LGBT Inclusion Within World’s Largest Religions is a Top Focus of Arcus’ Spring 2016 Grants

March 21, 2016
As same-sex identities and partnerships continue to be affirmed in some parts of the world, there remain numerous countries where it is still illegal or highly dangerous to be lesbian, gay, or bisexual, and no place in the world is genuinely safe for transgender individuals. A number of grants in Arcus’ spring 2016 portfolio target the religious reasons that underpin so many of the obstacles to LGBT freedom and safety.

Engaging LGBT-affirming Muslim leaders worldwide, as well as in the United States, is the goal of the Los Angeles-based Muslims for Progressive Values, which will use funds to promote LGBT-inclusive expressions of Islam within an international human-rights framework. The group will influence policy through the U.N. and continue to build partnerships with LGBT-accepting religious leaders.

The Jakarta, Indonesia–based Yayasan Puan Amal Hayati will lift inclusive interpretations of Islam and build the voices of Muslim activists within U.N. forums and in a number of African and Asian countries.

Several Christian organizations aim to expand work already under way to support leaders who affirm all sexual orientations and gender identities in Africa. Inclusive & Affirming Ministries, based in Cape Town, South Africa—an organization that works to raise understanding of sexual orientation in Sub-Saharan African countries—will address discrimination and prejudice through dialogue, training, and Bible-study resources.

The Yvette Flunder Foundation will elevate the Fellowship Global Project—United Coalition of Affirming Africans, a group founded by pro-LGBT African American clergy, present in Uganda, Rwanda, and Kenya, that is building an inclusive Christian movement tied to a larger social-justice agenda.

In the U.S., the Wichita-based Reformation Project, which has held five major conferences to train individuals to talk about same-sex relationships with conservative Christians, plans to deepen its infrastructure to expand efforts to reform church teaching on sexual orientation and gender identity among conservative and evangelical communities. Building on the success of the vibrant Sojourner Truth Leadership Circle, the Auburn Theological Seminary will support a second cohort of black transgender women leaders of faith in Atlanta, where the organization is nurturing a mutually supportive network to build leadership and ensure self-care in response to violence.

Two groups received funding to advance critical research on LGBT issues. The Public Religion Research Institute plans to conduct four national opinion polls and expand its American Values Atlas project, a 50-state survey that will include an unprecedented database of 40,000 interviews on LGBT-inclusive nondiscrimination laws. The Chapin Hall Center for Children received a first-time grant to advance its research aimed at ending youth homelessness, specifically through the Voices of Youth Count study, which is collecting data on the needs and trajectories among young people experiencing homelessness, among whom LGBT youth are overrepresented.

The Religion Newswriters Foundation will continue to cultivate high-quality media coverage of LGBTI rights and religion across Africa through tutorials and the creation of a network of journalists who represent the continent’s geographic, ethnic, religious, and cultural diversity.

The Interfaith Working Group, which over two years has begun to transform itself from an online hub for trans people of faith into a national advocacy organization, received funding for the Being Brave Together campaign, which brings together community leaders for collaboration on national projects.

Support for intermediaries continues to be an important part of Arcus’ grantmaking strategies. Based in Saxonwold, South Africa, The The Other Foundation received a grant to help smaller groups change social attitudes in 13 African countries, particularly by direct engagement between key LGBTI and mainstream faith organizations.

The Pride Foundation, building on its success in defending the legalization of same-sex marriage, received a grant to support smaller organizations that oppose religious exemptions to anti-discrimination laws. It will also work to build the visibility of this issue within the philanthropic community.

Additional grants were provided to Front Line: International Foundation for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, Point Source Youth, Religious Institute, Astraea Lesbian Foundation for Justice for the International Trans Fund, Film Forum, Inc., GATE-Global Action for Trans Equality, Gender DynamiX, Muslim Women’s Network UK, and the Western Cape Provincial Council of Churches.