been paraded as a political issue,” he said.
McCreight explained that he has talked extensively with his congregation about national policy developments which relate to sexuality or gender identity. He believes that his statements at the conference reflect a consensus of his entire congregation.
In fact, he added that his congregation can now embody the opposition expressed at their church Sunday by speaking out to public schools. He hopes parents will confront their school leadership on campuses where transgender students are allowed to chose their own bathrooms.
“I believe the chain of command should be honored, and I think you go in and make an appeal to the local principal who will go up to the school board and even the district,” he said. “But I think at some point if there’s not any hearing of the concern or an understanding of the concern, that a parent has to make a choice, do they want to continue to have their child in that environment with the risks of that concern there?”
McCreight and his fellow pastors talked extensively about the role they believe parent’s play in shaping a child’s morals and gender identity.
“In my opinion the younger a child begins to act in certain ways, that’s where nurturing comes in. In parenting and psychology there is nature versus nurture, and I think oftentimes parents need to nurture their child onto the right path onto his gender or her gender,” McCreight said.
Grace Rogers disagrees with him on that point. Rogers is on the Board of Directors for Lubbock’s Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gay’s chapter. Rogers explained that she’s met with the parents of many transgender children who say their kids expressed discomfort with their assigned gender identity in their earliest childhood years. She attended the press conference at Rock City and was perplexed as to why the pastors saw the federal guidelines as a threat.
“People go to public bathrooms with transgender people all the time,” she said.
In her role with PFLAG, Rogers also works with a support group for transgender individuals in the Lubbock area. She explained that Lubbock has a sizeable community of transgender people, ranging from teenagers to senior citizens.
“Even though I don’t agree with what [McCreight] said, I don’t object to his right to say so,” she said of the press conference.
Rogers is a Christian as well, she attends church every week and sometimes multiple times a week. But she said that in the way she practices her faith, it is important to extend love to transgender individuals, which means allowing them to use the bathroom they feel most comfortable in.
She is also a proud former school teacher. During her time teaching she provided accommodations for students with learning differences or disabilities, she doesn’t see why it would be difficult to also provide accommodations for transgender students.
“I just wish that everyone would just cool it and let the schools do what is in the best interest of all the students. And that does mean all, all includes trans kids too,” Rogers said.
The pastors who stood at Rock City don’t plan on changing their stance, but McCreight clarified that at the end of the day while he opposes the federal guidelines, he wants family members of transgender individuals to treat them with love and support.
“This is the standard, this is the structure we should follow, but when there’s a real life situation in a family, that’s when we are gracious and loving and stick by their side and help them through it,” he explained.
Rogers added that loved ones offering acceptance and willingness to listen makes a big difference for people who identify as transgender.
“The big thing is they just need to be accepted as they believe– and strongly believe– that they are,” she said.