An open letter to the Olathe City Council:
It is my sincere regret that I was unable to attend the City Council meeting on July 16, where you heard from supporters and opponents of a proposed non-discrimination ordinance, which is aimed at protecting LGBTQ+ citizens and recommended by the Olathe Human Relations Commission.
Having now viewed the video footage from the meeting, I saw many who argued against its passage on the basis of their faith convictions and out of concern for religious liberty. I would like to take this opportunity to offer another perspective.
One constant thread that runs throughout Christian scriptures is the need to protect the vulnerable and oppressed in our midst. In the Hebrew scriptures, this meant protecting the widow, orphan, and stranger. There are no fewer than two dozen instances of appeals to care for these vulnerable groups and rebukes for failing to do so. For examples, look at Deuteronomy 24:17, Psalm 94:1-7, Isaiah 1:23, Jeremiah 7:6-7 and Zehariah 7:10.
Moving into the New Testament, one sees Jesus himself act on behalf of the vulnerable both in word and deed throughout his ministry. He protected the woman who was to be stoned for adultery, dined with “sinners” and tax collectors, and healed the chronically sick. He told his followers, “Blessed are the poor in spirit,” “Let the little children come to me,” and “Just as you did it to one of the least of these, you did it unto me.”
After Christ’s ascension, the early church furthered Christ’s mission to reach out to people on the margins. In my mind, the most illustrative story of welcoming the “outsider” comes in the book of Acts when Philip, one of Jesus’ remaining disciples, meets an unnamed man on the back roads of Galilee. This unnamed man was from Ethiopia, was worshiping at the temple in Jerusalem, and was a eunuch — all things that would have pushed him to the fringes of society. Philip could have looked for a more so-called “mainstream” candidate for conversion, but, following Christ’s lead, baptizes the unnamed Ethiopian in the first body of water they see and welcomes him into the early Christian community.
While many cite their faith and holy scripture as reasons to oppose the non-discrimination ordinance, my faith, formed by the witness of scripture, leads to me to support the ordinance. I agree that religious liberty is not to be taken for granted or be dismissed lightly. However, I believe that Christians experience religious liberty, or as we often say, freedom in Christ, most fully when we undertake the holy work of protecting the vulnerable and oppressed in our midst.
Therefore, I ask you, City Council members, to care for our LGBTQ+ citizens by voting in favor of the non-discrimination ordinance.
Rev. Dr. Brandon Frick
Site pastor, Village Presbyterian Church on Antioch