"Recognize that we are all children of God and made in the image of God," Mac Schafer, a Presbyterian pastor, writes in an op-ed for PEOPLE

By Mac Schafer
May 25, 2021 10:44 AM
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Hunter and Mac
Credit: ACLU of NC

The Reverend Dr. Mac Schafer is a pastor in Raleigh, North Carolina, and has served in the Presbyterian Church (USA) for 28 years. He has his Masters of Divinity from Princeton Theological Seminary and his Doctor of Ministry degree from Pittsburgh Theological Seminary. In this op-ed for PEOPLE, the reverend opens up about supporting his daughter Hunter Schafer, a model and LGTBQ activist who stars in HBO's critically acclaimed hit Euphoria alongside Zendaya — and showing up for the LGBTQ community.

Five years ago I was hiking the Appalachian Trail when I reached a zone with cell phone service and received an urgent call from my wife Katy. Our teenage daughter Hunter wanted to partner with the ACLU of North Carolina as a plaintiff in a legal challenge to HB2, the law that had been rammed through the North Carolina General Assembly in 2016 to restrict transgender people like her from using the restroom of her choice. As a student on a University of North Carolina campus, the law specifically targeted Hunter, and she felt passionately about taking a stand against discrimination. 

Katy and I stood by Hunter and were in awe of the bravery and poise she and other transgender people showed in the face of that dehumanizing law. We saw, for the first time, a conversation unfold about dignity and respect for transgender people on an unprecedented national scale.

Sadly, many lawmakers seemed to have not learned their lesson. Nearly three dozen states have proposed bills seeking to ban trans youth from participating in school sports. Many states are pushing bills that punish doctors who provide trans-affirming medical care. A bill like this has passed in Arkansas, and North Carolina's bill, even more egregiously, bans care until the age of 21; our daughter Hunter only just turned 22. 

Hunter Schafer
Hunter Schafer
| Credit: Cindy Ord/Getty

As parents, Katy and I are pained at the news of this anti-trans crusade, because we know that most Americans don't want to harm people for being who they are. Polling consistently shows that Americans support protecting LGBTQ people from discrimination, and a recent study showed that a majority of people oppose specific anti-transgender bills. 

It feels like some lawmakers, however, are trying to pull us back and undo the progress that our country has made on the question of transgender dignity and equality. 

What we really need to be doing is pushing forward, because in most states, LGBTQ people remain vulnerable to discrimination in key areas of life, including public spaces like restaurants, stores and services like ride shares and public transit. We need to be encouraging municipalities to pass LGBTQ-inclusive nondiscrimination ordinances, as seven already have done just this year in North Carolina. We need to be calling on our senators — including Thom Tillis and Richard Burr here in North Carolina — to support the Equality Act, which protects LGBTQ people in every area of life. 

Some folks have raised concerns about whether the Equality Act interferes with people's religious freedom. But as devoted people of faith, Katy and I strongly disagree with these concerns. 

Mac and Katy Schafer
Mac and Katy Schafer
| Credit: Mac and Katy Schafer

Katy and I draw our greatest source of strength from our faith in God. I am a pastor of a Presbyterian church in Raleigh, and Katy is a director of children and family ministries at a different Presbyterian church. For years we have had heartfelt conversations with parents of LGBTQ young people, inside and outside of faith communities, who are grappling with how they can best love, support and care for their child.  

We fully believe that LGBTQ folks are beautifully and wonderfully made by God and are an essential part of the human community. Everything we know about the ministry of Jesus tells us to work for the liberation, freedom and the full humanity of all people. As people of faith we are always working to come down on the side of compassion, and justice, because that's what Christ modeled so boldly in his ministry. Each week in my blessing to the congregation I serve, I tell them, "They are loved beyond their wildest imagination." The God I worship is not one of fear, but one whose essence is courageous love, especially towards those who are not in power and are unjustly pushed to the margins.

Mac and Katy Schafer
Mac and Katy Schafer
| Credit: Mac and Katy Schafer

This is the pathway forward: Commit to the health and well-being of all people, including LGBTQ people. Recognize that we are all children of God and made in the image of God. Abandon efforts to single people out for discrimination, especially these recent efforts that target children. We must come together to pass full and clear nondiscrimination protections at the federal level. When we make this vision a reality, we will honor the full humanity of people nationwide — and when we honor the full continuum of human beings, all of us are made better and more whole.

To learn more, visit NC is Ready, led by the Campaign for Southern Equality and Equality NC.