We've been following the Arcus Foundation's implementation of its new Social Justice Initiative for a few weeks now. The new initiative, announced in January, is to guide the foundation’s grant-making decisions for the next five to ten years. We have already seen the new personnel brought on to oversee the initiative. Now let's take a look at the first wave of grants under the new initiative. (See Arcus Foundation: Grants for LGBT).
The new initiative is putting a heavy emphasis on reaching out to faith communities around the world to build cultural acceptance for LGBT people. The first grants announced by the Foundation are specifically focused on that aspect of the new initiative. Grants have been awarded to ReconcilingWorks and Reconciling Ministries Network (RMN), two organizations with religious affiliations. ReconcilingWorks will use its award to further its efforts in South America, South Africa, and Eastern Europe. RMN works in three African nations: Ivory Coast, Liberia, and Zimbabwe. (Read International Human Rights director, Adrian Coman's IP profile).
Within the United States, RMN works with Methodist congregations to further LGBT acceptance. There is also the Auburn Seminary, an organization nearly 200 years old, that is now using Arcus funds to further its goal of articulating "the theological and moral goodness of LGBT people." Arcus hopes that these grants will help combat the recent onslaught of religious freedom arguments against LGBT equality.
We have all heard the debate about whether laws prohibiting discrimination in housing, public services, and marriage denies those with strong religiously-based opposition to homosexuality the right to practice that religion freely. Arcus is funding organizations that reach out to faith communities in the hopes of persuading the people who make those arguments to view LGBT people differently. The foundation hopes to prevail with the argument that all of the world's major religions teach embracing all people while rejecting discrimination.
That this first wave of grants in 2013 focus on organizations with a faith component is no surprise. Outreach to faith communities throughout the United States and the world was a major component of the new Social Justice Initiative. In recent years, it has become clear in the US, at least, that the only real opposition to LGBT equality is moral opposition based on religious beliefs. It seems Arcus is committed to combating this argument at its very source.