Faith in America Rounds Out Distinguished Board of Directors with Nation’s Leading Consulting Group

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Noted LGBTQ Leaders Turn Attention to Protecting LGBTQ Children and Youth as Anti-LGBTQ Religious groups become Emboldened through Trump Administration

Hickory, NC — Faith in America (FIA) today announces, in conjunction with distinguished board members, the Eleison Group, a leading consulting firm, has joined increased FIA efforts to protect the nation’s LGBTQ children and youth.

Faith in America (FIA) is a non-profit dedicated to educate the public about ongoing harm caused to LGBTQ persons, especially children and youth, by religious-based prejudice. FIA seeks to change hearts and minds of religious communities on the nature of sexual orientation and gender identity, removing it permanently from “the sin list.”

In the United States, the rate of suicide attempts is 4 times greater for LGBTQ youth than that of straight youth, and 4-6 times more likely to succeed. Nearly half of young transgender people have seriously thought about taking their lives. 1-in-4 have tried. LGBTQ youth from condemning religious families are 8 times more likely to attempt suicide than LGBTQ peers from affirming families. Approximately 520,000 (40% of all) homeless children are LGBTQ.

FIA, through the 3-year project, “Save yOur Kids”, will challenge bad players in the religious community, hold religious colleges and universities accountable for meeting all accreditation standards, and inform and train media on the facts and challenges facing LGBTQ children and youth.

FIA’s Board of Directors will steer this essential program.

“The Faith in America Board is made up of some of the most distinguished and noted leaders of the LGBTQ community,” said Mitchell Gold, co-founder and Board President of FIA. “Children and youth, our teens, who are LGBTQ need our voices and our help. And, to have this board recognize this and turn their attention to our youth is substantial.”

Along with the board, Faith in America has engaged one of the nation’s leading consulting firms that works at the intersection of faith, values, and culture. The Eleison Group, LLC, is a Washington DC-based firm that has spent a decade working with such noted organizations and people as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, The Riverside Church, The National Cathedral, American Bridge for the 21st Century, various ballot initiatives, environmental causes, and political candidates across the nation.

The Eleison Group, LLC is founded and ran by Burns Strider and Eric Sapp. Strider is a former senior advisor to Clinton and Pelosi, Policy Director for the U.S. House Democratic Caucus, and considered one of the ten most influential progressives in the American faith community. Sapp, a graduate of Duke Divinity School, has worked for the late U.S. Senator Ted Kennedy and Congressman David Price of North Carolina. Sapp is a legislative specialist and analyst who has been crucial in the ongoing battle for affordable health care.

“This is clearly one of the most meaningful projects we’ve ever been involved with” said Burns Strider. “Faith in America is willing to bring into the open a conversation about harmful religious teachings that many are hesitant to discuss. From advocacy groups to many in the media to everyday people in the pews, discussions about religion are complicated and need careful delivery.  The time is now to end harmful teachings that cause far too many innocent, vulnerable children and teens immense mental anguish.”

Eric Sapp continued, “There are just too many who are too afraid to have these conversations, but the plight of these abandoned kids requires nothing less.  We are truly impressed by FIA’s courage and heart. We are committed with FIA to assemble the voices and the materials to literally save young people’s lives.”

“Eric and Burns bring enormous capacity to Faith in America and the “Save yOur Kids” project,” added Robert Hoffman, FIA Board Co-Chair. “Their understanding of the multi-layered religious community is substantial. They bring a perspective that is much needed and the skills and tools to empower this board and FIA to make a clear and resounding statement on behalf of our nation’s LGBTQ children and youth. We are going to make lives better for our kids and teens.”

Over the last decade, Faith in America has seen people change their attitudes towards LGBTQ people. FIA believes people can and do change once they are afforded the opportunity to know the facts.  This article is a perfect example of prominent voices who have changed:

The Faith in America Board of Directors:

Mitchell Gold: In addition to running one of America’s most prestigious home furnishings manufacturing and retail businesses, Mitchell is co-founder of Faith in America.

Robert Hoffman: Co-Chair and Interim CEO for Faith in America. A former Fortune 500 Apparel Executive, Robert now works professionally as Managing Partner of Piedmont Counseling and Development Group and teaches undergraduate psychology at Lenoir Rhyne University.

Sherri Jaquays: Co-Founder of Lauren Jaquays LGBTQ Youth Alliance, formerly High Country (NC) LGBTQ Youth Alliance; successfully assisted in placing GSA in ‘conservative’ country schools.

Roberta Kaplan: Litigation partner at Paul, Weiss LLP. One of “The 100 Most Influential Lawyers” in the United States. Represented Edith Windsor in landmark civil rights case leading to Supreme Court mandating marriage equality nationwide two years later.

Shannon Price Minter: Legal Director, National Center for Lesbian Rights. Argued successfully before California Supreme Court for same sex couples. A transgender man, he is recognized as a leading expert of transgender legal issues.

Kris Perry and Sandy Stier: Paved the way for marriage equality through leadership in the landmark Supreme Court Case Hollingsworth v. Perry, leading to the defeat of California’s Prop 8 and ultimately making marriage equality the law of the land. Executive Director of the First Five Years Fund.  FIA’s first board couple.

Howard Vine: Former Partner, Public Policy and Law, Dickstein Shapiro, LLP. Founding member of FIA BOD; Howard’s partner is well known talk show host, Randi Rhodes.

Phil Wells (Council): Former BOD member of Equality NC and BOG HRC. Prior to joining Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams as Corp. Counsel, he practiced at NC law firm Williams Mulllen and was Corp Counsel for Compass Group.

Bob Williams: Co-founder, President of Design, Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams. Served on Equality NC BOD, Chair of Hickory Museum of Art, and other non-profits.

Chely Wright: Country Singing sensation, author and activist, mother of gorgeous twin boys, married to Lauren Blitzer.