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The Religion Decision

My husband and I both grew up in European-Catholic households. Our religious upbringing made it somewhat challenging to come out as gay to our families. Feelings of guilt, fear, and potential alienation riddled our thoughts growing up. Luckily, these thoughts were unfounded as our families have always been incredibly supportive and loving. When we decided to get married and have kids, our families and friends were right there with us, cheering from the sidelines. Without question, our little family was created and surrounded by love and I couldn’t be more proud of my beautiful, caring, affectionate sons.

So you can imagine my disappointment last month, when the leader of one of the biggest religions in the world – the religion I grew up in – goes out of his way to make a formal decree calling my marriage illicit, sinful, and not part of God’s plan. A part of me just wants to brush these words off my already thick skin, paying little attention to the ramblings of a mere man. Unfortunately, his words have weight in this world and they weigh heavy in the eyes of other such families as mine. The unnecessary phrasing of this decree fuels the fires of ignorance and hate. They perpetuate crimes and violations of human rights. And the trickle-down effects could very well reach the likes of our neighbourhoods where bakers and photographers will refuse services based on their client’s sexual orientation. This is not right and I cannot be a part of this.

The pope’s decree only validates our decision to raise our family without religion – a decision that can be very difficult for many young families. All too often we follow our parents’ footsteps without understanding the implications. And many families indoctrinate their kids into religion only to appease their elders. 

For us, it made sense to let our children explore the world for what it truly is. They’ve learned that religions are a collection of stories and traditions that some people believe in. They’ve learned that being good and kind to others should be intrinsically motivated – not because you are told to or that your salvation depends on it. And if the day comes where they have a desire for religion, we will happily participate in their journey.

Please don’t interpret this column as personal distaste for religious people. In fact, many of our closest loved ones continue to be active in their religious communities. Faith – accompanied by genuine goodwill towards others – can be truly empowering. I embrace religious people around me who understand that our purpose in this life is to be kind to each other and set the stage for people to feel happy and loved. After all, isn’t this the world we all want for our children?

Frank Emanuele is a proud father of two boys, a special education teacher, and a director of Dad Club London.


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