US: Washington National Cathedral to mark Matthew Shepard’s death with ‘Honouring LGBT Youth’ weekend

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Washington National Cathedral has announced that it will mark the fifteenth anniversary of Matthew Shepard’s murder by hosting a weekend of events to honour LGBT youth who have suffered bullying, discrimination and violence.

Washington National Cathedral is one of the United States’ most prominent churches, and will host the event between the 4th and 6th of October. The weekend is also aimed at commemorating the life of Tyler Clementi, the 18-year-old student who took his own life in 2010 after his college roommate broadcast a video of him having sex with a man.

The Very Rev. Gary Hall, Dean of the Cathedral, said: “For too long, LGBT people have been ostracized by or unwelcome in faith communities who have used the Bible like a weapon.

“Washington National Cathedral is a house of prayer where all are welcome, and where all people can experience God’s boundless love and grace.”

The weekend’s events will include a discussion forum featuring Matthew and Tyler’s mothers, Judi Shepard and Jane Clementi, as well as a special church service calling upon people of faith to stand up to anti-LGBT hatred.

The cathedral will also host an exclusive, pre-release screening of a new documentary film about Matthew Shepard’s murder. In August, the makers of the film, entitled Matthew Is a Friend of Mine, launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise money for the project.

“The more publicly we stand with LGBT folks and for LGBT youth, I think that helps the conversations in other churches,” said Dean Hall.

“A lot of the damage that is done to kids is done by their pastors in churches where, for doctrinal reasons, they consider homosexuality a sin. I think that one of the things we can do, as probably the most visible church in America, is for us to say, ‘It’s okay for you to be lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender. God loves you as you are, and we’re a place where you can celebrate and own your identity,’ helps other faith communities raise that issue in their churches.”

October 6th marks the day that Matthew Shepard was brutally beaten and tortured after being tied to a fence by Aaron McKinney and Russell Henderson in rural Wyoming. Shepard was discovered 18 hours later and placed on life support, but was pronounced dead on October 12th, 1998.

Washington’s Ford Theatre is also marking the anniversary of Shepard’s death with a play, The Laramie Project, which deals with the local community’s response to the anti-gay murder.

A controversial new book about the killing, which claims that Shepard was in fact a meth addict who was murdered by his bisexual lover, is set to be released on October 1st.