Jarrad Henderson / USAT
The Rev. Jasmine Beach-Ferrara, executive director of Southern Equality and an LGBT minister, walks to the podium to read Scripture during the Easter Prayer Breakfast Wednesday at The White House.
Local LGBT rights activist and politician the Rev. Jasmine Beach-Ferrara had a cameo on the national stage Wednesday, reading from the Bible at the annual White House Easter prayer breakfast in Washington.
She read the Beatitudes, a section of the Sermon on the Mount in which Jesus said "those who mourn," "the meek," "the merciful," "the peacemakers" and others will be blessed.
Beach-Ferrara is executive director of the Campaign for Southern Equality, an Asheville-based LGBT rights group that is part of the battle against HB2. She recently won the Democratic nomination for Buncombe County commissioner representing District 1, which includes most of Asheville.
She told the crowd of religious leaders from around the country she brought "greetings from Asheville, North Carolina, and also from the LGBT community of North Carolina, which I'm proud to be a part of and honored to serve through my ministry."
The passage she read from the Book of Matthew includes the verses, "Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
"Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad for your reward is great in heaven. For in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you."
Beach-Ferrara said in a telephone interview afterwards that the Beatitudes have special significance now given the debate over HB2, which the state General Assembly adopted March 30 to prevent local governments from adopting ordinances banning discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or sexual identity.
But, she said, the verses apply more generally to the United States' situation today and have a timeless meaning for Christians.
"It goes beyond House Bill 2" and speaks to "the kind of people we'll be, the kind of country we'll be," she said.
"Those passages from Matthew 5, I feel like, strike right at the core of Christ's teaching. ... Those are passages that I go back to again and again and again to be reminded what it means to live a life of faith," Beach-Ferrara said.
Beach-Ferrara said she doesn't know whether the White House invitation for her to read was intended as a subtle commentary on HB2 or any other political issue.
White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest issued a statement Monday saying the Obama administration is "concerned about the potential harmful impact of this law, especially on transgender youth, and believe it is mean-spirited and sends the wrong message.”
In his remarks at the prayer breakfast Wednesday, Obama talked about what the prayers of those attending have meant to him during his presidency – "They have kept us going," he said – and how Christian beliefs relate to worries about terrorism and refugees.
Jacquelyn Martin/Associated Press
President Barack Obama pauses in front of a painting of Abraham Lincoln as he more
Recent "horrific attacks" in Belgium and Pakistan "can foment fear and division. They can tempt us to cast out the stranger, strike out against those who don't look like us, or pray exactly as we do," Obama said.
"They can lead us to turn our backs on those who are most in need of help and refuge. That's the intent of the terrorists, is to weaken our faith, to weaken our best impulses," he said.
But Obama said: "If Easter means anything, it's that you don't have to be afraid. We drown out darkness with light, and we heal hatred with love, and we hold on to hope."
Jacquelyn Martin/Associated Press
Vice President Joe Biden jokes with President Barack Obama as the president speaks Wednesday during the Easter Prayer Breakfast in the State Dining Room of the White House in Washington.