This past Monday we at Shoulder-to-Shoulder had the privilege of partnering with KARAMAH: Muslim Women Lawyers for Human Rights, to host an interfaith panel on Islam, Shari’ah and the U.S, moderated by Ms. Jean Duff of Full Circle Partners. At the event, Rabbi David Saperstein, Dr. Azizah al-Hibri, Esq., and Dean Robert Destro answered questions about Islam in the U.S. while modeling how rich religious debate can move beyond divisive tactics.
For the event, 150 people gathered at National City Christian Church in Washington, DC, to hear about the topic, which was dense, to be sure, but the panelists’ message was loud and clear:
Religious disagreements have always existed in the United States, and they will continue to exist. We people of faith must hold closely to debate, while respecting absolutely the right of all individuals to worship according to their conscience. If we allow disagreements to cross the line into discrimination, we sacrifice the religious liberties on which we all depend.
American Muslims currently experience the fastest growing rate of religious discrimination in the U.S., and misconceptions about Shari’ah (aka Islamic law) have accompanied this growth. For example, in the past two years 23 states have introduced legislation that would bar judges from considering Shari’ah law in any form when weighing decisions. Rhetoric accompanying the legislation often applies stereotypes to all who faithfully practice Shari’ah, including American Muslims. For Muslims, Shari’ah dictates everything from belief in God to how one should enter into a marriage contract and the necessity of adhering to the law of the land in which they live.
As with many events on the topic of Shari’ah, we were joined by a few organized individuals who held the floor to ask heated questions of the panel. Panelists responded to these challenges with generous and honest answers. As a result they offered us in the audience a much deeper lesson about the richness of sincere religious debate.
It was a breath of fresh air. Too often, political debates take important issues and empty them of substance. Discernment is replaced by loyalty to branded political catchphrases. In this case serious issues of national security and civil liberties rest on how words like ‘Muslim’ or ‘Shari’ah’ have been branded.
We have the ability to move beyond oversimplified debates if we do so together and with generosity. On Monday, this response not only provided answers to difficult topics of how religious law, including Shari’ah, fits into the American landscape. It also provided every person in the audience the opportunity to be heard and respected in kind. These leaders modeled how standing shoulder-to-shoulder as religious communities can end this iteration of American religious discrimination, and lead the way to full acceptance of American Muslims as a valued part of the American tapestry.
Christina Warner is Campaign Director of Shoulder-to-Shoulder: Standing with American Muslims; Upholding American Values, a national campaign of faith-based, interfaith and religious organization dedicated to ending anti-Muslim sentiment. Footage of the event will be available on the Shoulder-to-Shoulder website, soon.More >
The message below went out on Thursday, July 19, 2012 to Standing on the Side of Love supporters. You can sign-up for these emails here.
The seeds we planted together at the Justice General Assembly are calling to be watered.
Some of the local partners in Phoenix and others are preparing to risk everything to move this country forward. On July 28th, undocumented parents, workers, and students are confronting their own fears so that the world will recognize their humanity.
Through something that has often moved history forward—bold, peaceful civil disobedience—they will load onto a bus and embark on a journey from one end of the country to the other. As they travel state by state on a No Papers No Fear Ride for Justice, these individuals will come out as undocumented and unafraid, and they will work with immigrant communities throughout the Southwest and Southeast to build barrio defense on their way to the Democratic National Convention this fall.
Please join us in supporting these brave individuals who are risking their very freedom. Click on the video below to see the call to action and learn how you can get involved.
Today, a trial in federal court is starting against Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio for his years of harassment and abuse in the name of immigration enforcement. It’s a good day when the Sheriff finally has to explain himself. But for migrant communities and for anyone who has bore witness to the crisis in Maricopa County, the jury is already in.
In Arizona and across the country, migrant communities have had enough of the mistreatment, and are ready for a new day. !Basta ya! Neither Congress nor the President nor the courts have granted real relief from the suffering that migrants face. So they are taking their future into their own hands.
Undocumented people like Leticia, Nataly, and Gerardo, who will participate in the No Papers No Fear Ride for Justice, have decided they’re safer out of the shadows than in them, and that the only secure community is an organized one. If Arpaio wants to find them, he will no longer find them in fear. They’re prepared to confront the Sheriff and all the proponents of prejudice along the bus route to show that our love is stronger than their hate.
That risk will only be worth it if all of us rise to follow the example of their courage, if we succeed in riveting the nation’s attention on the journey.
There are no more sidelines in the immigration debate. The participants in the No Papers No Fear Ride for Justice are calling on us to do our all to turn the tide with them.
B. Loewe, NDLONMore >
The Mt. Vernon Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, an emerging, lay-led congregation in southern Illinois, is speaking up in favor of love and justice in its small, rural community. After the Jefferson County Board overwhelmingly passed a resolution expressing support for a definition of marriage as a sacred institution between one man and one woman, members of the fellowship’s Board of Trustees and Taskforce for LGBT Concerns drafted a letter to the County Board asking it to rescind the “divisive” resolution. The effort garnered the small congregation coverage in a local newspaper and now MVUUF members will participate in an upcoming grassroots protest at the next County Board meeting.
Paul Kent Oakley, a member of the Taskforce for LGBT Concerns says of the fellowship’s action, “While we, as a Welcoming Congregation, have had Pride Picnics in the city park and have had Pride services each year, as well as other services centered on LGBT concerns and equality, this is the first local situation which has explicitly called us to act quite this publicly on our principles and Welcoming commitments. It is a growth opportunity for our members personally as well as an opportunity to make our commitments and values more widely known in our small community.”
Here the text of the fellowship’s beautifully articulated letter:
To the Jefferson County Board:
On June 25, 2012, by a vote of 12 yes to 1 no and 1 abstention, you the Board of Jefferson County Illinois passed a resolution supporting marriage as “a sacred union between one man and one woman.” We ask you to reconsider your position as elected officials and rescind that resolution.
Mt. Vernon Unitarian Universalist Fellowship is certified by our denomination as a Welcoming Congregation. This designation signifies that we have gone through an extensive process to educate ourselves on sexuality and gender issues and that we have ensured that our bylaws and policies, as well as the worship and customs of our congregation, are fully inclusive and respectful of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) persons and their relationships. For the past two years in late June, our congregation has hosted a LGBT Pride picnic at Veterans Memorial Park. Our congregation includes gay couples, whose relationships we celebrate as equally worthy expressions of love as are traditional marriages between one man and one woman.
Our national denominational body, the Unitarian Universalist Association, has a long record of standing for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender equality in every aspect of law and society. We have proudly supported the ordination of qualified LGBT candidates since the 1970s, joined in the struggle for full legal and social equality of LGBT persons, and since 1996 we have advocated for legal marriage between members of the same sex, and our ministers are both free and happy to perform such ceremonies.
Unitarian Universalists are not alone among religious people in promoting these values. The United Church of Christ has taken similar stands on close to the same timetable. Reform and Conservative Judaism both stand for full legal and religious equality of LGBT persons, including marriage equality. Currently several American Christian denominations are in various stages of acceptance of LGBT persons as not being in violation of their understanding of God’s intentions for humanity. Among these are the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), the Episcopal Church of the United States, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, and the Presbyterian Church (USA), all of which ordain openly LBGT persons as well as advocating for greater legal and social equality.
The resolution you passed on June 25 stated, “Marriage is a spiritual union in which man and woman are joined by God to live together as one.” We do not doubt that those who voted for this resolution believe that. But we, as people of faith who do not believe as you do, hold that it is not your place as elected officials to render religious definitions of the legal institution of marriage. We also observe that your definition of marriage also would negate the validity of a great many legal marriages between a man and a woman in which there is, in fact, no spiritual union and no God-joined living as one.
We accept and honor the fact that each County Board member, as an individual, has the right to his or her own religious, social, and political beliefs. We do not ask you necessarily to agree with our positions. But we do ask that you honor the separate spheres of religion and elective politics. We ask that you honor the worth and dignity of your constituents whose personal and religious values are not the same as your own. We ask that you honor the worth and dignity of your LGBT constituents, of your constituents who are in committed same-sex relationships, and of your constituents whose children are living in such relationships. We ask that you our elected officials refrain from justifying a resolution with religious statements that are directly in contradiction of our religious values.
We urge you to rescind this divisive resolution on marriage passed on June 25, 2012.
Mt. Vernon Unitarian Universalist Fellowship
Last week, the Mt. Pleasant, Michigan City Commission unanimously adopted a new human rights ordinance that would protect all people–including gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people–from discrimination in employment, housing, and public accommodations. The passage of the ordinance was the culmination of nearly two years of advocacy initiated by members of the UU Fellowship of Central Michigan. Members of UUFCM were involved in a variety of ways from signing the “Mt. Pleasant Welcome Petition” to attending City Commission meetings and speaking with their friends and family.
In the words of Randy Block, Director of the Michigan UU Social Justice Network:
“This important accomplishment is a direct result of the leadership skills and organizing of Norma Bailey and other activists at the UU Fellowship of Central Michigan. Norma organized an interfaith group to work on this campaign; she engaged community groups and communicated with the local City Commission every step of the way…Congratulations to the people at the UU Fellowship of Central Michigan and to the community of Mt. Pleasant!”
UUFCM members were also recognized in the local newspaper for their efforts to pass the ordinance. Thank you Norma Bailey and UUFCM members for your tireless work in pursuit of justice and equality for all!More >
The message below went out on Monday, July 16, 2012 to Standing on the Side of Love supporters. You can sign-up for these emails here.
A fews days ago, we learned that a federal grand jury is considering criminal charges against the U.S. Border Patrol agents who beat and murdered Anastasio Hernandez Rojas. Eyewitness videos of the killing, along with testimony from Anastasio’s family, were featured on PBS’ Need to Know program in April. People across the country were able to see and hear for themselves the Border Patrol’s culture of impunity and abuse. It was the public outcry from this incident that finally compelled the Department of Justice to open an investigation into Anastasio’s killing.
On July 20, 2012, PBS’ Need to Know will air a second program highlighting Border Patrol abuse in detention centers and in the field. Please watch this program with your friends and family.
Following the broadcast of this episode, No More Deaths volunteers and others featured in the program will travel to Washington, D.C. with the Southern Border Community Coalition to urge the Obama Administration to implement much-needed policy reforms, including mechanisms for public oversight and accountability. No More Deaths has worked to documents these abuse for the last six years.
We are in the midst of a significant moment when long-standing practices of impunity and abuse are being made visible. Together, we can build greater accountability and oversight of Border Patrol and U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
We need your help to elevate the cry for justice for the more than 6 million residents of the United States who live along the U.S./Mexico border:
- Encourage your congregation to watch the program.
- Forward this email to your friends, coworkers, and neighbors.
- Host a ‘watching party’ of the PBS Need to Know episode at 8 pm EST on Friday, July 20.
These stories only have impact to the extent that people know what is happening. Can you help us take this next step in advancing justice? Start by sharing this announcement and stay tuned for additional steps you can take to bring justice home.
Volunteer, No More Deaths
Volunteer, No More Deaths