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More than one hundred and forty religious liberty advocates from across the religious and political spectrum delivered a letter today to the White House and Congress asking elected leaders to ensure that individuals and communities are able to practice their religion without fear for their physical safety. Melissa Rogers, visiting professor at the School of Divinity, is one of the letter’s signers.
“We sometimes differ about what religious freedom requires,” the letter states, “but we are united around the bedrock principle of ensuring that all individuals and communities are able to exercise their faith in safety and security.”
The letter cites the attack in March on two mosques in New Zealand during Friday prayer that claimed the lives of fifty Muslims and injured fifty more. In the weeks since the attack, the letter notes, an assailant stabbed a Catholic priest in a Montreal church during Mass, and a California mosque was set on fire and vandalized with graffiti referencing the New Zealand attacks. Other houses of worship have also been targeted in recent years, including attacks on Sikh Temple of Wisconsin in Oak Creek; Mother Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina; Dar Al-Farooq Islamic Center in Bloomington, Minnesota; First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs, Texas; and Tree of Life Congregation in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
In the letter, the signers note, “The words we use matter greatly, especially the words of our leaders.” The letter asks President Trump, Vice President Pence, Speaker Pelosi, Minority Leader McCarthy, Majority Leader McConnell and Minority Leader Schumer to affirm a set of principles, including the fact that, “Individuals of all faiths and none have equal dignity, worth and rights to religious freedom,” and that “Americans should never foment fear about groups based on attributes like religion, race or ethnicity, and they should speak against fear-mongering by others.”
Signers to the letter include Baptists, Buddhists, Catholics, Evangelicals, Hindus, Humanists, Jews, Mainline Protestants, members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Muslims and Sikhs. Clergy, scholars, civil rights and nonprofit leaders, grassroots activists, lawyers and former government officials from across the nation joined the effort to promote a safer climate for religious freedom in the United States and around the world.
Rogers noted that the signatories to the letter “are incredibly diverse – religiously, theologically and ideologically – yet we are speaking with one voice on these important issues.” The letter to the nation’s top elected leaders closes by saying, “We vow to work with you to ensure that individuals and communities are able to practice their faith without fear.”