Defining Fairness Local News

Bringing Faith to the LGBTQ Community: Maurice “Bojangles” Blanchard, Defining Fairness

Maurice “Bojangles” Blanchard was born in Promised Land, South Carolina, the son of a Southern Baptist Minister, and says, “I grew up in church as much as I was in home.” He was given his nickname at the age of three, when his grandfather noticed his ability to replicate any dance move he saw.

When he came out as a gay man, he experienced rejection from the church. “I was angry at God,” he says. After struggling to reconcile his faith with his sexual orientation, he says he came to the conclusion that, “I was created like this, so I can’t believe in a God who would create me bound to hell, as they’re telling me I am.” Blanchard is now a co-chair of the Faith Leaders for Fairness—part of the Fairness Campaign—and leads the True Colors Ministry at Highland Baptist Church. He’s earning his Masters of Divinity at Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary and will be ordained at the end of May, making him the first openly gay person to be ordained at Highland Baptist.

Maurice Blanchard spoke with WFPL’s Phillip M. Bailey and Laura Ellis, beginning with a story he says illustrates how far Louisville still has to go in making public spaces feel safe for LGBTQ citizens.

Audio MP3

On the Work of Faith Leaders for Fairness
“We’re rebuilding bridges for the LGBT community, back to faith. To be honest with you, the biggest conflict I get is from LGBTQ folk when I tell them I’m a gay minister. There is some animosity there, understandably. That’s probably the biggest struggle I see right now, is re-introducing faith to a people who have been wounded so much.”

On Being Called to Ministry
“I began reading deeper into scriptures, speaking with theologians, doing study, getting into the ministry, and realized that there is a place for everyone in the Kingdom of God. That has been a realization that has taken time to soak in. And I have felt the calling to ministry, and no in seminary, and active in my church, and leading a True Colors Ministry, which is the first LGBT-affirming ministry in a Baptist Church that I’m aware of.”

On Ministering to the LGBTQ Community
“The first thing I do, when confronted with a person who’s obviously been wounded, is not to say anything, but to be a listener. I think too many times religious leaders talk too much and listen too little. Sometimes we meet two or three, four times, and I haven’t really said anything about my own faith. Because I need to hear what they’ve been through, and I need to understand that, to be able to respond in a way that would be appropriate. Some folk respond to scripture well, some folk don’t want to hear anything about it. So mainly, with folk, I try to listen to them, hear where they’re coming from, and then start wading in the water and introducing them to the fact that there is a faith community, there are congregations that love you—not in spite of your sexuality, but simply for who you are as a child of God.”

On the Issues Facing LGBTQ People of Faith
“They’re facing outright rejection that they’ve felt their entire lives, from churches or church members. These people are covered in wounds and scars that emotionally run so deep, and we don’t see it on the outside, but they know very well they’re not welcome in many churches. They’re confronted with going back in and opening themselves up to be slighted again, to be condemned, and they don’t want to do that. And I don’t blame them. So, for example, my ministry, the True Colors Ministry, offers them a place almost like a wading pool. You’re not jumping into the pool—the pool being the full church—but you have something you can dip your feet in and get comfortable again, and start learning to trust again. And then when you’re ready, you can move into the larger pool.”

State of the News

Religious News with Peter Smith: State of the News

Do voters like their candidates talking religion on the campaign trail? The Courier-Journal’s Peter Smith brought us up to date on religious news—including research that seeks to answer that question—on Friday’s State of the News. We also talked about the latest on whether Amish buggies will be allowed to display reflective tape rather than orange triangles, why you can’t get married on the beach if you’re Catholic, and more.

Audio MP3
State of the News

Today on State of the News

Segment A: We’ll talk about this week’s metro news, including U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta‘s upcoming visit to Louisville, and the end of Kentucky’s Virtual High School program.

Segment B: Kenny Colston joins us to talk about managed care companies’ claim that they’ve fixed problems with Medicaid payments, where the dropout bill and pseudoephedrine bill stand, and the future of constables in the Commonwealth.

Then we’ll hear Graham Shelby‘s conversation with filmmaker John Paul Rice, whose latest film, Mother’s Red Dress, will be screened at the Derby City Film Festival this weekend.

Do voters like their candidates talking religion on the campaign trail? The Courier-Journal’s Peter Smith brings us up to date on religious news, including research that seeks to answer that question.

Segment C: In WFPL’s Immigrant Entrepreneurs series, we met some local immigrants who have started businesses here in Louisville. Today we’ll hear a piece from Michigan Radio about the role immigrants are playing in the economic recovery throughout the Midwest. Then will speak with Dustin Dwyer, who produced the piece, about what he learned.

Finally, we’ll hear about the tens of thousands of birds circling over Oldham County. It’s called a murmuration—when flocks of starlings come together and fly in dense formations—and it’s been happening nightly in LaGrange since late fall. Emily Hagedorn covered the story for the Courier-Journal, and she joins us to talk about why it might be happening and how residents are coping with the birds (and their byproducts).

Local News

Ark Park Land Purchase Complete, Groundbreaking Not Scheduled

by Stu Johnson, Kentucky Public Radio

Plans for a replica of Noah’s Ark in northern Kentucky are moving forward, but the pace of the project has slowed.

This week, officials with Ark Encounter closed on the last and largest piece of property needed for the biblically-themed amusement park. The development has been promised $40 million in tax incentives from the state, but the rebates won’t come until the park opens. There were plans to break ground this spring on the Ark Encounter, but that won’t happen.

“We try to predict and then things slow down… and then we keep putting things off so we’re gonna hold off on setting a date for it,” says senior vice president Mike Zovath, adding that the groundbreaking won’t happen any time soon.

Frankfort Local News

Senate Committee Passes Alternative Safety Measure for Buggies

"Finally...Amish at Night" by Cindy47452 on FlickrA proposal to allow more safety options for religious groups that operate buggies is making its way through the General Assembly.

Senate Bill 75 unanimously passed committee today. It allows for one-inch reflective tape to be placed on buggies instead of a state-mandated reflective triangle.

The change comes after many Amish in western Kentucky have been sent to jail for refusing to place the triangles on their buggies. State Senator Ken Winters, the bill sponsor, says the legislature must look out for the safety of everyone on the road.

“The goal that each of us have to keep in mind is when that buggy is on the road, nighttime especially, we have to make sure that what we’re doing to that buggy makes it safer for them,” Winters says. “But just as importantly makes it safer for us too. None of us is ever going to want to be involved in an accident with one of those buggies.”

Local News

Former Archbishop Thomas C. Kelly Dies

The former leader of the Archdiocese of Louisville has died.

Archbishop Thomas C. Kelly retired in 2007 after 25 years leading the Archdiocese.

Kelly joined the Dominican order sixty years ago and was ordained in 1958. He served in New York early in his career, working with the order as well as with the Archdiocese of New York tribunal and the Legion of Decency.

He later served a five-year term as general secretary of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops and was an auxiliary to the Archbishop of Washington D.C.

His appointment to the Archdiocese of Louisville came from Pope John Paul II. Kelly helped produce the first long-range strategic plan for the archdiocese in 1989 and launched the restoration of the Cathedral of the Assumption.

Kelly is also credited with helping persuade the Presbyterian Church USA to move to Louisville.

He was 80 years old.

Local News

Skeptics Continue Questioning Hospital Merger

A group that’s critical of the pending hospital merger has released another round of questions for the merging partners.

Honi Goldman leads the unnamed group. Her questions for University of Louisville Hospital, Jewish Hospital and Catholic Health Initiatives largely concern funding for the merger and the final management structure of the merged entity. The deal is still a work in progress, and it’s pending state approval. Goldman released the questions in a release to the media and wrote about them on Insider Louisville. She says she hopes the governor, attorney general and legislators see the questions and seek answers.

“We’re hopeful that they share our skepticism around this, because these are tax dollars at work. Tax dollars are going to be funding this merger,” she says, adding that she is not opposed to the merger.

Last week, the merging partners spoke at a Board of Health forum. They revealed that University Hospital will not be under Catholic care directives after the merger, but will rather follow a contract that is still being written.

Local News

Audio: Hospital Merger Partners Speak at Board of Health Forum

Two hours of explanation did not silence the critics and skeptics of a pending hospital merger, though many new issues and complications have been revealed.

The Louisville Metro Board of Health brought representatives from University of Louisville Hospital, Jewish Hospital and Catholic Health Initiatives to a public forum Wednesday evening. The partners took questions from the public and explained how procedures currently banned by the Catholic Church would or would not be performed at a merged University Hospital.

If the merger is approved, University Hospital will not entirely follow Catholic care directives, according to the partners’ attorney Jennifer Elliott. Rather, only certain procedures frowned upon by the Catholic Church will be banned. Namely, tubal ligations will be moved to Baptist Hospital East.

U of L Chair for Obstetrics, Gynecology and Women’s Health Sharmila Makhija explained how other reproductive services would be handled:

Local News

Amish Men Found Guilty of Traffic Violations

Two Amish men must pay fines for refusing to post reflective triangles on their horse-drawn carriages.

Levi Hostetler and Joe Stutzman were found guilty on misdemeanor traffic charges during a Graves County Circuit Court session Monday.

The men say the posting the state-mandated warning emblems violates their religious beliefs. Stutzman was fined $173 and Hostetler was fined a total of $341—both amounts are due January 12th.

Hostetler and Stutzman are among nine men ordered to jail last month for refusing to pay fines associated with the emblems.

Two other Amish men in court Monday had their trials postponed to November.

Additional information from Kentucky Public Radio’s Rose Krzton-Presson and the Associated Press

Local News Politics

Beshear Says He Needs More Information on Hospital Merger

Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear says he needs more information on the proposed merger between University of Louisville Hospital and Catholic Health Initiatives.

Beshear met today with officials from the hospitals. The meeting came after increased questions over what would happen to reproductive health and end-of-life services after CHI owns a majority stake in University Hospital and doctors will be required to follow Catholic health directives.

Many of the details are still being worked out, but U of L officials insist all currently-offered services will still be provided, though possibly outside of the hospital. U of L’s school of medicine will not be part of the merger.

The state government must approve the merger. Attorney General Jack Conway and a group of General Assembly members are also scrutinizing the deal. Principals from the merging hospitals will meet with state lawmakers later this month.