PSR and CLGS leadership lament teen suicides, call on religious leaders to speak out

October 5, 2010

The president of PSR and the executive director of CLGS voiced their deep sorrow over the recent suicides of five American teenagers who killed themselves because of their sexual orientation or gender presentation. They also called on religious leaders throughout the nation to support our youth and young adults.

“These acts of desperation could have been prevented,” said Riess Potterveld, president of PSR. “As religious leaders, we have a sacred responsibility to protect the dignity and self-worth of all God’s children. Let us now redouble our efforts to ensure that all LGBT teenagers in the United States and around the world know how deeply they are loved for exactly who they are.”

Bernard Schlager, executive director of CLGS, said, “Tragically, LGBT people—and especially teens—are at high risk for suicide, and often for religious reasons. These most recent cases are only the tip of the iceberg. It’s high time for religious leaders all across this nation to speak out and save the lives of our LGBT youth and young adults.”

“These are not just abstract statistics,” said Jay Johnson, CLGS director of academic research and resources. “These are our neighbors, our school children, our parishioners. Let’s not forget their names: Asher Brown and Seth Walsh, both 13 years old; Billy Lucas and Justin Aaberg, both 15 years old; and 18-year-old college student Tyler Clementi. And there are many more whose names will never appear in media reports. One such suicide is too many. Five is appalling. Yet there are hundreds every year. It’s time for clergy and religious leaders to take responsibility for their rhetoric. It’s time for every faith community to stand up for our kids!”

“God loves us all—without exception,” said Potterveld. “At PSR we’re training the next generation of religious leaders who will ensure that no one ever doubts their supreme worth in the sight of God. May those whose lives we have just witnessed being cut too short inspire all of us to welcome and love all God’s children—no exceptions.”