Turahn Jenkins has had ample time to demonstrate that he’s learned lessons from his engagement with the LGBTQ community, but he seems more focused on saying that he’s ‘not that guy’ than in showing this is true via his actions. He should be walking the walk by now, but instead – more talk.
He has had ample time to follow-up on the concerns about how his religious beliefs and the practices of his particular church intersect with LGBTQ rights. Has he met with the Pittsburgh Clergy Consortium? Or Circle of Faith Pittsburgh? Perhaps met with local LGBTQ clergy directly, such as Reverend Shanea Leonard or Reverend Janet Edwards or Reverend Dave McFarland? Has he consulted national figures such as Bishop William Barber who weave a vision of moral justice that lifts up LGBTQ people?
Mr. Jenkins says that police community relations have only worsened since he announced. So where was he when transgender activists and their allies gathered to protest conditions inside the Allegheny County Jail on Friday, October 26? Did he turn up to observe and listen and learn from the concerns that brought them out? Did he make a statement on the situation or the current City policy of prioritizing suburban commuters smooth drive over the First Amendment rights of protestors? Did he reach out to the 12 people arrested, the 1 detailed for failing to provide appropriate identification, or particularly to the 3 Black trans women who were arrested with the potential of being housed in the very facility they were protesting? Is he up to date on their demands and willing to be part of that conversation?
Did he know about this? Did his team of LGBTQ silent supporters? Did they brief him? It was widely covered by the media and definitely all over social media.
Here’s what I know that Mr. Jenkins (or his team) have done.
On July 26, after the meeting and the calls for him to end his campaign, someone on Mr. Jenkins Facebook team was poking around my public Facebook content. We call this creeping. Here’s the screenshot of his personal FB account liking an album I had created a year prior.
Now, this is not a coincidence. It takes an effort to find content over a year old. I do believe it was an accidental like. I can see no rational reason why Turahn Jenkins would be a fan of my Anthrocon album given the larger context.
Activists in the meeting told me that Mr. Jenkins claimed he does not manage his social media tools; his campaign staff handle that. He doesn’t use social media, they report. So I’m willing to believe that he himself did not do this, but actions made in his name are still actions for which he is accountable.
Attorneys in Pennsylvania are required to conduct themselves according to professional standards. There are specific standards with regard to social media that Mr. Jenkins is required to stay informed about to keep his license. Skimming my public content is not a clear violation, but it is uncomfortably close.
It got a little more uncomfortable when Mr. Jenkins sister, Tara Jenkins Ryan, sent me a Facebook friend request without any accompanying note or message explaining why she was reaching out to me. If Ms. Jenkins Ryan is running her brother’s Facebook accounts, that would be more uncomfortable. And something that could be confirmed in an ethics complaint.
Mr. Jenkins has no reason to crawl through my content except to do ‘opposition research’ on me. We have plenty of mutual friends who could do that dirty work for him without my ever knowing. Maybe they have.
Or maybe they assumed that I wouldn’t notice or put the pieces together? Wouldn’t it be grand if they apologized to me after reading this rather than taking the inevitable stance that my mental health is skewing my perspective? Wouldn’t it be grand if they acknowledge that my visibility as a survivor of chronic sexual violence makes me vulnerable to ‘creeping’ instead of writing it off?
In the end, Mr. Jenkins seems to remain unaware of why the issue of his religious beliefs and affiliation impacts his credibility as a public servant. He thinks that not ever being accused of discrimination is all that matters. He does not articulate a coherent legal or political strategy that navigates the increasingly complicated nuances of LGBTQ identity and religious liberty. He doesn’t acknowledge that complicated dynamic, in spite of the realities such as the Grand Jury Report on Sexual Abuse by our very own Catholic Diocese.
Mr. Jenkins might be unwilling to learn, but voters cannot afford to so unwilling.
We saw in the PA State Senate District 38 race, that religious beliefs and transparency are important. Defeated candidate Jeremy Shaffer tried to walk a line where he boasted about his Christianity, but hid the details of his actual church. He also tried to extend that line to an important vote on LGBTQ nondiscrimination protections. And Jeremy Shaffer lost his election.
We see Dick’s Sporting Goods Pittsburgh Marathon successfully flouting the LGBTQ community, the Mayor Pittsburgh, the entire City Council, and the entire School Board of Pittsburgh Public Schools all of whom have called for the ouster of Chick-fil-A as a title sponsor of the youth programming. For some reason, the board members seem to be comfortable with the blatant religious oppression because it comes well-funded? (I’m looking at you, Charlie Batch, although you don’t seem to care.)
We see Bishop Zubik refusing to resign as the head of the Diocese of Pittsburgh for no real discernible good reason – there are certainly more credible, less tainted men to assume this mantle and lead the Church through the recovery and healing process. We also see the carefully crafted statements in response to the recommendations of the Grand Jury.
State Representative Daryl Metcalfe refused to participate in a moment of silence honoring the 11 Jewish Pittsburgh residents murdered in the synagogue shooting in October. Daryl Metcalfe is the prime example of what happens when an elected public servant does not respect the separation of church and state. He may be an outlier but until Christians acknowledge that this is a serious problem instead of protesting about their rights being infringed upon, this won’t end.
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It is clear that this space between religious liberty and the execution of public duties is complicated and only going to grow more so. Can you imagine this scenario under President Pence?
In conclusion, I agree with quite a bit of Turahn Jenkins stances. I just think his religious beliefs and his lack of a robust understanding of how they are part of “his record” disqualify him as a viable candidate to challenge Stephen Zappala, Jr. I wish he would step aside and allow for another candidate to emerge.
We cannot in good conscience ever again support candidates who think we are sinful. That’s a line in the sand we cannot cross.
There can be no justice for anyone if we leave people behind. Or keep them in second-class status because of our gender identities or sexual orientations.