On January 24, Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal and the American Family Association (AFA) will be hosting “The Response,” a prayer rally, at Louisiana State University…MY university. To counter this, myself and other activists from the LSU community have come together to put on Organize, Reflect, Act: A Day of Action for Justice in Louisiana.
The Southern Poverty Law Center has classified the AFA as a hate group, a title well-deserved due to its anti-LGBTQ, Islamophobic, sexist, and racist rhetoric and actions. They’ve made claims such as LGBTQ are to blame for the Holocaust; Muslims are a threat to national security; Eric Garner was to blame for his own death; and much more.
But the best example of who the AFA is can be found in The Response’s prayer guide, in which they blamed natural disasters such as Hurricane Katrina on our nation’s acceptance of same-sex marriage, abortion, and porn. I guess this didn’t go over too well with Louisianians, the people arguably hit the hardest by Katrina, since The Response quickly removed the controversial prayer guide. I believe that speaks to how out-of-touch this outside organization is with our state and its people.
Feminism at its core is about equality. The AFA is against feminism because they are against our reproductive rights, ethnicities, sexuality, expression, and faith. They are trying to deny us equality by trying to deny us the freedom to be who we are.
Because of this, one of our members of Feminists In Action (FIA), the feminist group at LSU, started a protest which FIA members and officers, including myself, have become heavily involved with. We’ll be protesting The Response, hosting a panel discussion, and holding workshops to help attendees become better and more effective community organizers. While upset that this is something we have to do, I am thrilled to see our community mobilizing in the name of equality. Currently, we’re expecting nearly 700 attendees.
The reason I am most upset about this event is because it feels like LSU has disregarded their promise of diversity to their students. LSU’s Diversity statement reads:
“Diversity is fundamental to LSU’s mission and the University is committed to creating and maintaining a living and learning environment that embraces individual difference…LSU strives to create an inclusive, respectful, intellectually challenging climate that embraces individual difference in race, ethnicity, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity/expression, age, spirituality, socio-economic status, disability, family status, experiences, opinions, and ideas.”
Rental of an LSU facility does not imply endorsement. However, in the eyes of many faculty and students, we feel betrayed by our university. We feel like by hosting a hate group on our campus they have denied us a living and learning environment that values our differences.
That is why we’re protesting. We’re not against their prayer. We’re not against Christianity. We’re against the AFA. We’re upset that our state government has chosen to align with them, and we’re upset that our university is allowing it to be done on our campus.
“I hope those coming to protest will come out on Jan. 24 and decide to join us inside for prayer,” Shannon Bates, Governor Jindal’s spokeswoman, said in an email to The Advocate. “It’s going to be a great event worshiping the Lord and praying for our nation.”
Unfortunately, Ms. Bates, I don’t think I, or any of the protesters, will. We respect your right to gather and pray. I do not doubt that many of the attendees have good intentions. However, the AFA has a long history of hate and a sheer disrespect for our state’s citizens. This is something that has alienated us from your message, however well-intended you believe it to be.
We hope you, the AFA, and those coming to pray see our pain, sadness, and anger. We hope that the answers you get from your prayer and meditation are ones of peace, love and tolerance unlike the message the AFA has been preaching. Most of all, we hope to see a future where you accept our differences without conditions.