For two months in 2008, Rev. Otis Moss III of Trinity United Church of Christ was Barack Obama’s pastor. Moss took over leadership of the church in February of that year, just as Obama was becoming a serious contender for the presidential nomination, and just before Obama was forced to denounce Moss’s predecessor, Rev. Jeremiah Wright, after news outlets aired excerpts from inflammatory sermons condemning the United States government.
Even as he distanced himself from Wright, Obama pledged loyalty to Trinity.
“With Rev. Wright's retirement and the ascension of my new pastor, Rev. Otis Moss, III, Michelle and I look forward to continuing a relationship with a church that has done so much good,” he wrote in a statement.
However, Trinity’s association with Wright turned out to be too much of a drag on his campaign, and Obama left the church in May. He may have found Moss’s politics more congenial. Moss recently wrote this letter to state legislators, asking them to vote in favor of gay marriage, a cause Obama has championed.
My purpose in writing you is to encourage you to stand with me and other faith leaders, to support SB 10, the Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act. There is no doubt people who are same-gender loving occupy a prominent space in the body of Christ. We recognize the fingerprint of the Divine upon all humanity. We also acknowledge that God’s ethic of love charges us to support the civil rights of all members of the human community.
Religious Freedom is a paramount constitutional ideal; protecting the autonomy of religious institutions to practice our faith without the imposition and the encumbrances of any outside authority, including the State.
Senate Bill 10 protects religious freedom while extending the freedom to marry for all couples, including same-sex couples in Illinois.
The Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act allows us to recognize and celebrate the diversity of our religious heritages, institutional practices, and beliefs on a range of theological and social issues, while holding harmless, those clergy and faith institutions that elect not to officiate same-sex unions. This is not a matter of theology, but simply a matter of public policy grounded in democratic ideals whereby we protect all citizens under the law.
We stand on the three pillars.
1. We feel called to “live our faith and not legislate our faith” for the Constitution is designed to guarantee fundamental protections for all persons. We have learned to be more than a one-issue community and to seek the beloved community where we may not all agree, but we all recognize the fingerprint of the Divine upon all of humanity.
2. While we affirm the plurality of perspectives, we stand united and in solidarity in affirming the principle of equal protection under the law for all citizens of the United States of America. We believe that the values that ought to inform our public engagement as residents of Illinois are the principles that unite us rather than the beliefs that distinguish us.
3. We deeply respect the right of religious institutions to define marriage in accordance with their practices, beliefs, and doctrines, and this law in no way infringes upon that freedom. The religious exemption language in the Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act is clear that members of the clergy or religious institutions are held legally harmless should they elect not to acknowledge any civil marriage that is not compatible with their religious beliefs.
We understand the State’s responsibility to ensure that all families of the State of Illinois are treated equally under the law.
Therefore, we respectfully ask you to vote in favor of the Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act.
Rev. Dr. Otis Moss III
Trinity United Church of Christ