In advance of Pope Francis' September visits to New York City and Philadelphia, Carl Siciliano, the executive director of the Ali Forney Center (AFC), has renewed his invitation to Pope Francis to hear from the youth of AFC how their parents' religious beliefs led to their abandonment and homelessness.
The AFC is the nation's largest organization dedicated to homeless LGBT youth, providing housing and supportive services to over 1,000 young people each year, in order to help them overcome family rejection and the harm of homelessness.
In April of 2014, Siciliano published an open letter to Pope Francis extending this invitation in a full page ad in the New York Times that was sponsored by Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams and Faith in America. This week, Siciliano has renewed this invitation in an open letter in the Huffington Post, and in a letter sent to the Vatican. Pope Francis never responded to Siciliano's first invitation.
The second letter reiterates the importance of protecting LGBT Youth, imploring Pope Francis, "You are the world's most influential religious leader. You could protect many youths from harm by teaching that there is nothing wrong with being LGBT, that there is nothing wrong with LGBT children. Doing so would lessen the epidemic of LGBT youth suffering homelessness, who number over 200,000 in the United States alone."
The Ali Forney Center will work in partnership with Faith in America and Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams in advance of the Pope's visit to call attention to the harm caused to LGBT youth by religion-based homophobia. “Growing up Jewish, I am in a particularly advantageous position to understand the consequences of the church’s teachings. The anti-Semitism I experienced from my Catholic neighbor was based on their being taught that Jews were sinners," explained Mitchell Gold, “This Papal visit is a perfect time to end the enormous harm caused by the church. It is time for the Pope to be part of the solution of tragic LGBT homeless youth, and not part of the problem.”
The National Alliance to End Homelessness has estimated that there are at least 200,000 LGBT youths experiencing homelessness in the United States, and that they make up 40% of the homeless youth population. The Family Acceptance Project of San Francisco State University has reported that anti-LGBT religious families are significantly more likely to reject their LGBT children. Family rejection is the primary reason why LGBT youth make up such a disproportionately large percentage of the homeless youth population.
To read Siciliano's full letter to Pope Francis, click here.