Taking a Stand for Religious Freedom and Against Intolerance

Religious Freedom"All that is necessary for evil to prevail is for good men [and women] to do nothing," wrote Sergei Bondarchuk. In order to stand up to the escalating animosity directed against Muslim Americans, and in light of the upcoming anniversary of 9/11, I helped create this pledge to support religious freedom and stand in solidarity against bigotry and intolerance. I hope people of all faiths, and people of conscience who do not practice a religion, will speak out against the planned burning of the Koran this Saturday, as with the burning of any sacred books or other books. Surely, good men and women in this country vastly outnumber hate mongerer Terry Jones and his little band of religious bigots in Gainesville and elsewhere.

Any ancient text -- including the Old Testament, the New Testament, the Koran, the Upanishads, The Republic, City of God, to name just a few -- has sentences that can be taken out of context by extremists in attempts to rationalize behavior that most modern followers or readers would reject as inconsistent and unacceptable in this day and age. In the days after September 11, 2001, people of all faiths -- Muslim, Christian, Jewish, Hindu, Buddhist, and others, along with agnostics and atheists -- condemned those who attacked the World Trade Center and the Pentagon as murderers whose acts were not acceptable to any moral person. But the recent wave of intolerance and hatred across the country, symbolized by the burning of books, has unfairly maligned innocent practitioners of Islam. I believe we must stand against such acts, and the spin and propaganda they represent, before they take root. So three of us, who have long worked to strengthen national security and protect civil liberties, sat down and drafted it -- civil liberties lawyer Kate Martin, former national security official Suzanne Spaulding, and me. We wrote it because we do not believe that the voices of intolerance are an accurate reflection of America, and we worry that such intolerance puts wind in the sails of terrorists' propaganda. We hope Americans will respond to this call to stand up for religious freedom and against intolerance, and demonstrate that this nation remains committed to these fundamental founding values.

The pledge, pasted in its entirety below, simply asks people of good will to add their voices.

We are proud to live in the United States , a country founded on constitutional principles of tolerance and religious freedom.
We affirm America 's commitment to these principles.
We condemn bigotry and intolerance by any and all, especially those who murder others in the false name of their religion.
We condemn the act of burning the Koran, a sacred text for millions of Americans and others around the world, as we would condemn the burning of all sacred texts.
We pledge to remember Americans and others from around the world, including Muslims, Christians, Jews, and people of other faiths, who were murdered on September 11, 2001, American service men and women of all faiths who have lost their lives in the wars since then, and innocent civilians, of all faiths, who have died in those wars, and to honor their sacrifice by reaffirming our commitment to the principles of tolerance and religious freedom.

Please join us in lighting a candle in solidarity on the eve of September 11th and that night. Share the link to our petition on your website, Facebook page, or Twitter, and forward it to appropriate lists of potential signers: http://salsa.democracyinaction.org/o/632/action/Tolerance
Lisa Graves

Lisa Graves is President of the Board of the Center for Media and Democracy and President of True North Research. She is a well-known researcher, writer, and public speaker. Her research and analysis have been cited by every major paper in the country and featured in critically acclaimed books and documentaries, including Ava Du Vernay’s award-winning film, “The 13th,” Bill Moyers’s “United States of ALEC,” and Showtime’s “Years of Living Dangerously.”



Dear Tyro-- Now you are putting words in my mouth--to name a few, I am not saying that just because people get upset that we must assuage hurt feelings. I am saying that it is certainly within the free speech rights of people to respond to bigotry and hatred by speaking out against it. You are right that burning a religious text is not the same as barring another religion, even though that is Mr. Jones' goal. I strongly defend free speech rights of people including the right to say unpopular things that may offend some, which is why I have not suggested that there be any attempt by the government to restrain Mr. Jones in his speech or lawful conduct but have instead urged others to speak in favor of religious tolerance and against the kind of bigotry Jones has expressed in numerous settings. Lisa

I'll grant you that Jones is probably a bigot but there are thousands of bigots that we all casually ignore or respond with jokes. Take Phelps as an example - you don't get the President or Sec State commenting on his brand of hate but suddenly someone burns a book or a bunch of fundamentalist zealots threaten violence in retaliation and suddenly it's all gone too far! I'm sorry but the claim that you're just dealing with bigotry doesn't ring true. I think that if a group threatens violence if anyone doesn't meet their religious demands are met then we need people to stand up to them. Shame on you for condemning this action merely because it's being done by a bigot and an idiot. Freedom of speech & religion is only necessary when we disagree with it!

Ever thought that perhaps this is exactly how 'they' want us to react? To have hatred among our own kind? All these misleading media, education systems, corrupted organizations only grounds people with 'rules'. They preach freedom but they are impacting us otherwise... it's time to wake up. it's a big lie out there.

Good points well taken, both of you. But has your passion blinded you from the real issue surrounding this "event". I mean who cares what anyone does with the stuff they own. I bet a thousand bibles were burned yesterday as well as a thousand korans. What makes this fool and his activities newsworthy? That is the real issue here. Who decided to make this particular event a subject of discussion and why? That is issue numero uno, the intentional manipulation of people, places, and things by big media for its' own agenda. Who is behind it? You won't be able to find out because only a coward acts in such reprehensible ways. The story here is more mind control through the intentional fear mongering of the public. Anybody who finds themselves motivated by the content of this story to act out either for or against this religious issue has missed the real and very serious propaganda intent and has become another victim of the worthless tripe that now parades itself as news.

amen, bother. all media wants is a foodfight to profit from. factfinding, research, coroboration, proof and everything else that used to be a required portion of journalism-that's all dead. and just when we need it most.

amen, brother! all those pesky journalism duties like facts, research, corroboration are all dead since journalism was overrun by the media. foodfights and other appeals to the reptile brain, that's what sells. media has no more shame for their destructive behavior than our elected officials, corporate boardrooms, or we who stand idly by knowing the difference between a bicycle accident and the collapse of the civilization.

umm, 1st amendment? Whether I agree with what they're doing or not, the first amendment is more important. Period.

Who cares if he or anyone for that sake burns books.Anyone can go and buy books and then go and burn them.It doesnt mean anything and shouldnt.What effect or influence will it have to anyone who witnesses him burning these books? Absolutely none!!