An Interfaith Statement on Religious Discrimination -
In light of recent calls for tracking, registering or closing our borders to people who practice the Muslim faith, we are compelled as people of faith to speak out and let our voices be heard on behalf of our Muslim brothers and sisters.
We have listened with dismay as many have played on the fear which has swept over this country. We reject in the strongest possible terms both this specific call, and all speech and actions which would encourage hate and persecution against any group of people. We reject this call and remember that such an action would bring dishonor to all of the brave men and women of all backgrounds who have given their lives to uphold the core values of freedom and dignity which we enjoy.
We are appalled by the violence being done and hatred being spread in the name of the God who teaches us the value of human life, the prized place of peace, and the imperative to work for justice for all. These values lead us to condemn any and all acts of violence, especially those committed by people who claim a religious justification.
We believe that words have meaning. We thus condemn words which lead to incitements to violence, defilement or vandalism of religious institutions and all defamation directed towards other religious traditions. We likewise pledge not to tolerate such behavior in our own religious communities.
We are also deeply concerned when we hear people advocate treating any group differently because of their faith. Regardless of which traditions are on which side of the issue, discrimination based on religion has caused nothing but intense suffering and pain throughout history – whether in the form of conquests, crusades, pogroms, wars of religion, the Holocaust, the gulags or the persecution and martyrdom of people of many different faiths by terrorists in the Middle East today.
Any time a society gives its blessing to discrimination against people based on their religion, it opens the door to frightening possibilities. It may be “someone else’s” faith today, but it has been each of our faiths in the past, and could be any of our faiths tomorrow. This applies equally to people who exercise their constitutionally-protected right not to belong to any particular faith as well. Anytime a society says nothing against discrimination, it is the same as giving consent and we therefore cannot be silent.
We are not blind to the threat posed to our children, our communities and our nation by groups who claim to be motivated by religion. We believe that law enforcement and public safety agencies at the federal, state, and local levels, including those who handle border security, must be given the tools they need to help keep us safe. But those tools must reflect the values of our nation and the values inherent in our religious traditions.
We do not believe that singling out one religious group for different treatment by our government is faithful to how God calls us to live, and we do not believe it honors the values of equality and religious freedom that our nation holds dear. Our nation is a shining light in the world because we have firmly and repeatedly rejected discrimination based on faith and is the exact reason many of our ancestors fled their countries to start a new life here. Religious diversity makes our nation strong. It is time for members of all faiths to stand courageously against any ideology or political movement that devalues the richness of any religious tradition.
In this time in our nation when so many are fearful, we choose to put our trust in God who invites us to love our neighbor. We pray for guidance as we seek to find ways to protect life and to lift up the value of every life.