This week was extraordinary. We witnessed the Supreme Court of the United States rule that the current administration may not immediately proceed with its plan to end protecting about 700,000 young immigrants known as “Dreamers” from deportation. Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. wrote the majority opinion, joined by the court’s four more liberal members in upholding the executive action by President Barack Obama that established the program, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA. Then, last Tuesday, too, The Supreme Court majority ruled in the case, Bostock v. Clayton County, that Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, written to protect against discrimination on the basis of sex, also protects against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.
Today, we now also celebrate Juneteenth. The flags we see today, boasting a bursting star in the middle is the Juneteenth Flag, a symbolic representation of the end of slavery in the United States. The flag is the brainchild of activist Ben Haith, founder of the National Juneteenth Celebration Foundation (NJCF). Haith created the flag in 1997 with the help of collaborators, and Boston-based illustrator Lisa Jeanne Graf brought their vision to life. For two decades now, communities around the country have held flag-raising ceremonies on Juneteenth in celebration of their freedom, but few even recognized it until the tragic events of late in our nation have once again thrust equality – or the lack thereof – into the spotlight. Protests, and writings, tempers and voices are high, but none of this should lull us into a false sense that we are moving toward freedom for everyone. Hatred abounds. Racism is high. Equality is a dream for so many. We all must stand vigilant to care that everyone can one day love and dream in freedom.
This is why Saint Miriam is so important. We employ, welcome, and protect everyone. As pastor, I agreed to make us a ‘Sanctuary Parish’, a place where those afraid to walk in freedom because of their immigration status could come and be protected. I have stood in our beautiful Sanctuary marrying couples while agents of the ICE waited outside. Together, we stood in front of deportation that would have broken up young families. From the day of our founding, we opened our doors wide, without prejudice, to all who wanted to find a home; Gay and Lesbians persons, the Transgender, divorced, or addicted or recovered, all nationalities and even other religions, no matter the color of their skin, have found a way to a place of welcome and peace and hope. Our only requirement is not that we must always agree, but that we must always welcome – everyone – and love.
Our work must continue, it certainly isn’t done. We must continue to ‘walk the talk’ and that is why today, all of our educators who are working in our school will be receiving time and half in their paychecks. While we cannot close our doors to honor today as a holiday, because children need to be cared for, our small symbolic act will serve to further exemplify what we believe: all are created in the image and likeness of God and all are deserving of dignity and respect.
I recognize that this is a small gesture compared to the greater social needs of Black people in America. However, it is a gesture that can remind us of our journey toward freedom, and the work America still has to do.