LETTERS TO THE EDITOR - Free religion from stain of politics

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October is Freedom from Discrimination month. A few weeks ago the U-B ran an article referring to a "National Week of Dialogue", which is to take place in New York City on the weekend of October 22-24. The intention is to hold an interfaith dialogue with a focus on the proposed mosque to be placed near Ground Zero.

I hope the dialogue will be thoughtful, and not fraught with the overly emotional comments we read and hear about almost daily.

While contention continues regarding the New York proposal, here in Walla Walla a swastika was recently discovered in Heritage Square Park and last summer a rock was tossed through the window of the local Jewish Center. Recently a group of concerned citizens marched to the park in an attempt to focus on such acts of disrespect.

Recent news reports tell of various hate groups presenting themselves as religious organizations, apparently under the illusion, that by appearing to espouse religious goals the public will view their actions as legitimate.

In the mid 1990's, the Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, Kan., andd home of "a hate group masquerading as a Christian church" held anti-Jewish demonstrations, and more recently have invaded the private burials of fallen American soldiers with their venomous agenda. They have also attacked the Catholic Church. The Westboro Church currently has a case before the Supreme Court pleading to continue their activities under the free speech act.

It is tempting to lace political debates with spiritual language, since it seems to legitimize the goals of a movement. But isn't that exactly what Al-Qaeda is employing to excuse for their actions? We need to remind ourselves that there is a huge gap between political and spiritual beliefs.

I suggest that those of us in the spiritual community of Walla Walla deeply consider our commitments to our respective faiths in regard to these disturbing events. Baha'u'llah has stated that, prejudice is a deep-seated belief in ones sense of superiority.

In this month of October, which is designated as "freedom from discrimination" month, I would hope that dialogues on discrimination would be light on political rhetoric and heavy on spiritual goals. Freeing religion from the stain of politics will help such dialogues move onto a higher level of discourse and hopefully resolve baseless beliefs.

Todd Oleson
Walla Walla

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