B U L L E T I N

Happy New Year!

1. New Year Message - A purposeful life – Huffington post
2. A Note about Sean Hannity, Stuart Varney and Fox News –request
3. Note about Bridgette Gabriel’s comment on Fox News – upon request
4. American Muslims are proud of taking the right step - Link
5. Moderate Muslims Speak out? Link

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Thursday, July 23, 2009

Religious Cleansing in Iran

It is a shame that the Iranian government is bullying it's minorities. We have got to find solutions to bring civility in governance.

As Muslims we condemn this act of ugliness, it does not corrospond with the Islamic values of Justice, fainess and treating others as you would wanted to be treated.

Shame on the supreme leader to have his pictures plastered on every wall in Iran, Prophet Muhammad, the founder of the religion did exactly the opposite of it; and advised against plastering one's pictures or erecting busts in every street corner. Prophet Muhammad was a humble man, can we say the same about the supreme leader? There is something wrong here and yet he claims to represent the Islamic faith?

However, finding the truth is our own responsibility, the National review is at times questionable and biased.

The best option I see is to pull back from the corner we are pushing Iran into, and bring them into the community of Nations as an active civil partner. It is in the best interest of the United States and Israel to make friends with the Muslim majority states. The propaganda, particularly the violent Neocon propaganda has not yielded any goodness thus far, and most certinaly will harm every one in the process, we need to work with the policy of inclusion to bring about a lasting change for every one.

Mike Ghouse
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Iran treats non-Muslims as harshly as political dissidents. Why doesn’t the West notice?

By J. K. Choksy & Nina Shea

‘Every aspect of a non-Muslim is unclean,” proclaimed Iran’s late Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khomeini. He explained that non-Muslims rank between “feces” and “the sweat of a camel that has consumed impure food.” Other prominent ayatollahs, including Ahmad Jannati, the current chairman of the Guardian Council, have made similar utterances.

Thus Iran’s Zoroastrians, Jews, Mandeans, Christians, and Bahais are subordinated and indeed treated as a fifth column by the revolutionary Islamic Republic. No matter that most of these religious groups were established in Iran before Islam arrived there; none are accepted by Iran’s Shiite rulers as fully Iranian. With the recent controversial presidential election, the scapegoating of non-Muslims as agents of the United States, Israel, Britain, and the deposed monarchy reached new heights. Seven Bahai leaders and two Christian converts are in prison and will soon be put on trial for their lives, while other non-Muslims are suffering intensified government repression.

Non-Muslim communities collectively have diminished to no more than 2 percent of Iran’s 71 million people. Forty years ago, under the Shah, a visitor would have seen a relatively tolerant society. Iran now appears to be in the final stages of religious cleansing. Pervasive discrimination, intimidation, and harassment have prompted non-Muslims to flee in disproportionately high numbers.

Like political dissidents, these religious minorities are a moderating force against Iranian Shiite extremism. Also, their mere presence ensures a modicum of ideological diversity and pluralism in the face of the regime’s brutal insistence on conformity. But unlike the dissidents, the religious minorities have attracted little international concern, and their plight is poorly understood.

Iran’s constitution requires that laws and regulations be based on Islamic criteria, which mandate inferior status for three non-Muslim faiths, while withholding all rights and protections from all other faiths. Zoroastrian, Jewish, and Christian (specifically, Assyrian and Armenian) live in a modern version of dhimmi status — the protected though subjugated condition of “people of the Book” dating back to medieval times. While these three groups are allotted seats in the legislative assembly (a total of five out of 290 seats), they are barred from seeking high public office in any of the three branches of government.

Catholic, Anglican, Protestant, and evangelical churches are not regarded as heritage communities and are afforded few rights. Christian worship must be in the Assyrian or Armenian languages, not in Farsi. Several Protestant and evangelical leaders have been murdered by government agents in recent years, and last year reports surfaced of a renewed crackdown against churches operating in people’s homes, with reportedly 50 or more arrests. Mandeans have sought in vain for official recognition based on their historic ties to John the Baptist.

Members of the Bahai faith, an independent religion that originated in 19th-century Iran, are treated far worse: as heretics to be persecuted outright. According to Iranian law, Bahai blood is considered mobah — that is, it can be spilled with impunity. Over two hundred Bahais have been executed since 1979. “An enemy of Islam” was written on some of their corpses. In 1979 the Pasdaran (Revolutionary Guards) demolished the house of the Bab, a sacred Bahai site in the southwestern city of Shiraz, and the place where it stood has since been paved over for an Islamic center. The burial shrine of Quddus, a prominent follower of the Bab, was destroyed at Babol in 2004. Bahais can gather only underground — at private homes or in surreptitiously rented halls.

Converts from Islam to any other faith are regarded by the state as apostates who can be put to death. Iran bans non-Muslims not only from proselytizing but from most public religious expression in the presence of Muslims. The Intelligence Ministry closely monitors Zoroastrian, Jewish, and Christian religious communities. These groups are routinely denied permission for formal contacts with foreign co-religionists.

Among these religious groups, initiation ceremonies, weddings, and funerals must be discreet affairs. Even so, they run the risk of raids by the Ministry of Islamic Culture and Guidance to ensure adherence to “Islamic standards.” A 2004 raid of one gathering resulted in the arrest of 80 Christians for following their own mores in women’s dress and in allowing men and women to mingle.

In Shiraz, a synagogue, a church, and a fire temple are located in close proximity to one another. Anti-Pahlavi graffiti there are refreshed regularly to remind Jews, Christians, and Zoroastrians that their loyalty remains suspect. Jews often are accused of aiding Israel. In 2000, eleven prominent Iranian Jews were convicted of spying for Israel.

The tomb of Daniel, from the Old Testament, is exploited by the regime to promote its relentless anti-Semitic and anti-Israeli propaganda. One mural features an imaginary scene of Iranian forces joining Palestinian fighters in seizing Jerusalem’s Temple Mount. Nearby slogans denounce Jews, Zionism, and Israel. Jews have stopped visiting the site altogether.

Though the constitution permits Jews, Christians, and Zoroastrians to “act according to their own canon in matters of personal affairs and religious education,” Iran’s Education Ministry administers minority schools and imposes a state-approved religious textbook. Many minority secondary schools have been nationalized. The surviving private schools typically have Muslim directors. All university applicants must pass an examination in Islamic theology. Bahais have been essentially barred from higher education.

Zoroastrian schools must display towering portraits of Iran’s supreme leaders. Quranic quotations and revolutionary slogans are painted on their interior walls with the forced participation of the schoolchildren, while mullahs and revolutionary guards chant Shia praises.

The same displays are forced on churches, especially those not within Armenian or Assyrian neighborhoods. Churchgoers are taunted as infidels by Pasdaran and by Basij militiamen.

Religious minorities experience high unemployment and economic impoverishment, since so much of the economy, including the oil industry, is controlled by the state. Minority storeowners must display prominent signs indicating they are najasa (ritually unclean). Bahais have no property rights, and their homes and business are vulnerable to confiscation.

Non-Muslims are not excluded from the compulsory military service, however, and they report being deployed for especially hazardous assignments. During the Iran-Iraq war, they were routinely transferred to suicide brigades. Non-Muslim communities maintain small “martyrs’ walls” as memorials to their war dead.

Any non-Muslim responsible for a Muslim’s death faces capital punishment, in accordance with medieval Islamic jurisprudence. Conversely, Muslims do not face capital punishment or even long prison sentences for murdering a non-Muslim, though they are fined. Exceptions are in the murder of a Bahai or a Muslim apostate — no compensation whatsoever is required. In a court proceeding, a non-Muslim’s testimony is valued at half that of a Muslim’s. A non-Muslim who converts to Islam becomes the sole inheritor of his or her family’s assets.

President Ahmadinejad denies the Holocaust, threatens Israel, and promotes the Protocols of the Elders of Zion as genuine. He has reportedly vowed the end of Christianity’s development in Iran. Under his presidency, life has only become more difficult for religious minorities. Their social organizations have been subject to intrusive investigations and threatened with criminal charges on such grounds as rejecting “cultural conformity” and weakening “the centrality of the Islamic regime.” A new committee in Qom has been empowered to “combat activities of members of religious minorities.” The five minority parliamentarians, like 175 of their colleagues, left Tehran to avoid having to congratulate the president upon his reelection, prompting a new round of raids on synagogues, churches, and fire temples.

Iran’s non-Muslims cannot defend their own rights. In 2005, the Zoroastrian parliamentarian Kourosh Niknam tried to do so, by giving a speech protesting a slur against non-Muslims by the head of the Guardian Council. He was prosecuted for failing to show respect for Iran’s leaders but released with a stern admonishment in response to domestic and international pressure.

Iran’s political dissidents are defended by the West. Its diverse non-Muslim minorities ask why they’ve been forgotten.

http://article.nationalreview.com/?q=NjU2MzQ5NjE4YWMzZjViN2NiNmU1NDY3N2FkZTM1MDg=&w=MA==

— Jamsheed K. Choksy is a professor of Iranian studies and former director of the Middle Eastern Studies Program at Indiana University and serves as a Member of the National Council on the Humanities. Nina Shea directs the Hudson Institute’s Center for Religious Freedom and serves on the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom. The views expressed herein are their own.
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Pluralism Talk at UMC Farmers Branch

Thursday, July 23, 2009
Christ United Methodist Church of Farmers Branch and the Religion Communicators Council organized a luncheon talk on Pluralism. A healthy trend is developing among religious groups to open up to listen to others. When we learn to accept the otherness of other and respect the uniqueness of each one of us, then conflicts fade and solutions emerge. Mike Ghouse is committed to Pluralism and is a speaker on the subject.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Confronting Genocide

Confronting Genocide: Judaism, Christianity, Islam.There is a new book published by Rowman and Littlefield "Confronting Genocide: Judaism, Christianity, Islam." The book is edited by genocide scholar Dr. Steven Leonard Jacobs with contributions by other genocide scholars."Confronting Genocide is an essential exploration of this complex dimension of the conceptual foundations of genocide. Steven Jacobs has done superb work in bringing together a broad and rich range of scholarly perspectives. A necessary contribution to genocide studies."—Peter Balakian, author of The Burning Tigris: The Armenian Genocide and America's Response

Continued: http://holocaustandgenocides.blogspot.com/2009/07/confronting-genocide.html

The III Annual Reflections on Holocaust and Genocides is scheduled for Sunday, January 24, 2010, an initiative of World Muslim Congress and the Foundation for Pluralism.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Fragmented Societies and the Future

The Middle East, Fragmented Societies, and the Future
by Janice A. Smith
Heritage Lecture #1126

Your excellencies, friends, fellow workers in the field of justice and peace, it is indeed an honor to be able to share a few thoughts and pose a few questions on this topic that I believe you are best able to address.

I first met Pilar Lara over five years ago in Washington when I worked in the State Department's Bureau of International Organization Affairs, primarily on all matters before the United Nations. I'd asked a number of my colleagues who worked on development and human rights in the Middle East to meet with Pilar concerning the projects run by her organization, the Foundation for the Social Promotion of Culture, in the region. We all were inspired by her achievements and her deep commitment to helping people in very difficult situations.

I was excited to later find out that the Foundation also started a research center. Too often, governments appear to do only what is needed to sustain the status quo. They seem unable or unwilling to invest the time to develop policies that could bring more just and lasting results. That changes when officials have better information and options, and that is where research centers like the Foundation's Center for Middle Eastern Studies play a role. They are vital conduits linking dedicated policymakers with good ideas.

Providing timely information to U.S. policymakers is the primary reason The Heritage Foundation was created 36 years ago. Today, it continues that mission, and it is backed by 450,000 members who support its vision of helping to build a world where freedom, opportunity, prosperity, and civil society flourish.

Not everyone believes this is possible. In America, some people say, for example, that Islam and liberty are not compatible--the radicalization and politicization of the religion of Islam leaves little room for Muslims, Christians, and Jews to live together peacefully. Frankly, we do not accept that. The desire for freedom does not know race, religion, gender, age, or culture.

Dr. Kim Holmes, the former Assistant Secretary of State for whom I worked who is a Vice President at Heritage, decided to tackle this issue in a project titled "Islam ... Liberty." Through discussions with Muslim and non-Muslim leaders and experts, we are examining challenges that Muslim-majority societies face in securing human rights and fundamental freedoms. Another project on "Religion, Family ... Civil Society" looks at ways to strengthen the important institutions on which successful democracies depend.

Tragically, though many foreign policy issues move quickly, peace in the Middle East does not. I wanted to participate in this conference to listen and learn about why this is so from those who are working to bring a future of peace to the region. The timeliness of this conference escapes no one, coming so soon after Pope Benedict's historic trip to the Holy Land and President Barack Obama's speech in Egypt. Many were listening, hoping that the attention they brought to a situation that seems to be at an impasse would provide new openings for a solution. Very many people believe that unless something changes soon, the opportunity for any solution--including the two-state solution--will be lost, and graver things will follow.

As our afternoon discussion demonstrated, the reasons for this concern are many. There are escalating hostilities between Israel and the Palestinians, and between Fatah and Hamas. There are questions about the new Israeli government's positions, what it will do about the settlements and its fears over Iran's nuclear weapons aims. There are concerns over increasing human rights abuses in the region, a continuing lack of economic opportunities that makes youth easy prey for radicals, and the deteriorating situation for Christians and other religious minorities.

But what timeline for forcing change would be wise? Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has said that "[t]here are two mentalities in this region, conspiracy or mistrust." Nothing will change if attitudes do not change. I believe that is why so many people listened closely to President Obama's remarks and to Pope Benedict's before him. Time will tell whether the seeds these two very different leaders planted will blossom or will have fallen on rocky soil.

Many people welcomed President Obama's remarks to the "Muslim world" as evidence that the United States will engage directly in the Middle East and no longer play the role of "silent partner." Now, the President said many things that needed to be said, and all Americans want their President to succeed on the international stage. But we are practical people. We have a healthy disdain for political promises until we see results. The President's words were well received, but we are watching to see what he follows them with. Unfortunately, what I see so far is disconcerting. He has cut funding for democracy promotion in Egypt significantly, for example, and reportedly agreed to let the Egyptian government approve which NGOs get U.S. funding from now on. What do such political decisions say to people there hoping and working for more freedom?

It seems to me now that the Pope chose the better balance in his remarks. He did not emphasize one side over the others. He showed deep understanding and respect for all those who live there, and he gave voice to everyone's deepest concerns. He pressed for solutions based on human dignity that tear down the physical and emotional walls keeping people apart and that will strengthen religious freedom. He seemed a welcome breath of cool air in a hot desert; and his words primed the soil for President Obama's speech by focusing attention not just on the here and now, but on the future.

And so, it is timely that we ask here, "What future for the Middle East?" Is it apocalyptic, as some say--a "ground zero" in a clash of civilizations between pre- and post-modernity, East and West, secularism and religion, globalism and sovereignty? Such topics stimulate lively debates but do little to lead to practical solutions for a region where struggles over land and power have caused carnage across time and left historical memories that I, as an American, cannot fully appreciate. I do understand one thing, however: Unless there is the will to make all sides equal partners in the outcome, resentment will fester and return more virulent. Is there the will to do this?

Everyone longs for a Middle East where peace and justice prevail. As the conference paper and speakers today have noted, the continuing fragmentation of ethnic and religious groups seriously complicates the search for peace. Palestinians in Gaza are suffering more since Hamas took over and hostilities with Fatah and Israel increased. Poverty, unemployment, neighborhoods destroyed, families separated by checkpoints--one wonders how people can bear it. Israelis, whose heritage is a long experience with persecution (even in Spain), live in existential fear of attacks from ever more modern weapons. The wall is a constant reminder of pain for both sides. Christians are leaving in droves, and governments around the region are clamping down on human rights.

By focusing on this fragmentation, however, are we limiting our ability to find solutions? Is the problem that there are disparate groups that like shards of a broken glass seem to have little chance of being put back together? Or could they one day come together like a mosaic--a vibrant portrait of human diversity made up of brightly colored pieces of different sizes and identities?

I prefer the latter vision, which has been reinforced by my visit to Spain. As I toured Madrid and beyond yesterday, I glimpsed its rich multicultural heritage. For a time, Spain was one of the few places in the region where Muslims, Christians, and Jews could live together in relative peace. It did not last, of course; religious extremism, plagues, wars, and even dictatorship have had their ways here. But just 40 years ago, could any of us have predicted that Spain would change governments and transform itself so quickly into this vibrant democracy?

Keeping mosaics together requires vigilance, and freedom must never be taken for granted. The Spanish people have much to offer people in state-controlled societies about this, about the real stepping stones to freedom given the right influences and the right influencers. What are those influences, and who are those influencers in the Middle East? Are there other mosaic "success" stories in the region that could shed some insight? Perhaps if we can identify them, we can develop a strategy to help them.

Consider, for example, Indonesia--the world's largest Muslim-majority democracy. Almost 90 percent of its 240 million people are Muslim--as many as there are in the entire Middle East. In just one decade, what began as a student-led reform movement transformed Indonesia from an authoritarian state into a pluralistic democracy. People set aside their religious and ethnic differences to work together for freedom. They will soon get to vote again, and polls are showing that support for the Islamist parties linked to the Muslim Brotherhood has fallen by 10 percent. More and more Indonesians oppose the Islamists' increasing intolerance and violence against religious minorities and find their government's blind eye toward it despicable.[1]

Lebanon also has a history of religious pluralism, with Muslims and Maronite Christians sharing power and tolerance of Greek Orthodox, Baptists, Coptic/Assyrians, and Druze. Though extremists hope to push back Lebanon's political and civil advances, this election showed that people who have tasted freedom will not give it up lightly.

Kuwait is another example. For the first time, women have just been elected to parliament, only four years since women first gained the right to vote. According to journalist Amir Taheri, Islamists lost seats to secular candidates, and their share of the vote dropped significantly since the last general election. The Muslim Brotherhood lost three of its four seats. Shiites, with 25 percent of the population, gained seats, and voter participation increased overall.

These are a few examples, yet they show that the future of Middle East societies rests a great deal in the hands of people. The influencers for change are religious leaders, students, human rights activists, women, journalists, and diplomats who have all said "enough" to violence. They brave physical harm, jail, and humiliation to fight for human dignity, freedom of conscience and religion, economic opportunity, and political and civil rights--ingredients of the glue that holds social mosaics together.

His Beatitude Patriarch Sabbah has spoken often about the responsibilities that religious leaders of all faiths have to cooperate to bring peace and religious liberty to the region, to "denounce violence as contrary to religious tenets," and to "confirm others in the ways of justice, of what is right, and of forgiveness." We may ask heads of state to say the same things, but it would not carry the same moral weight as religious leaders. Who are the other religious leaders who would speak these truths? They need support.

People of faith are also influencers. I often have heard that Christians have been a welcome buffer zone in the Holy Land, how Christmas services in Jerusalem were commonly attended by people of different faiths until recently. Archbishop Jean Benjamin Sleiman of Baghdad shared with me how, in Iraq, Christians have had a small presence but a huge impact, and now even Muslims express alarm over the rate at which they are leaving. What does that portend for the future of these societies?

Influencers are also civil society actors, "good Samaritans" like the Foundation for the Social Promotion of Culture. Government alone cannot provide for every human need. Bureaucracies are too impersonal and almost always settle for the lowest common denominator. The work of the Foundation in the region demonstrates how much more effective civil society can be in improving the well-being and future of communities.

It is no surprise that Pope Benedict pointed this out twice after visiting one of the Foundation's projects in Jordan that serves over 900 disabled people of all backgrounds. He mentioned the Our Lady of Peace Center in his remarks at the Mosque al-Hussein bin Talal in Amman and in his first general audience back in Rome.

Of course, there are influencers in the region who are not helpful, and that is where political leaders must focus their attention. Iran is the most troubling, giving its "unequivocal" support to Hamas and Hezbollah, but also supporting the Palestinian Islamic Jihad and Iraqi Shia militias. Muslims have suffered most from their violent acts. Kuwait recently accused Iran of inciting its Shiite community, but Tehran has long been a destabilizing force in the region--trying as it has to overthrow governments in Iraq, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Lebanon. The Ayatollah Khamenei calls the Holocaust a "big lie" and criticizes any Palestinian who seeks a negotiated settlement with Israel. Such words do not foster peace.

Who can influence Iran? It is not likely the United States, though supporting the people in their efforts to gain democracy and freedom is vital. The problem is that Tehran has repeatedly rebuffed President Obama's advances.Perhaps the best influencer is Europe, which has many economic and political relationships with Iran. Germany in particular has thousands of companies operating in Iran. How might Tehran respond if Germany halted its investments and adopted a tougher stand against its human rights abuses and support for terrorism? What if Europe toughened its sanctions to help bring Iran to a more "teachable moment" (as academics like to say) about its nuclear weapons program?

Such measures would help lessen security threats, but alone are not enough. Without solidifying the building blocks of peaceful societies, no political solution will last. As we heard today, in a region where religion is part of the conflict, religious freedom must be part of the solution. I am reminded of the work of Radwan Masmoudi, who heads the Center for the Study of Islam and Democracy. One of many Muslims who believe religious freedom is the foundation of strong moral societies, Masmoudi has pointed out where the Koran teaches that humans are created free and that violating basic freedoms--including the freedom to worship-- contradicts both human nature and the will of God.

There is much to be done by all sides in this area. Israel's Basic Law on Human Dignity and Liberty provides for freedom of worship, yet certain religious minorities are facing increasing discrimination. The Palestinian Basic Law provides for religious freedom, yet Hamas's control in Gaza has made it difficult for the Palestinian Authority to enforce it there. Thus, it has yet to investigate the recent deadly attack on a Christian bookstore owner. In Iran, the parliament is working on codifying severe punishments, including death, for converting from Islam. In Saudi Arabia, converts still face the death penalty and religious minorities, including Shiites who make up 15 percent of the population, are frequently detained and harassed.[2]

It is indicative of this problem that the 2005 Arab Human Development Report talks about seven "nonnegotiable guarantees" that would enable Arab countries to transition to democracy, including the right to vote and the freedom to join associations. But little is said in it about religious freedom, implicitly condoning state intolerance. History, however, is replete with examples of how political freedoms and religious freedoms go hand in hand. Political freedoms provide the conditions, the space, for people to practice their religion without coercion. Freedom of conscience, freedom of association, and free speech are all critical to the practice of religious pluralism.

Other building blocks that can be stepping stones to economic development and peace are necessary as well. These include property rights, education, and women's rights. The 2004 Arab Human Development Report calls discrimination against women one of most significant obstacles to development in the region.

But there is hope. A recent study by the American nonprofit Freedom House cites successful efforts by civil society activists working with governments to increase freedom and equality for women. Last year, the United Arab Emirates appointed its first female judges; and women in Saudi Arabia, where their rights are most severely restricted, can now study law, obtain identification cards, and register a business.

So who are the political leaders, human rights activists, and civil society groups in the region that could press for greater religious pluralism, women's rights, and other freedoms? They deserve our encouragement.

There is much more we could discuss along these lines, but let me conclude with one last observation. If there is one thing I will take back from our discussion about the future of the Middle East thus far, it is hope--because it shows how much people truly care. People who care can transform societies. The question for us is not if there is a future for peace in the region, but rather who are the influencers? Who can best advance the freedoms that unleash the human and social capital that is necessary to make any political solution work? And how can we encourage them?

Janice A. Smith is Special Assistant and Policy Coordinator for the Vice President of Foreign and Defense Policy Studies at The Heritage Foundation and its current representative on the U.S.-UNESCO National Commission. She spoke at a conference in Madrid, Spain, sponsored by the Foundation for the Social Promotion of Culture's Center for Middle East Studies. Speaking on her own behalf, Ms. Smith delivered a shortened version of this prepared draft during an evening session of the conference.

Published in heritage foundation -
http://www.heritage.org/Research/MiddleEast/hl1126.cfm

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Pluralism practice in society.


The article explores the subtleties in the base human intincts to clamor for exclusivities. Indeed, that is common to all humans in every society. The exclusivities have created conflicts and ended up with a destruction and maladjusments in all societies. Thank God for the American civil laws, it uplifts the people from the animal instincts to human ones, where co-existence and pluralism is natural as opposed to separation or annhilation of each other.- Mike Ghouse
Built on a foundation of outdated prejudices
The swim club controversy shows how many of today's institutions perpetuate racial segregation and mistrust.

By Jeff Wiltse
Philadelphia Inquirer

Following a suburban swim club's attempt to cancel its agreement with a Philadelphia day camp serving minority children, journalists, bloggers, and Sen. Arlen Specter have been among those expressing shock that such apparently blatant discrimination could occur today in the Northeast. "This is the sort of thing you'd hear about in 1966, during the height of the civil rights movement," said Chuck Wielgus, executive director of USA Swimming, "not in 2009, and not in [Philadelphia]."

I am not surprised that underlying racial prejudice was exposed at a swimming pool. Since the very first pools opened in the mid-19th century, Americans have intensely contested access to them, because pools are such visually and physically intimate spaces. Not too many decades ago, white Northerners literally beat black children with fists and bats for attempting to swim in whites-only pools.

But the real lesson of the Valley Club incident is not that racial prejudice persists among well-to-do, white Northerners, or that swimming pools are still contested spaces. It's that our nation's history of racial discrimination is difficult to overcome because many Americans continue to live and recreate in social environments that are the product of past prejudices.

Suburban swim clubs date to the early 1950s, when, not coincidentally, public swimming pools throughout the northern United States were being racially desegregated. The white Americans who were moving out to the suburbs in droves at the time chose to organize private swim clubs rather than fund public pools, in large part because they could still legally exclude non-whites from private clubs.

Postwar suburbs were likewise a product of racial prejudice. Developers restricted homeownership to whites, and many suburbanites moved out of cities to escape the breakdown of residential segregation in urban neighborhoods.

In short, the era's racial prejudice caused middle-class whites to create restricted environments that ensured they would not have to interact with people different from themselves.

Since the 1950s, racial prejudice has surely diminished. But the relatively homogenous social environments created then remain. Socially exclusive suburbs and swim clubs have outlived the intense prejudice that brought them into being.

As a result, many Americans do not interact in a meaningful way with people from different class and racial backgrounds. Ideologically, they may embrace social and cultural pluralism. But they do not have the social experiences that would enable them to develop trust and understanding of people different from themselves. Consequently, they are only comfortable around people who are socially similar to themselves.

This was why, it seems to me, some members of the Valley Club reacted as they did to the Creative Steps campers.

If Americans want to avoid future Valley Club incidents, we need to do more than continue to unteach racial prejudice and elect black public officials. We need to break down the structural segregation that perpetuates homogenous social environments.

A good start might be for Montgomery County to fund a gigantic swimming pool that would be open to all, including children from Northeast Philadelphia. But people would still need to commit themselves to using a public facility instead of secluding themselves in private clubs or their own backyards.

Article from Philadelphia Enquirer
http://www.philly.com/inquirer/opinion/20090716_Built_on_a_foundation_of_outdated_prejudices.html
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Jeff Wiltse is an associate professor of history at the University of Montana, Missoula, and the author of "Contested Waters: A Social History of Swimming Pools in America." He can be contacted at jeff.wiltse@mso.umt.edu.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Reconsecration of Hindu Temple


July 14, 2009

Click on the picture to enlarge: Uma Mysorekar in Saree with Mike Ghouse in the Memnosyne interfaith conference held in 2005 in Dallas, a documentary was made about the conference called "Many Paths one source". http://www.manypathsonesource.org/

I am pleased to see the coverage of the temple in Flushing and I hope they had invited people from all faiths. Much of the stereotyping and prejudices exist because we have not taken the time to know each other. We have to question ourselves; what do I know about the faith of my Hindu, Muslim, Christian, Jewish, Atheist, Bahai, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Aztec, Toltec, Zoroastrian, Wicca and friends from other faiths? Is my belief based on negative images dished out to me? Have I ever genuinely searched for the truth to find out how other people find blessings and peace in their own way? Once you are free from prejudice and stereotyping, you will be truly a blessed person. Try it, you'd like it.

Mike Ghouse
http://www.mikeghouse.net/
http://wisdomofreligion.blogspot.com/2009/07/reconsecration-of-hindu-temple.html

Reconsecration, With Bells, Saffron and Elephant
By ANNE BARNARD

An expectant crowd had gathered, dressed in tropically colored saris and dhotis — mango, teal, violet and saffron — that stood out against the beige and pale green houses of a quiet street in Flushing, Queens.

“Make way!” someone shouted, and the crowd parted to reveal Minnie, a 37-year-old Indian elephant.

Minnie wore a gold-studded shield on her forehead and carried a bare-chested Hindu priest with a silver-tasseled parasol. Untroubled by the din of cheers, chants and bells, she emerged just before 8 a.m. from the driveway on Bowne Street, stepped carefully off the curb and sashayed across the street into a Hindu temple. In keeping with the Hindu belief that there is divinity in every living thing, she was greeted with melons and incense as a manifestation of Ganesha, the
elephant-faced deity revered for removing all problems and obstacles.

The elephant’s visit began the fifth day of rituals to reconsecrate the temple’s stone deities, a ceremony important enough to draw thousands of Hindus from the New York region and as far away as the Midwest.

The ritual at the Hindu Temple Society of North America’s Ganesha Temple, one of the nation’s oldest and largest temples founded by Hindu immigrants, was a twist on a consecration ceremony, which the faithful believe infuses divine energy into stone statues of the Hindu gods.

As part of a $4 million renovation begun in 2007, another ritual removed the divine energy from the icons and placed it in smaller pictures of the gods, so the statues could be stored.

The ornate ceremony may not have been what the neighborhood’s colonists had in mind in 1657 when they signed the Flushing Remonstrance, a document often credited as a precursor to the Bill of Rights’ declaration of freedom of religion. The signers, protesting the Dutch colonial authorities’ persecution of Quakers, did not mention Hindus, but they noted that the same liberties apply to “Jews, Turks and Egyptians.”

Soon afterward, a farmer named John Bowne allowed Quakers to meet at his house. It still stands nearby on the street named after him, which is now home to two Hindu temples, a Chinese church, a synagogue and a Sikh gurdwara.

The ceremony, and the growth of the temple community that it illustrates, reflect the spirit of the Flushing Remonstrance and its emphasis on “hospitality to strangers,” said Diana L. Eck, a professor of comparative religion and Indian studies at Harvard University, who has often visited Bowne Street.

“This has long been the case in American religion, that one of the indices of your arrival in this country is to put forth a major place of worship,” she said.

Her Pluralism Project has documented 722 Hindu temples in the country, including dozens of “permanently consecrated” houses of worship like the one in Flushing, with a priestly staff to attend the holy statues. The number of United States residents born in India, where Hinduism is the predominant religion, has increased more than thirtyfold since 1970, to 1.5 million; in New York it has risen twelvefold, to about 78,000, census data show.

The influx has made consecration ceremonies more common across the country, religious scholars say, as Hindu communities that have taken root since immigration restrictions were eased in 1965 become prosperous enough to inaugurate major temples — often with priests and
sacred plants flown from India and flowers dropped from helicopters in a kind of coming-out party.

“This is a once-in-a-lifetime experience for me,” Anuradha Nath, who retired recently as a librarian from the Queens Library, said as Minnie raised her trunk in the air, showing off her pink and gray speckled tongue. Mrs. Nath immigrated from India 42 years ago, and has been a member of the temple through all its phases: attending ceremonies in people’s homes in 1969, buying a Russian Orthodox church building in 1972, consecrating it on the Fourth of July in 1977, and now seeing it through the expansion, which included flying in thousands of tons of Indian granite.

The temple’s president, Dr. Uma Mysorekar, a gynecologist, recalled that the building was pelted with eggs when it first opened, because people equated Hinduism with a cult. More than two decades later, Dr. Mysorekar was one of the Hindu leaders invited to attend the National
Cathedral ceremony for President Obama’s inauguration.

Like many founders of American temples, she believed that the children of immigrants would need a temple as a focus for religious and cultural identity. Indeed, the temple was packed with young people, like Shruthi Rajan, 22, who grew up traveling to the temple from Dix Hills, in Suffolk County, and skipped college classes to attend on Monday.

To carry out the ritual, called maha kumbhabhishekam, Dr. Mysorekar struggled to get visas for specialized priests and a temple designer from India. Then there was the importing of certain seeds, twigs and plants that made customs authorities suspicious, she said.

On Thursday, she brought in a cow, particularly sacred to Hindus, who was petted and fed unpeeled bananas until it rebelled and had to be led outside. On Monday, after Minnie’s arrival from a petting zoo in Litchfield, Conn., priests lighted fires and threw in milk, honey and spices to infuse the holy water with divinity. They then carried the water in metal containers, called kumbhas, on their heads, draped with garlands of flowers, to a hydraulic lift normally used by the construction crew.

The priests, dressed in red and orange dhotis, rose slowly to the roof as if floating. They climbed barefoot onto scaffolding around the stone towers and poured the water on the towers, and then on the deities. People rushed to catch drops.

The construction continues. Michael and Thomas Graysing, contractors in Babylon, on Long Island, describe themselves as “Roman Catholic boys” who have learned — now that temple building has become one of their specialties — to rattle off Hindu terms in their New York
accents, and to harbor a deep respect for the places of worship.

“We build high-end houses, but the structure is, like, dead compared to this,” Michael Graysing said.

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/07/14/nyregion/14temple.html?_r=1&scp=1&sq=flushing&st=cse

.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Musavi speaks the Islam I know.

.
In the link below, Mr. Musavi speaks about the Islam 95% of the Muslims know. It is time for the moderate Muslims to speak out and not let a few idiots become the voice of Islam. Same goes with other religions, a few extremist are projected by the media as the voice of the majority.

I am pleased to view the Musavi interview, especialy on Memri TV, ironically these guys are committed to create conflicts and place wedges between the Muslim and others, I am pleasantly surprised to see this on their system. Mr. Musavi talks like the majority of Muslims, you don't hear on the media.

Islam has been deliberately reduced to rituals and negativity by the few, and is well taken advantage of the other few, whose business is to malign the faith. True peace makers are those, who mitigate conflicts and nurture goodwill. I challenge Memri guys to reverse what they do lean on and become nurturers of goodwill. May be they will take it off, as it doing opposite of what they do; malignment.

"Check out the MemriTV link below. Bahraini intellectual Dhiyaa Musavi represents the true face of Islam.We need more like him in every muslim country. The world has had enough of rabid fundamentalists and illiterate jehadis who have high-jacked Islam for their own misguided agenda, much to the detriment of the muslims in general and the world at large. It's high time Islamic countries bring about a change in their attitudes towards the rest of the world, particularly Israel (and vice versa) Peace on earth is more important than piece of land."
M.Reza Beg (M for Musavi fan).

"We need him and others like him ........they should be on our radio and TV programmes... not the screamers we have had for the previous forty years!"
Lubna Khwaja

http://switch5.castup.net/frames/20041020_MemriTV_Popup/video_480x360.asp?ai=214&ar=1363wmv&ak=null

Mission of World Muslim Congress: Mission
To be a Muslim is to be a peace maker, one who constantly seeks to mitigate conflicts and nurtures goodwill for peaceful co-existence of humanity. God wants us to live in peace and harmony with his creation; Life and Matter.

Qur'aan was deliberately mistranslated by Neocon Europeans and Neocon Muslims (neocons are extremists in every faith) - http://quraan-today.blogspot.com/2008/08/all-articles-listed.html

Are Muslims Part of the American Society?
http://worldmuslimcongress.blogspot.com/2009/04/are-muslims-part-of-american-story.html

Mike Ghouse
www.worldmuslimcongress.com
http://www.worldmuslimcongress.org/
http://sharialaws.blogspot.com/
http://islamicconferences.blogspot.com/
http://quraan-today.blogspot.com/
http://dallasmuslimcenter.blogspot.com/

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

A war of words between Catholics and Jews

A war of words between Catholics and Jews

It is a mockery of the word "dialogue" when they call it Jewish-Catholic dialogue.

It is sheer arrogance to believe that other's faith is less valuable than yours, some times a few go to the extreme of calling the other faith as a false religion. God must be laughing at them "fools I did not give you the permission to be my exclusive agent, nor have I signed a deal with you behind others back, get off the high horse and pray.


God (he, she or it) would continue "Arrogance is the mother of all evil and I want you to live in a world where each one of you accepts the uniqueness that I have blessed. Through the spiritual masters, I have reached each one of you and delivered a formula (religion) to live in peace with yourselves and others. If you cannot find that peace on your own, follow any one of the formulas, it will work for you. Start with prayers; learn to lean, bend, kneel and prostrate and understand that salvation comes to you when you are free from arrogance and blessed with humility".

We need to elevate God's word and honor every which way one appreciates the creator. God is a source of love and justness.

The Catholic Church or any religious organization for that matter need to respect the otherness of other faiths, be it Judaism, Islam, Hinduism or any faith for that matter. When Jesus said follow me, he meant follow in my foot steps, become like me, all embracing and respectful of other beings, including the socially rejected ones as he embraced the Lepers and the prostitutes as an example.

It is time for all the assuming guardians of religion to push their refresh buttons and think God's words from a co-existence point of view. Your faith will not diminish one bit, if you respect and accept the divinity of other faiths. If we can learn to accept and respect the God given uniqueness of each one of us, then conflicts fade a solutions emerge.

What can you do? Just speak out when people start thinking that they are superior while denigrating others. Religion is about mitigating conflicts and nurturing goodwill with the goal of creating a heavenly abode on the earth, where we get along with all.

Mike Ghouse
Foundation for Pluralism
# # #

http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-conversion7-2009jul07,0,1041784.story

A war of words between Catholics and Jews

Jews see an endorsement of efforts to convert them in recent Catholic writings. That's not what we meant, Catholic leadership insists.
By Duke Helfand
July 7, 2009


The nation's Roman Catholic bishops, looking to clarify their position on interfaith dialogue with Jews, have instead caused an uproar by issuing a recent statement that appears to endorse attempts to convert them.

The bishops' action threatens to further erode Catholic-Jewish ties that have been strained in recent years by other controversies, including a decision by Pope Benedict XVI two years ago to revive a Latin Mass that contained a passage calling for the conversion of Jews.

The heads of several major U.S. Jewish organizations said the bishops' statement in June touched historic sensitivities among Jews about persecution by Christians. And they questioned whether the bishops were retreating from a carefully crafted 2002 document that spoke of dialogue between the two faiths as a "mutually enriching sharing of gifts devoid of any intention whatsoever" to proselytize.

That text was inspired by several decades of warming relations between Catholics and Jews that followed the Second Vatican Council, the landmark conference in the mid-1960s that sought to ease centuries-old tensions between the two religions.

"The whole basis of dialogue has had a major monkey wrench thrown into it," said Rabbi Gary Greenebaum, U.S. director of interreligious affairs for the American Jewish Committee. "What it feels like to Jews is that this is a major breach of trust."

The trouble stems from a recent decision by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops to clear up what its members viewed as ambiguities in the 2002 document, "Reflections on Covenant and Mission."

The bishops said they were prompted to review the text because theologians had been citing it as authoritative even though it did not represent the bishops' formal position. Instead, they said, it was meant only to reflect dialogue between members of the two faiths.

The original text, issued in conjunction with the National Council of Synagogues, featured separate Catholic and Jewish sections.

In the Catholic portion, scholars explained that the central mission of the church was to "bear witness in the world to the Good News of Christ so as to prepare the world for the fullness of the kingdom of God." The document also noted that "Jews already dwell in a saving covenant with God" and that "their witness to the kingdom . . . must not be curtailed by seeking the conversion of the Jewish people to Christianity."

In their statement last month, however, the bishops said the 2002 document contained statements that were "insufficiently precise and potentially misleading."

The initial text, the bishops said, diminished the role of evangelization for Catholics and "could lead some to conclude mistakenly that Jews have an obligation not to become Christian and that the Church has a corresponding obligation not to baptize Jews."

Bishops who oversaw the development of the new statement, titled a "A Note on Ambiguities Contained in Reflections on Covenant and Mission," said they believed it would answer questions Catholics might have about how to relate to the Jewish community.

The bishops' conference "reaffirms what the Holy See has stated repeatedly: that while the Catholic Church does not proselytize the Jewish people, neither does she fail to witness to them her faith in Christ, nor to welcome them to share in that same faith whenever appropriate," Bishop William Lori of Bridgeport, Conn., said in written remarks after the June 18 release of the new document.

Lori, who heads the bishops' committee on doctrine and pastoral practice, could not be reached for further comment, nor could Archbishop Wilton Gregory, who chairs the conference's committee on ecumenical and interreligious affairs. The two panels prepared the "Note on Ambiguities."

Father James Massa, chief ecumenical and interreligious officer for the Catholic bishops, hoped the new document would provide clarity on a complex and confusing subject.

"It is not on the agenda of the Catholic Church in the U.S. or anywhere else to promote any kind of missionary effort that targets Jews for conversion," said Massa, who participated in a recent conference call with Catholic and Jewish leaders to address the controversy. "Dialogue for us is not a disguise for proselytizing."

Rabbi Gilbert S. Rosenthal, director of the National Council of Synagogues, said he gave Massa and the other Catholic leaders credit for listening to the Jewish perspective during the call. Still, Rosenthal and others said that the conversation had not resolved the situation.

"If you want to covert us, just say so candidly and overtly," Rosenthal said of the bishops. "Then we know where we stand. This is just another episode that develops a sense of uneasiness and a concern that we are witnessing a retreat from the remarkable advances of the Second Vatican Council."

Rosenthal and others pointed to other troubling signs from Catholic leaders since Benedict was elected pope four years ago, among them the revival of the Latin Mass long sought by traditionalists within the church. (The passage in the Mass about conversion of Jews was later revised, although Jewish leaders remained critical.)

Jewish leaders also cited the pope's decision this year to lift the excommunication of four ultra-conservative Catholic bishops, including one who denied that Jews died in Nazi gas chambers.

In addition, they criticized a proposal by U.S. Catholic bishops to eliminate a sentence from the church's catechism for adults that says the covenant God made through Moses remains "eternally valid" for Jews. Catholic leaders called the revision minor, saying it was meant to reflect Catholic understanding that God's covenant with the Jewish people is affirmed on its own but also through Jesus.

"At the end of the day, there is a backtracking from where we thought we were," Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League, said of Catholic-Jewish relations. "There are things happening in the church. The unintended consequences are to chisel at that relationship."

duke.helfand@latimes.com

Battle Against Fundamentalists

http://wisdomofreligion.blogspot.com/2009/07/battle-against-fundamentalists.html

When religion is driven away from humility to arrogance, i.e., when some one makes the claim that my faith is superior to others, or my way is the right away, then it is not religion any more.

All religions are beautiful, it is the self appointed guardians who are on the wrong side, when they start denigrating other faiths to promote their own, then it is a hate sermon and not a religious one any more.

These guys are in every faith and continue to dupe a number of men and women to believe that they are in the hands of God himself or herself or itself. Any pulpit that inculcates hate, ill-will, and anger against others is not a religious pulpit; religion is about love and peace and not ill-will.

What can you do?

If your place of worship even remotely denigrates other forms of worship, tell them that you are in the place to be peaceful, kind and generous and not the other way around. It is perfectly alright to show how good their particular path helps one to achieve freedom and peace. Tell them that you do not want God to be misrepresented, let them know that God cares about his creation and has no interest in creating hate between his own creation. Unless you speak up, the evil men continues to reign.

To be religious is to be a peace maker, one who constantly seeks to mitigate conflicts and nurtures goodwill for peaceful co-existence of humanity. God wants us to live in peace and harmony with his creation; Life and Matter. If we can learn to accept the otherness of other and respect the God given uniqueness of each one of the 7 billion of us, then conflicts fade and solutions emerge.

Mike Ghouse is a Speaker, Thinker and a Writer on Pluralism, interfaith, terrorism, peace, Islam, civil societies and India. He is a frequent guest on talk radio and local television network discussing interfaith, political and civic issues. His comments, news analysis and columns can be found on the Websites and Blogs listed at his personal website www.MikeGhouse.net.
# #

Remembering My Battle Against Fundamentalists

Jim Luce writes and speaks on Thought Leaders and Global Citizens.

I left Wall Street unexpectedly following an appearance on the Phil Donahue Show in 1985. There, on the Oprah Winfrey Show of its day, Richard Yao and I discussed "religious addiction" - the first time that phrase had ever been mentioned on national television.

I explained to Phil the need for an "anonymous" organization to help those recovering from religious addiction, including followers of powerful TV evangelists such as Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, and Jimmy Swaggart - then riding high, broadcasting seven days a week, and raking in millions.

Jerry Falwell, head of the Moral Majority, died in 2007.

The response was so overwhelming -- with 17,000 people asking for help -- that I had to choose between responding to those I had said, "If you're hurting, call us!" and my Japanese banking career.

One woman who soon called us told us an unbelievable story, which turned out to be typical. She was financially unable to give, but was led to believe it was "God's Will" that she keep giving to a TV evangelist. Other stories - thousands of them -- were of emotional, sexual, and physical abuse.

These personal stories were so strong they were written-up, in article after article, by the Associated Press], Christian Science Monitor, Los Angeles Times, Newsweek, Philadelphia Inquirer, San Francisco Chronicle, USA Today, Washington Post - even the London Observer and Toronto Star.

Never a Fundamentalist myself, I co-founded Fundamentalists Anonymous and -- with the help of Hank Luce and the Henry Luce Foundation -- raised $1.2 million from 1985 to 1989 to build support groups across the U.S. for recovering fundamentalists. Hank was Presbyterian and I, Episcopalian.

Recovering Fundamentalists, like members of my own family, are those who believed themselves to have been so damaged by their all-or-nothing lifestyle most could not even walk into a Mainline church without feeling nauseas.

The momentum we gain was startling. Richard and I testified in Congress against the TV evangelists in 1988. During this period I served as resource and was interviewed repeatedly by the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Today Show, in addition to CNN, A.P. & U.P.I.

One reason for our enormous coverage was the media's fear of the Religious Right. The Moral Majority, headed by Falwell, consisted of conservative Christian political action committees with membership in the millions. Jerry Falwell attacked our Fundamentalists Anonymous along with the A.C.L.U. and Norman Lear's People for the American Way in his endless direct mail appeals.

In 1987 the New York Times ran an extensive article entitled "Amid Scandals, Fundamentalists Seek Consolation," by Bill Geist:

''This is terribly upsetting,'' said Ginger Harney, a 76-year-old California woman, who was sending money to the TV evangelists Jim and Tammy Bakker until the scandal involving charges of adultery, hush money and drug abuse erupted.
She is one of thousands of fundamentalists throughout the country who are overwhelming the tiny staff of Fundamentalists Anonymous, or F.A., in New York, with telephone calls and letters.

The group operates from an unfinished church basement in Manhattan, wishing to keep the exact location secret because of threats.

The complaints by fundamentalists are ranging from simple disillusionment with most TV evangelists to callers claiming that fundamentalism has caused them bankruptcy, divorce, and suicidal depression.

One caller said her husband chained her in the basement for three months trying to get the devil out of her.

Those calling the hot line receive a newsletter and referral to one of 41 chapters across the country serving the group's 30,000 members.

The group's budget could reach $300,000 at the end of the current fiscal year, said Mr. Yao, who points proudly to the Rev. Jerry Falwell's attacks on F.A. as proof it is having an effect.

''If the fundamentalist experience is working for you, fine, but we're here if it isn't,'' said Mr. Yao [27], who quit his job with the Wall Street law firm of Mudge Rose two years ago to begin the group with Jim Luce, 27, a former assistant Eurobond portfolio manager with Daiwa Bank.

The Washington Post covered us. A story entitled "Healing After the Leap From Faith: Fundamentalists Anonymous Aids Those Who Cast Off Religion" ran in 1987.

Universal asked me to speak out against Fundamentalist censorship
with Marty Scorsese' controversial film, Last Temptation of Christ (1988).

I spoke out about the dangers of the Fundamentalist Mindset every chance I got, from attacking Pepsi's Boycott of Madonna because of her "Like a Prayer" video to supporting Universal Studio's and Marty Scorsese' film, Last Temptation of Christ.

Pepsi dropped Madonna as a result of a Fundamentalist boycott (1989).

I did not limit myself to Christianity. The Fundamentalist Mindset is one of black-and-white that any faith can fall prey to.

So I criticized poor Salman Rushdie for not being strong enough, calling him "Spineless" in 1991 in the Los Angeles Times. He caved to Islamic extremists and agreed not to publish his Satanic Verses in paperback. As a young twenty-something, I felt he was a coward.

"This spineless and shameless capitulation is a serious setback for free speech. It will only encourage more fundamentalist attempts, whether Christian or Islamic, to censor literature and art," I told the LA Times.

During Pat Robertson's presidential bid I embarked on 13-state tour to
hold press-conferences explaining how dangerous this man was (1988)

Our biggest accomplishment was standing up for those torn down by the TV evangelists. I coordinated our legal task force, announced in a 1987 press conference.

"The PTL scandal emphasizes the complete lack of accountability in many fundamentalist or pentecostal groups," I was quoted as having said.

The PTL Club collapsed in 1987. Tammy died in 2007.

The Task Force had three major goals: 1) accountability of religious leaders to their followers, 2) deterrence of future acts of abuse or misconduct, and 3) protection and expansion of the legal rights of religious consumers.

One of my best efforts was a poster of Jim and Tammy Bakker behind bars for a benefit for the Legal Task Force with Steve Allen and Frank Zappa. The problem was it was so good people pulled them down to decorate their dorm rooms.

Interfaith dialogue was also important to me. I spoke frequently with Jewish leaders including Rabbi Jim Rudin. A search on-line revealed the Archives of the American Jewish Committee.

On Monday, December 16, 1985, I met with Rabbis Gunther Hirshberg and A. James Rudin. According to the Archives, Mimi Alperin introduced us.

"Fundamentalists Anonymous began in April, 1985 with a two-line ad in the Village Voice. The organization has since mushroomed and has attracted over 20,000 ex-fundamentalists as well as considerable media attention.
"Following appearances on the Donahue Show, the Today Show and mention in several major news magazines, Yao and Luce left their professional Wall Street jobs to build their organization.

"Luce stressed that fundamentalism is characterized by an authoritarian "mindset," which is incompatible with a positive appreciation of religious pluralism.

"In addition to providing counseling for ex-fundamentalists, they attempt to educate the public about the social and political implications of fundamentalism.

"In the discussion which followed, several IAC members inquired about fundamentalist Jews.

"Yao and Luce pointed out that 10-15% of the total response has been from Jews leaving fundamentalist groups," the A.J.C. Archives conclude.

We could not have claimed Fundamentalism was addictive and psychologically dangerous if we did not have the support of the mental health community.

After the Donahue Show, we heard from dozens of therapists -- psychologists and psychiatrists - who were dealing in their own practices with the trauma we were discussing. We served as a catalyst for them to come together.

We were soon able to arrange for the American Psychological Association to have a panel on religious addiction for the first time at their annual convention in New York, 1987.

The Journal of Religion and Health carried an article based on that panel entitled "Fundamentalist Religion and its Effect on Mental Health" written by two psychiatrists, on from the Veteran's Administration in Los Angeles, and the other in private practice in Boston.

The journal article stated, "The national self-help group Fundamentalists Anonymous has focused attention upon mental problems that may be caused or exacerbated by authoritarian religion.

"In this article we outline assertions about the mental problems caused by membership in fundamentalist religion, illustrate these with two case histories, briefly discuss intervention strategies, and describe conceptual and empirical issues.
"While former members have presented problems severe enough to warrant professional treatment, a causal link between their symptoms and their religious membership has not yet been established, because there is little empirical work on the subject."


This was cutting-edge science. Psychology Today then covered our efforts in a piece entitled "Leaving The Fold" (Jan. 1988).

The publication that served as the foundation for Fundamentalists Anonymous was Richard's There is a Way Out, which I published through Luce Publications. I was 26.

This booklet is still found in libraries throughout the U.S. I can only imagine what we would have accomplished had we had the Internet in the 1980's!

Many books have documented our four-year efforts. These include The Road Less Traveled and Beyond (M. Scott Peck, Simon and Schuster),

M. Scott Peck endorsed us: "Fundamentalism, with its pervasive sense of guilt about most normal physical and emotional feelings, and its patriarchal structure wherein the father's word is law, creates family atmospheres where emotional, physical and/or sexual abuse of children is the rule, not the exception.

"Such abuse is now being publicized thanks to organizations such as Fundamentalists Anonymous," Peck wrote in Road Less Traveled and Beyond.

Other books, of many, are Culture Wars (James Davison Hunter), Co-Dependence (Charles L. Whitfield) and Hollywood Under Siege (Thomas R. Lindlof).

Hollywood Under Siege discusses how I was invited to support Universal Studio's Last temptation of Christ in New York. My friend, publicist Josh Baran, also invited Daniel Berrigan, Ram Dass, and ex-Jesuit Terry Sweeney.

In The Price of Fundamentalism, Mike D'Antonio wrote about extreme Christianity, using me as a source:

In extreme cases, Luce reports, women and children in violent fundamentalist families suffer further abuse while struggling to follow a religion that teaches them to stay in the home despite beatings.
"We have members whose children have been maimed, who have been maimed themselves, because their religion teaches them to stay in a bad situation.

They may even blame them, saying they are bad and that's why there is violence directed against them," he said.

Problems can go unnoticed, Luce adds, if a family lives within a kind of Fundamentalist subculture where outside help is discouraged.

FA's files are filled with case studies of former Fundamentalists who say religion became so powerful in their lives that they were unable to have relationships or make rational decisions.


In the New York Times, Ari Goldman wrote "Evangelicals Flourish, with a New York Touch."

On Sunday at Bethlehem Church in Richmond Hill, Queens, a full house of 600 worshipers sang spirited hymns, held hands in prayer and fell silent as a congregant was ''seized by the spirit'' and spoke in unintelligible speech known as tongues.
The church is a member of the Assemblies of God, the same church that recently defrocked Mr. Bakker of the PTL ministry.

The Bakker scandals have not shaken his congregation, said Mr. Behr, using the barometer of attendance and contributions, both of which have continued to increase in recent weeks.

Another indication of Evangelical strength in New York is the pace in recent weeks at Fundamentalists Anonymous.

'We've never been busier,'' said Jim Luce, associate executive director of the organization that seeks to help those who feel trapped in the Evangelical wing known as Fundamentalism.

According to Mr. Luce, Fundamentalists tend to see the world in absolutes and are likely to break off contact with those who do not agree with them.

Since the PTL scandal broke in March, the number of letters and calls to Fundamentalists Anonymous has doubled to 150 a day, Mr. Luce said.

Although the TV evangelists are long gone and forgotten, the evil that is the Fundamentalist Mindset is as alive today as ever. I am as committed today to counter it as I was in 1985. Tolerance must prevail if humanity is to survive.

Note: Fundamentalists Antonymous existed in the days before Internet reporting. Slowly, newspapers and wire services are digitalizing and I will attempt to bring the stories on-line as they are available. Newsweek's "Is Fundamentalism Addictive?" (8/5/85), The New York Observer's "Fighting Authoritarian Mindset (2/1/88), and The New York Law Journal's "Lawyer Volunteers Aid Claims Against Cult Groups" (1/19/88). I will see that newspaper and magazine accounts that do not become available by the end of 2009 are PDF'd and posted on www.jimluce.com.

Edited by Ethel Grodzins Romm.
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jim-luce/remembering-my-battle-aga_b_226023.html


Read More:

A. James Rudin, A.C.L.U., American Jewish Committee, American Psychological Association, Ari Goldman, Associated Press, Bill Geist, Christian Fundamentalism, Christian Science Monitor, Cnn, Culture Wars, Daiwa Bank, Daniel Berrigan, Episcopalian, Frank Zappa, Fundamentalist, Fundamentalists Anonymous, God’s Will, Gunther Hirshberg, Hank Luce, Henry Luce Foundation, Henry Luce III, Hollywood Under Siege, Islamic Fundamentalism, Jerry Falwell, Jewish Fundamentalism, Jimmy Swaggart, Josh Baran, Last Temptation Of Christ, Like a Prayer, London Observer, Los Angeles Times, Luce Publications, M. Scott Peck, Madonna, Mainline Churches, Marty Scorsese, Moral Majority, New York Law Journal, New York Observer, New York Times, Newsweek, Norman Lear, Oprah Winfrey Show, Pat Robertson, People For The American Way., Phil Donahue Show, Philadelphia Inquirer, Presbyterian, Psychology Today, PTL Club, Ram Dass, Religious Addiction, Religious Right, Salman Rushdie, San Francisco Chronicle, Satanic Verses, Steve Allen, Terry Sweeney, The Journal Of Religion And Health, The Road Less Traveled And Beyond, There Is a Way Out, Today Show, Toronto Star, U.P.I., U.S. Congress, Universal Studio, USA Today, Village Voice, Wall Street, Washington Post, New York News