Members of a Texas church turned up at Austin Pride last weekend, but it wasn’t to stage a protest. Instead, they went along to hand out free hugs to LGBT+ people.

The quirky “giveaway” was organised by Jen Hatmaker, a religious writer who has become well known for defying her evangelical roots to support same-sex marriage. She also opposed Donald Trump’s election.



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My beloved little church went downtown to the #AustinPrideParade and gave out Free Mom Hugs, Free Dad Hugs, Free Grana Hugs, and Free Pastor Hugs like it was our paying jobs. And when I say hugs, I mean THE KIND A MAMA GIVES HER BELOVED KID. . Our arms were never empty. We “happy hugged” a ton of folks, but dozens of times, I’d spot someone in the parade look our way, squint at our shirts and posters, and RACE into our arms. These were the dear hearts who said: . “I miss this.” “My mom doesn’t love me anymore.” “My Dad hasn’t spoken to me in three years.” “Please just one more hug.” . You can only imagine what “Pastor Hugs” did to folks. 😭 So we told them over and over that they were impossibly loved and needed and precious. And we hugged until our arms fell off. This is what we are doing here, what we are here for. . The last pic is what you look like at the end of Pride covered in glitter, sweat, and more than a few tears. . Thanks to Sara Cunningham and the @freemomhugs tribe for the wonderful inspiration.

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In an Instagram post that has since gone viral, Hatmaker said that members of her church turned up at the LGBT+ event to give out “free mom hugs, free dad hugs, free grana hugs, and free pastor hugs.”

“When I say hugs, I mean the kind a mama gives her beloved kid,” she added.

“Our arms were never empty. We ‘happy hugged’ a ton of folks, but dozens of times, I’d spot someone in the parade look our way, squint at our shirts and posters, and race into our arms.

“These were the dear hearts who said who said: ‘I miss this. My mom doesn’t love me anymore. My dad hasn’t spoken to me in three years. Please just one more hug. You can only imagine what ‘Pastor Hugs’ did to folks.

“We told them over and over that they were impossibly loved and needed and precious,” she added.

Hatmaker has been vocal about her support for LGBT+ people for a number of years, and was also openly critical of Donald Trump in the lead-up to the presidential election. She has previously claimed to have received death threats for her views.

Tristan Fewings/Getty

She has also faced backlash within the religious community. A Christian bookseller that published her 2012 book An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess decided to discontinue selling her books because of her views on LGBT+ people.

Her views are particularly surprising given research suggests that white evangelical Protestants are the US religious group least likely to support same-sex marriage.

Many religious groups are opposed to same-sex marriage and LGBT+ rights, however some churches have changed their stance in recent years.

A recent survey of US Muslims also suggested that a majority now support same-sex marriage, with 51% of those surveyed saying they were in favour of it.




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