B U L L E T I N

PLEASE VISIT www.CenterforPluralism.com for all information

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Monday, January 30, 2012

Ghouse speaks at Red River Unitarian Church Feb. 5

Mike Ghouse to speak at Red River Unitarian Universalist Church Feb. 5

By Red River Unitarian Universalist Church
Jan 30, 2012
Red River Unitarian Universalist Church will hear Mike Ghouse speak on the topic “Welcome to My World: The World of Pluralism” at 11:15 a.m. on February 5.
Mr. Ghouse was a speaker and moderator at the 2009 Parliament of World’s Religions in Melbourne, Australia, and spoke at the Universal Peace Federation’s peace initiative in Jerusalem in August 2010. He often speaks at UU churches about pluralism, a worldview that advocates inclusivism, tolerance, ecumenism, and diversity among the world’s religions.

At 10:00 that morning, Adult Forum will discuss plans for increasing RRUU’s effectiveness in its community, presented by the church’s “Let’s Grow Group.”
RRUU meets at 515 N. Burnett Ave. in Denison, and all are welcome to attend its services and forums. Nursery care is provided.

More information about the church is at www.rruu.org.

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TODAY’S SERMON: ESSENCE OF RELIGION
February 5, 2012, Unitarian Universalist Church

The questions about what is religion, why are they so many and what is the purpose of religion will always linger. If we were to step back from each one of our faiths and see the purpose it serves, we may discover that the essence of the religion is to bring peace to oneself and peace with others. In essence, religion is about building cohesive individuals and societies.

Religion is about humility and not arrogance, humility builds relationships and arrogance kills it. Indeed the spirituality and arrogance are inversely proportional to each other.

Mike’s sermon today revolves around the topic and we hope you walk out with the feeling that truth is same in different manifestations and that your tradition is as beautiful as every tradition out there.

The Unitarian Universalists have understood the essence of religion; they live it.

The Unitarian Church is located in Sherman Texas, if you wish to attend as my guest, please let me know.

About

Mike Ghouse is a speaker, thinker, writer, and an activist committed to building cohesive societies, and offers pluralistic solutions to the media and the public on current issues.

Mike is a frequent guest on Fox News, “The Hannity Show”, and on nationally syndicated radio shows along with Dallas TV, print and radio networks, and occasional interviews on NPR.

He has spoken at international forums including the Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions in Melbourne, Australia; the Middle East Peace Initiative in Jerusalem; and the International Leadership Conference in Hawaii, Chicago and Washington.

He is a member of the Texas Faith panel at The Dallas Morning News and writes about issues facing the nation every week. He writes for the Huffington Post regularly, and occasionally for the Washington Post and other daily newspapers and magazines around the world. In 2011 Mike published over 300 articles on a variety of subjects. Two books are poised to be released this year on Pluralism and Islam in America.

Mike was a commissioner for the City of Carrollton and president of many organizations including Home Owners Association, North Texas Cricket Association, and a board member of several non-profits such as the Dallas Peace Center.

Mike is a collaborator and much of his work revolves around the subjects of pluralism, interfaith movement, politics, justice, cohesive societies, Islam, India, hope and world peace. Mike’s work is reflected in four websites and 30 blogs indexed at www.mikeghouse.net, and he writes daily at www.TheGhousediary.com

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Texas Faith: What do you think about Tebowing?

Tebow told Fox Sports last fall that he knows about the criticism, but he's more focused on those who draw inspiration from his public prayers. Said Tebow: "It's not my job to see people's reasons behind it, but I know [of a kid] with cancer that tweeted me, 'Tebowing while I'm chemoing' -- how cool is that?" Tebow said. "That's worth it right now. If that gives him any encouragement or puts a smile on his face, or gives him encouragement to pray, that's completely awesome."

With this phenomenon swirling around us, and the Super Bowl approaching, here is this week's question: What is your view about his public praying and the Tebowing phenomenon that has built up around it?

Eleven Texas Faith panelists respond, please visit Dallas Morning News at http://religionblog.dallasnews.com/archives/2012/01/texas-faith-what-do-you-think.html
MIKE GHOUSE, President, Foundation for Pluralism, Dallas

Tebowing phenomenon has several parallels in our society.

When things are not going well, hope is the only thing that drives the average person to live-on, and look forward to the light at the end of a tunnel. We are in a tunnel now with the highest unemployment a generation has witnessed in a long time; someone we know closely does not have a job, lost his or her house, and is struggling to take care of the family to keep a roof above the head.

God is the last resort for those who believe in divine intervention, we expect miracles, and we day-dream about a positive change in our lives. When someone like Tim Tebow expresses that call to God in public, we feel it in our guts and we relate with it.

We are an untapped reservoir of kindness, and were looking to release that energy.  When Tebow rested his knee on the ground with millions of us watching, he instantly became a catalyst and has released that energy in us, and emotionally, we connected with him. This is something we wanted to do, but did not know how.

The last such phenomenon was witnessed on the evening of Tuesday November 4, 2008 by most Americans regardless of their political, ethnic or religious affiliation.  I choked and felt the tears in my eyes, the tears of Joy.  I was happy to think of the prospect of America becoming a great nation once again, in those few bare seconds I was imagining prosperity knocking on every American door fulfilling the dream of millions of Americans with a Job, health and education for their children. A sense of safety permeated through my body, getting the chills to know that in a few hours the Obama presidency would be a reality. America once again will be a strong, healthy and a prosperous nation. I was still trying to understand my feelings of joy when someone on NPR said it was like "birthing", birthing it was.

Birthing it is. Tebowing has unleashed hope in us,  and I hope and pray that our economy recovers and absorbs the unemployed among us to take care of our families. I have interacted with several of my friends from Atheists to Zoroastrians and every one in between; most of them see it as a positive change. Tebow has made us conscious of the need for humility and need for prayers.

Let's pray that all our presidential candidates including the incumbent, to make an effort to visit every place of worship across the width and breadth of our land and kneel in humility towards the creator and sincerely beg to remove the ill-will towards each other. Can we do that? Yes we can, we are in this together and no American should feel apprehensive, discomfort or fear of the other. May God open our hearts and minds towards each other to look with kindness and goodwill, and give hope to each other,   Amen!
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 Mike Ghouse is committed to building a cohesive America, where no Americans has to live in apprehension or fear of the other. He is a speaker, thinker and a writer and offers pluralistic solutions on current issues. His work is listed at www.MikeGhouse.net

Monday, January 23, 2012

Ahmadiyya Muslims Interfaith Symposium in Houston

Please note: If you are still on your way from arrogance to humility, the arrogance that yours is the only way, you may not like my comments and if you don’t like to read, please be my guest. 
  

Houston, Saturday, January 21, 2012. The Ahmadiyya Muslim community held an interfaith symposium, as they do frequently and do a great job at it in selecting the right topics. The following was my talk including sharing the essence of  the talks of speakers before me.

Dr. Sulekh Jain explored on the idea of Anekant Vad, different views must be valued, and indeed part of the definition of Pluralism has origins in it.

Dr. Asha Sharma summed up the essence of Hinduism in the phrase Vasudaiva Kutumbukum, meaning the whole world is one family.

Rabbi Jonathan Siger shared a story on Humility, the reason we all originated from one couple was to bring humility to mankind, so we do not claim that our tribe is a superior one. That was a great thought. Indeed, Quraan is clear on the topic as well, consider no prophet over the other, all are God’s messengers including Prophet Muhammad, had God said, Muhammad is the elevated one among the prophets, Muslims would have become arrogant. Thank God for that. Humility builds bridges and arrogance kills it.

Rev Butch Green - Jesus was boundless he reached out to every segment of the society, indeed that is being God like, to have no barrier between him and his creation, the same idea is called Brahman in Hinduism. He mentioned that the word peace is mentioned over 100 times in the bible. Indeed Quraan also has the word peace about the same number of times.

Prophet Muhammad’s last sermon was about equality between races, ethnicities and sexes.  Love thy neighbor is matched by know each other in Quraan.

Gyani Gurmit Singh Bhatia – He spoke about speaking out against injustice and live the life that Baba Nanak taught, he shared the ideals and one of them was if you don't see god in all, you don't see god at all.

Indeed, Sikhism started out as an interfaith movement and its holy book, the Guru Granth Saheb is composed by three different religious people.

Imam Naseem Mahdi shared the story of supplication that Muslims recite, Allahumma Rubbi Astaghfirli… He said a Rabbi, turned around and said that was the supplication recited by Prophet Solomon….. Open my heart to learning and knowing others.  Imam Mahdi reiterated from Quraan- make no distinction between prophets of god.  I am always amazed with the Ahmadiyya and Ismaili communities for their extra focus on essence of Quraan; it seems that they have understood it beyond the ritual part of the religion.

This paragraph was not a part of my talk: Amazingly the average Ahmadi and Ismaili knows about the essence of his/her version of the faith much more than an average Muslim of other denominations knows about his or her version of the faith.  The fact that the communities are smaller makes it easy for everyone to study their tradition compared to the larger communities. I wrote an article in Dallas Morning News backed with Pew Survey which said, the people of majoritarian religion know less about their faith, let alone others than people who belong to minority faiths. The highest knowledgeable ones about religions were among Atheist, Agnostics and others. That is an understandable fact.

This particular paragraph was not a part of my talk either. Imam Mahdi rightfully talked about Mullah Exploitation. However, I need to take it up with him about his statement that the other Muslim Mullahs believe that all Jews and Christians will go to hell and they (Ahmadiyya) instead believe in Quraan which says, whether you are a Jew, Christian or a Sabean (others), if you do the right thing like taking care of your neighbors, God will reward you and you need not worry. This is the belief of all Muslims, it is from Quraan. His statement is not completely in line with what is out there, and amounts to stereotyping other Muslims. We are all Muslims to the general public regardless of our denomination.

Indeed every speaker talked about the need for intra-faith dialogue, the Rabbi shared that no two Jews agree, the orthodox don’t consider reformed Jews to be Jews as they allow women Rabbis, the Christians do not consider Mormons to be Christians… and the issue is similar among Muslims, a substantial number of Muslims consider Ahmadiyya as non-Muslims. It is a sheer arrogance on the part of majorities in all religions and societies. This has got to be deliberated; it is more of politics of division than religion.

Diversity is intentional each one of us is made different with our own thumb print, dna, taste bud and hope, some day in the future, we nurture the religion bud and learn to accept the differences. Taking this idea further, God did not want Jesus to convert the whole world into Christianity, it will not happen, he did not want Muhammad to convert the whole world to become Muslims either, it will never happen, he would not allow Krishna to have monopoly on the 7 billion of us, neither any religion will ever win every living human on the earth. Diversity is natural and certain.

No religion is superior and no prophet is superior either. God has not signed a deal with any one of them behind others back. In the eyes of God, we are all his creation; he gives preferential treatment to those who have done the best in keeping his creation in harmony and peace, but God will never treat any one any less than the other. If he did, who wants a God like that? Religion is about humility and not arrogance.


Interfaith Scriptures: There is a beautiful book in the market to review different scriptures on a given topic, its called World Scripture, a comparative anthology of sacred texts by inter religious foundation, an initiative of Rev. Sun Myung Moon.

If we can learn to respect the otherness of other and accept the God given uniqueness of each one of us, then conflicts fade and solutions emerge. 


To be a Muslim is to mitigate conflicts and nurture goodwill. God wants all of us to get along and the best among us is one who knows each other and who does the most to keep his creation intact and in harmony. 
 

 
Mike Ghouse is committed to building a cohesive America, where no Americans has to live in apprehension or fear of the other. He is a speaker, thinker and a writer and offers pluralistic solutions on current issues. His work is listed at www.MikeGhouse.net   

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Standing with Christians

Jesus Christ’ ultimate dream was to create a kingdom of heaven on the earth; it is the idea where no human has to live in apprehension, discomfort or fear of the other under one God. It is the same idea repeated and revived by several great reformers of the world including but not limited to Zarathustra, Moses, Krishna, Buddha, Confucius, Muhammad, Nanak, Bahaullah, Gandhi, MLK and others.

Then the best among us would be someone who works towards this goal and believe in "treat others as you would want to be treated."

Thank God for blessing me with the idea of standing up with everyone. As an example I am creating a site to list some of my work from an Atheist to Zoroastrian and every one in between.

Here I am listing a few things to stand up with Christians, as usual the right wingers in other faiths have harassed me for doing this or even demanding why I did not do it for them, by God, given my little life, as a volunteer, I have done as much as I can.

My mentors in pluralism are Jesus, Muhammad, Buddha, Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., and Mother Teresa and I dedicate this collection to them:

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An appeal to Indonesian Muslims
Friday, December 18, 2009 will be noted as a sad day in the history of Indonesia. On this day, a group of people on their way out from attending an Islamic New Year parade attacked the Santo Albertus Church under construction in Bekasi. http://worldmuslimcongress.blogspot.com/2009/12/appeal-to-indonesian-muslims.html
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Religious conflict in India
Eleven Churches have been razed to ground following a reported attack on Swami Laxmanananda Saraswati, a political party leader. Shamefully this is a normal thing in India and it needs to be stopped before it escalates.
http://wisdomofreligion.blogspot.com/2007/12/orissa-religious-conflict.html
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As peace makers, we cannot cause people to dig in their heels and take positions, we have to mitigate conflicts and nurture goodwill for the ultimate good of all. I hope, you understand the avoidance of such language in the petition. http://worldmuslimcongress.blogspot.com/2011/01/appeal-for-justice-to-pakistani-asia.html
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A Muslim’s Christmas, Huffington PostAs a Muslim I will be celebrating Christmas, recommitting myself to listen to Jesus and follow his path. And in my Islamic tradition, I will reflect on chapter 19 of Quraan, dedicated to Maryam, Mother Mary, and pray on his birthday. I will pray that we all honor his message of creating peace and building cohesive societies where no one has to be apprehensive of the other. Amen!Continued: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/mike-ghouse/a-muslims-christmas_b_1167258.html

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A tribute to JesusThis column is dedicated to Rev. Petra Weldes of the Center for Spiritual Living in Dallas. Some of my conversation with her inspired me to write this tribute to Jesus and what it means to be religious.http://worldmuslimcongress.blogspot.com/2009/12/tribute-to-jesus.html

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Iran’s death penalty for Christian pastor violates treaties, KoranIndeed there is absolutely no punishment for apostasy in Quraan; one is free to become a Muslim and free to leave the faith. After all no one is to bear the burden of the other, he alone is responsible for his belief.

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Muslims condemn Blasphemy attack in Kerala
Evil continues to thrive, when good people do nothing about it. Our role as Muslims is to mitigate conflicts and nurture goodwill and work towards building social cohesion, so all the humanity can co-exist in harmony. http://worldmuslimcongress.blogspot.com/2010/07/muslims-condemn-blasphemy-attack-in.html

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Where is the Muslim outrage?
Mike Ghouse, November 30, 2007
As a Muslim I am outraged at this nonsense going on in Sudan and Saudi Arabia.When Prophet Muhammad’s cartoons were published, few Muslims around the world were outraged to the point of becoming destructive. They burned the embassy in Syria and destroyed property elsewhere. http://www.mikeghouse.net/Articles/Where-is-the-Muslim-Outrage.asp

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Afghan blasphemy caseSpokesman says Karzai has last word in Afghan blasphemy case Mike Ghouse Note: It takes conviction to do the right thing and one must subscribe to the idea of nothing but truth. Karzai needs to pardon, rather, apologize for his governments infringement of individual liberty. There is no compulsion in Islam and one needs to be free to practice what one believes. http://worldmuslimcongress.blogspot.com/2008/02/afghan-blasphemy-case.html

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Building Respect for Christmas
A handful of Jews, Muslims and others show belligerence towards the celebration of Christmas and have vandalized Christmas trees, shame on them. http://wisdomofreligion.blogspot.com/2010/12/building-respect-for-christmas.html

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Citizenship, Islam and AmericaLaw is one thing and practice is the other. As an American and as a Muslim, I have to be critical of both groupings and work toward creating cohesive societies where no citizen has to live in apprehension, discomfort or fear of the other. Here is a summary of 2011 and what we can aspire for 2012. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/mike-ghouse/citizenship-islam-and-ame_b_1174834.html

. . . . Religious Freedom, international coalition

Religions help us sustain peace and balance in the society in the times of our spiritual, physical and societal ups and downs. Living for the sake of others is not a charity or even a noble thing to brag about; it is indeed the pragmatic thing to do.
http://wisdomofreligion.blogspot.com/2010/04/religious-freedom-international.html
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Japanese Unificationists Believed to Be Resisting Confinement
http://www.foundationforpluralism.com/Articles/Religious_Persecution_in_Japan.asp
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Top Muslim Declares All Christians 'Infidels'

It is quite possible, the Grand Mufti of Al-Azhar university Ali Gomaa did not say anything like the alleged words listed below. These guys at Middle East Forum may have cooked it up. They have done it before and that is their business. http://worldmuslimcongress.blogspot.com/2011/11/top-muslim-declares-all-christians.html
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Ninth Church Vandalized in MalaysiaWe appeal the Malaysian Government to reign in this immediately.http://worldmuslimcongress.blogspot.com/2010/01/ninth-church-vandalized-in-malaysia.html

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Muslims, Christians and The Lost TombOne question that concerns me is the depth of the faith, rather paucity of the faith of the believers. One’s faith must be really weak to be frightened by a movie, and I often wonder, how will it offend the faith of millions? It is not just Christians, Muslims will be offended too. That is nearly 3.4 billion people of the world comprising 2.1 Billion Christians and 1.3 billion Muslims. http://worldmuslimcongress.blogspot.com/2007/03/faith-and-lost-tomb.html
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Spitting on Christians in JerusalemJudging from the title, I hope you did not jump to the conclusion, that Muslims are the ones spitting on Christians. In this case the culprits are extremists from a different tradition.

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A Church in Saudi Arabiahttp://wisdomofreligion.blogspot.com/2008/03/church-in-saudi-arabia.html

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Mike Ghouse committed to building cohesive Societies and offers pluralistic solutions on current issues. His work is all listed at www.MikeGhouse.net
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Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Texas Faith: Beyond King, which religious leader(s) has had an impact

Beyond King, which religious leader has had a major impact on American Politics and culture. Ten Texas Faith Panelists share their thoughts, here is Mike’s perspective, to see them all including this, please go to Dallas Morning News:
http://religionblog.dallasnews.com/archives/2012/01/texas-faith-beyond-king-which.html


Mike Ghouse, President, Foundation for Pluralism

I am pleased to share about a few Pluralist individuals who are making a difference in the religious landscape of Dallas Fort Worth.

Pluralism is an attitude of learning to respect the otherness of others, and accepting the God given uniqueness of each one of us. As we do that, conflicts fade and solutions emerge to create a cohesive America where no one has to live in apprehension, discomfort or fear of the other. In the context of religion, we define Religious pluralism as, learning to respect every which way one honors or worships the divine and accepts each path to be a valid one without denigrating any.

Pastor Bob Roberts of Northwood Baptist Church from Keller, Texas was clear when he opened up his church to a thousand Muslims for celebrating Ramadan. He said, you have your beliefs and your faith and I have mine, no matter how you view Jesus.

I take him as a son of God and my redeemer and the Muslims understood that and still talk about his eloquence. About a year and a half ago, when Pastor Jeffress said his famous line, Quraan is an evil book written by a false prophet; Bob Roberts wrote an op-ed in Dallas Morning News countering the poor understanding of the other Pastor, there were huge discussions on it honoring Bob Roberts for leading the way in accepting the otherness of other.

Pastor George Mason of Wilshire Baptist Church has helped me understand and propagate the grace aspect of God, it is not just your actions and deeds that are enough, but God’s ultimate grace is needed for salvation. This is one of the differences in understanding between Muslims and Christians and his teachings have built some bridges of understanding.

The Pastor of the Unification Church, Rev. Sun Myung Moon who is making a genuine difference in the world of Pluralism by practicing respect for other faiths in his congregations and organizations throughout the world.

I am highlighting Pastors Roberts and Mason, because they are Baptists of big Churches. There is a bias against Baptists out there in the market that I hope to remove. Each religion has its own share of bigots and we need to see that clearly.

Indeed, our first Unity Day event’s Christian prayers were led by Late Rev. Roy Harrell another Baptist Minister. There are many more great pastors I admire for their work; Rev. Bill Matthews, Rev. Petra Weldes, Rev. Diane Baker, Rev. Eric Folkerth, Rev. Dennis Hamilton and several others who are making a difference in our area.

The open mindedness of Swami Nityananda Prabhu of Hare Krishna Hindu Temple; a panelist on this forum is admirable. Where ever I run, people love to talk about his teachings from Bhagvad Gita on my Radio Show, called Wisdom of Religion. He has indeed opened up minds of non-Hindus to see the wisdom of Hinduism.

Dr. Imam Zia Shaikh of Irving Islamic Center has broken many records of stereotyping Muslims; one of the situations was when he led the Pledge of Allegiance in one of the annual Unity day programs. I was rather surprised to hear from a few calling me up to tell that, they did not expect a Muslim Imam to lead the pledge of Allegiance and they said we will not stereotype Muslims any more.

He is active in interfaith and perhaps one devoted and a committed Muslim who has attended every interfaith program in the last five years and he has demonstrated in respecting the other otherness of other.

Same goes with Dr. Imam Yusuf Zia Kavakci of Richardson Mosque, who is considered one of the 100 recognized Muslims Scholars in the world. The Muslims in Dallas Fort worth hear and see the open mindedness of these two scholars towards other faiths. Both of them are nurturing the values of pluralism in their congregations; that is thousands of Muslims in our area who are influenced by their teachings.

Each one of them is all about affection for life, non-discriminatory caring. They do not favor one person over the other for the heck of it, instead, they look at the good deeds, which Prophet Muhammad [pbuh] described as the good you can do to other beings, the goodness you bring to God's creation.

Mike's note: There are many more individuals who have done tremendous work in the Dallas Forth Worth Metroplex, God willing, I hope to write about them as well.


Mike Ghouse is committed to building a cohesive America, where no American has to be apprehensive, uncomfortable or fear the other. He is a speaker, thinker and a writer offering pluralistic solutions on issues of the day and a frequent guest on Sean Hannity Show on Fox and a regular guest on National syndicated radio show and Dallas Media. With over 1000 published articles he has two books poised to be released. Most of his work is indexed at www.MikeGhouse.net

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Dallas school districts controversial use of religious buildings


Dallas Morning News writes a report on the topic and includes some of my comments in the article following my notes.

The School District’s decision to hold the commencement ceremonies at churches, synagogues, mosques and other religious buildings without restrictions does not bode well in the long haul.

A few religious places will be generous in their offer; however, it implies an association with that place of worship and carries the baggage in the long haul. What if the new pastor is a bigot and has a problem with gay or lesbian kids or kids of other faiths. It is always the individual that drives the society towards ill-will or goodwill. Why do we need to subject ourselves to such whims?

We are a pluralistic society and deeply want our kids to grow up and interact with the real world out there that comprises people of different faiths, races, ethnicities and sexual orientation. A religious building does not offer such an environment, even with a few exceptions.

The Federal court just rejected a referendum in Oklahoma to ban families from seeking guidance from international or Sharia law to resolve disputes among family members even though 70% of the voters had approved it. In California proposition 5 met the same fate years ago and the Farmers Branch overwhelmingly approved the anti-immigration bill, which is in the courts now.

I would suggest the board members not to vote for this motion; the school will end up squandering money on legal suit rather than children’s education.

As a pluralist, I do welcome this, but since we are still not there we have to hold this off.
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Mike Ghouse is committed to building a cohesive America and offers pluralistic solutions on issues of the day. A writer, thinker and a speaker and is available to speak on pluralism, politics, Islam, peace, cohesive societies and a variety of topics. Check out 4 websites and 27 Blogs indexed at www.MikeGhouse.net. Current articles at www.TheGhousediary.com
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ACLU warns Dallas ISD against plan to allow graduations at churches
By TAWNELL D. HOBBS Staff Writer thobbs@dallasnews.com
http://www.dallasnews.com/news/education/headlines/20120113-aclu-warns-dallas-isd-against-plan-to-allow-graduations-at-churches.ece
Published: 13 January 2012 12:26 AM

The American Civil Liberties Union of Texas is warning Dallas ISD to “tread cautiously” on loosening restrictions to allow graduations at churches and other religious facilities.

Dallas school trustees discussed the proposal at Thursday’s board briefing. Two of eight trustees voiced concern about the plan, which will be considered Jan. 26.
The change would eliminate a clause that prohibits commencement exercises from being held at churches, synagogues, mosques and other religious sites without permission of the superintendent, and only under extenuating circumstances when no other nonreligious facility is available.

District officials said the change is being proposed because some schools have for years been using churches for graduations. The schools, which were not aware they were violating board policy, raised the issue with district administration, they said.
But the ACLU of Texas said in a news release Thursday that it cannot understand why DISD would consider changing what the group calls a “neutral policy.” It also noted that such a change could result in legal proceedings.

“DISD should tread cautiously in this area,” Lisa Graybill, ACLU of Texas’ legal director, warned in the news release. “The current policy provides a safeguard to ensure commencement exercises are held in appropriate, nonsectarian locations where all students, their families, and school personnel feel equally comfortable. Changing the policy could ultimately result in a constitutional challenge and costly litigation.”

The ACLU of Texas also submitted a public information request to the school district, asking for information that includes costs for off-site events and the reason for the proposed change.

Board President Lew Blackburn said that neither he nor school attorneys have a problem with the proposal. Blackburn said that he has attended graduations at churches and that nothing religious occurred.

Several Dallas school trustees, including Bruce Parrott and Carla Ranger, said they were unaware of the ACLU’s misgivings when they discussed the matter at Thursday’s meeting. Parrott and Ranger voiced concerns about the proposal during the discussion.

pointed to a similar situation that involved the separation of church and state in the Irving school district last year. The ACLU of Texas had contacted that district with questions about a plan to hold graduations at The Potter’s House church. In response, district officials decided against the move.

“We don’t need to be involved with any lawsuit,” Parrott said. “We’ve got a policy; let’s just adhere to the policy.”

Ranger voiced similar concerns.

“We all know there have been problems in other places because of this very issue,” she said. “Removing this would put us in a situation that we don’t want to be in.”
The vast majority of religious leaders contacted Thursday agreed that the school district should not make such a change.

“I would suggest the board members not to vote for this motion; the school will end up squandering money on [a] legal suit rather than children’s education,” Mike Ghouse, a Muslim and president of the Foundation for Pluralism in Dallas, said in an email.

The Rev. Daniel Kanter of First Unitarian Church of Dallas said in an email that “it could make people uncomfortable to have their graduations in a house of worship, and we shouldn’t be putting citizens in that situation.”

He added: “Unfortunately, some people of faith might also have prohibitions about attending events in a house of worship other than theirs.”.

But the Rev. Trey Graham, senior pastor of First Baptist Church Melissa, said in an email that he “applauds the school board” for considering the change. He said the district shouldn’t be deterred by possible legal action by the ACLU.

“The elimination of this restriction makes sense for the school district financially, logistically and relationally,” Graham said. “Financially, school districts can often save money by utilizing church facilities at lower cost than other large meeting places.”
Graham said that his church’s facilities are often used by school, civic and community groups that need meeting space. “We consider the use of our church’s space by outside groups as another way to positively impact our communities,” he said.
Staff writer Holly K. Hacker contributed to this report.

Faith leaders on DISD proposal

Several religious leaders from North Texas, including regular contributors to The Dallas Morning News’ Texas Faith blog, weighed in on a proposal to allow Dallas ISD schools to hold graduation ceremonies in religious facilities. Here are excerpts from their comments:

Ric Dexter, Northeast Texas area leader in SGI-USA, a Buddhist lay organization

“I can’t imagine any religious facility that would be willing to remove or cover over a symbol of their reason for being, simply not to offend some of the graduates. While most Christians would have no problem with a crucifix as a backdrop, I wonder if they would feel as comfortable with Shiva or Buddha overlooking this important moment in their children’s life.”

Trey Graham, senior pastor, First Baptist Church Melissa

“Our church’s facilities, on multiple campuses, are often used by school, civic and community groups who need meeting space at times that do not interfere with our regular church ministries. We consider the use of our church’s space by outside groups as another way to positively impact our communities. The threat of legal action by the ACLU should not deter school board personnel from making this sensible change.”

Katie Sherrod, Episcopal lay leader, Fort Worth

“I don’t know what freedom of religion and freedom from religion is worth, but way too many U.S. soldiers have died to defend those American values. However much money the district might save by using religious buildings doesn’t even come close to being worth sacrificing that. While Christian children and parents might be OK with sitting under an image of the crucified Christ, I doubt it would be comfortable for Jewish children and their parents, given how often the crucifixion has been used as an excuse to persecute Jews. And I’m trying to imagine how some Christians would feel about having their child’s graduation in a mosque.”

Mohamed Elibiary, spokesman, Islamic Asssociation of North Texas/Dallas Central Mosque

“We would advise DISD to slow down its consideration to change the current neutral graduation venue policy and instead launch a broad stakeholders’ feedback effort. It is a fact that some faith communities with larger percentages of new immigrant constituencies will view this policy change as biased towards certain denominations, such as megachurches, with the large facilities to lease to the school district in the first place. Public schools were partially established more than a century ago so that various segments of the American public can find that uniting neutral ground that reminds all that despite numerous differences, we are still all equal Americans, civically speaking.”

Mike Ghouse, a Muslim and president of the Foundation for Pluralism, Dallas

“It implies an association with that place of worship and carries the baggage in the long haul. What if the new pastor is a bigot and has a problem with gay or lesbian kids or kids of other faiths? It is always the individual that drives the society towards ill will or goodwill. Why do we need to subject ourselves to such whims?

“We are a pluralistic society and deeply want our kids to grow up and interact with the real world out there that comprises people of different faiths, races, ethnicities and sexual orientation. A religious building does not offer such an environment, even with a few exceptions.”

Holly K. Hacker

Mitt Romney, you can do this, others don’t have the balls.


I was concerned with Romney's statements earlier on that bordered on bigotry, but he has done very well with his response to a question by a woman, "Do you believe in the divine saving grace of Jesus Christ?"

"I would hope that there are people in our nation that have different beliefs. There are people of the Jewish faith and the Islamic faith and other faiths who believe other things, and our president will be president of the people of all faiths," he said.

"We welcome people of other faiths. I happen to believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and my savior, but I know other people have differing views and I respect those views, and I don't believe those qualify or disqualify people for leadership in our nation," he said.



Indeed I am working on developing leadership programs to train our future leaders to be free from bigotry at America Together Foundation.




Here is an item I wrote way back and you ~nearly pass my test of Pluralism.

We are one nation under God, indivisible with liberty and justice for all. We are represented by every race, nationality, ethnicity, language, culture and religion. We see God as one, none and many and in every form; male, female, genderless and non-existent, being and non-being, nameless and with innumerable names. Americans together are committed to preserve this pluralistic heritage of America.


You may really like this Pluralism Prayer, if you can subscribe to this, you have won me as an individual and I will do these prayers for you in one of your debates or fund raising.


Actual Prayer in Carrollton City Hall – Congressman Kenny Marchant has listened to this; http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8mc9D9guPMY&feature=youtu.be

Americans Together building Cohesive societies

OUR MISSION

Our Mission is to build a cohesive America, where no American has to live in anxieties, discomfort or fear of the other.

OUR VISION

It is our individual and collective responsibility to keep law and order and faithfully guard the safety of every citizen. Hate, prejudice and stereotyping are some of the many root causes of disrupting the peace in a society and it is our duty to track down the source of such ill-will and work on mitigating it.
We believe humans are open to choices and will make best choices if the path is paved for them. It has been our experience through our annual events like Unity Day, Reflections on Holocaust and Genocides, Thanksgiving, Conferences, that our participants have walked out with a commitment to be less biased, less prejudiced and willing to stand up for the others for the sake of general good of mankind.

We are committed to enhance the efforts nationally, one brick at time in building a cohesive America, where each one of the 312 Million Americans feel safe in their homes, at their jobs, places of worship and in the public places.

Mike Ghouse is committed to building a cohesive America where no American has to live in apprehension, discomfort or fear of the other – www.MikeGhouse.net

ROMNEY, YOU CAN DO THIS, OTHER BIGOTS DON'T HAVE THE BALLS
http://theghousediary.blogspot.com/2012/01/mitt-romney-you-can-do-this-others-dont.html


OTHER ROMNEY LINKS :: I WROTE 11 ITEMS ON ROMNEY?
Mitt Romney, you can do this, others don’t have the balls.
http://theghousediary.blogspot.com/2012/01/mitt-romney-you-can-do-this-others-dont.html
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Evangelicals are ganging up on Romney
http://theghousediary.blogspot.com/2012/01/texas-faith-evangelical-leaders-finding.html
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The Ghouse Diary: IOWA REPUBLICAN CAUCUS NOTES
http://theghousediary.blogspot.com/2012/01/iowa-republican-caucus-notes.html
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Texas Faith: How should Huntsman and Romney handle their Mormonism?
http://theghousediary.blogspot.com/2011/06/texas-faith-how-should-huntsman-and.html
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Perry will be the nominee if he keeps up

Thursday, January 12, 2012

TEXAS FAITH: Evangelical leaders finding an alternative to Romney

The Dallas Morning News' Wayne Slater and Texas Faith moderator Wayne Slater reported last week that a group of prominent conservative evangelical leaders are gathering at a Texas ranch this weekend to decide about a candidate they could unite behind as an alternative to Mitt Romney.
The invited include James Dobson of Focus on the Family, Richard Land of the Southern Baptist Convention, Christian Zionist pastor John Hagee, Kelly Shackelford of the Liberty Institute and Don Wildmon of the American Family Association. Southern Baptist leader Paul Pressler is hosting them. With that as the background, here is this week's question:

If you were invited to join other religious leaders in coalescing behind a candidate, would you attend?
Ten Texas Faith panelists respond to the question in Dallas Morning News, here is my response:

MIKE GHOUSE, President, Foundation for Pluralism, Dallas
Yes, I would attend.

If they are considering endorsing a candidate for the presidency of the United States and possibly inviting me, it becomes my responsibility to attend and be a part of the decision making in agreeing with them or asserting a nay, regardless of the outcome.

To disengage ourselves from people we don’t agree with is to give them a tacit approval to go ahead with their plans; by refusing to attend we are giving them a reason to dig in their heels.

Can the Pastor of a Church publicly endorse a candidate without influencing or dividing his or her congregation? Is that a fine line that blurs the separation of Church and state?

The wise men have said it all along, bad things happen in the society not (exclusively) because of bad people, but because good people do nothing about it. I do not want to abdicate my responsibility of speaking up.

No American needs to beg for approval if he or she is qualified, I may or may not vote for Romney but I will stand up for his right to contest and the right to serve our nation. The qualifications and abilities of the candidate should matter to us and not his faith,

The evangelicals rightfully condemn the persecution of Christians in Egypt, Indonesia, Pakistan, Israel, China, India, Sudan and elsewhere, and as Americans we have rightfully condemned all of that plus the persecution of Baha’is, Zoroastrians, Jews, Hindus, Wicca, Sikhs, Buddhists, Pagans, Ahmadiyya, Shia and other Muslims in other parts of the world.

Should we not be ashamed of our duplicity towards Mormons, Muslims and Gay communities in America? What message are we sending to the bigoted nations out there? Do more of what they do? Are we worth emulating?

To push Romney aside for his faith is Anti-American, bigoted and unpatriotic, at least that seems to be the intention of the six individuals gathering up.

We need to be a part of the society and not let a whimsical few run our nation. Indeed, I will attend and speak up for a cohesive America where no American has to live in discomfort, apprehension or fear of the other.

Wasn’t that what Jesus wanted? Isn’t that what Americans want?

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To view all the 12 opinions, please visit Dallas Morning News link - http://religionblog.dallasnews.com/archives/2012/01/texas-faith-evangelical-leader.html

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Mike Ghouse is committed to building a cohesive America and offers pluralistic solutions on issues of the day. A writer, thinker and a speaker and is available to speak on pluralism, politics, Islam, peace, cohesive societies and a variety of topics. Check out 4 websites and 27 Blogs indexed at www.MikeGhouse.net. Current articles at
www.TheGhousediary.com

What if Tim Tebow were Muslim?

Why does it matter if one is a Muslim, Christian or whatever?
Faith is his personal business, faith is between him and his God or his belief. Every one ought do it without hesitation.  Religion should not matter at all... on the other hand, making a big deal of one's religions is pointless... it is a disfavor to the athlete, it is not a religious competition, it is athletic, by forcing a religious label on him, you are reducing him to belong to you instead of belonging to whole America. We must admire his skills regardless of who he is.... we must admire his faith as well that give him the strength. But if that devotion is used to denigrate the other or claim superiority, then it is not admirable. 

I like the comment of the author, "No Christian leader supported Ali’s display of Islamic faith in the same way that Muslim leaders have supported Tebow’s display of Christian faith." Not sure what he means.


Mike Ghouse
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What if Tim Tebow were Muslim?

The NFL star has been praised for his public Christianity. It's been different for athletes who follow Islam

Tim Tebow
Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow (15) prays in the end zone before the start of an NFL football game against the Chicago Bears, Sunday, Dec. 11, 2011, in Denver. (Credit: AP/Julie Jacobson)

Tim Tebow’s profession of faith has thrust the mixture of sport and religion into the national spotlight in a way that few can remember.


Students have been suspended for “Tebowing” — dropping to one knee to pray, even if you’re the only one doing it — in a school hallway in New York. Rick Perry claimed that he would be the Tim Tebow of the Iowa caucuses. “Saturday Night Live” lampooned Tebow’s fan-boy love for Jesus. In response, Pat Robertson has claimed that the skit demonstrates “anti-Christian bigotry.” His supporters even called for a boycott of HBO after a Bill Maher tweet made fun of Tebow and his relationship to Jesus after his Denver Broncos lost to the Buffalo Bills.


After an overtime upset of the Pittsburgh Steelers last weekend, Tebow’s Broncos play the top-seeded New England Patriots on Saturday. For at least one more media cycle, there will appear to be no way to separate Tim Tebow – the person, the quarterback, the Christian – from his religion.


But back in September, the cultural critic Toure asked a fascinating question in ESPN the Magazine. In a piece called “What if Michael Vick were white?,” Toure argued with those who said the quarterback would not have received a two-year sentence for dogfighting if he was white. Would he have been involved with dogfighting? Would an entourage have led him to the same mistakes? Would he have had a stronger paternal relationship?


So I ask, what if Tim Tebow were Muslim? How would our society react if during every interview, Tebow said “Insha’Allah” or “Allāhu Akbar” rather than thank his Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ? Or instead of falling to one knee and praying, Tebow pulled out a prayer rug and faced Mecca? A recent study by the Pew Research Center suggests it would not be well received. While American Muslims in general tend be satisfied with their lives and communities in the United States, 55 percent report that being Muslim in the U.S. has become more difficult since Sept. 11. Twenty-eight percent report that people have viewed them with suspicion and 22 percent report having been called offensive names. The TLC show “All-American Muslim” has lost advertisers who were pressured by groups claiming that the show was Islamic propaganda. Yet Pat Robertson claims that the United States is a breeding ground for anti-Christian bigotry.


I don’t have answers to these questions. We can’t know the answers until we are faced with a prominent Muslim athlete who is willing to be so visible with his faith. In a country that consistently prides itself on freedoms – freedom of speech, freedom to assemble, freedom of religion – we can hope that Muslim athletes who are visible with their faith would find themselves just as revered as Tebow is for his.


But professional Muslim athletes are hard to find. Ahmad Rashād. Rashaan Salaam. Kareem Abdul-Jabaar. Hakeem Olajuwon. Rasheed Wallace. Most of these athletes are retired and went about their religious lives quietly. But it is to that list of retired professionals that we must look to find someone as outspoken about their faith as Tim Tebow – Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf and Muhammad Ali, for example.


In 1990, Chris Jackson was drafted by the Denver Nuggets out of Louisiana State University. In 1991, Jackson converted to Islam. In 1993, he changed his name to Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf. In 1996, Abdul-Rauf refused to stand for the national anthem at an NBA game. A religious storm followed.


Everyone had an opinion, from fans to sports writers to radio hosts. Sports Illustrated reported that some people suggested Abdul-Rauf be deported. Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf was born in Mississippi, however, and deportation from Colorado to Mississippi is rare. Two Denver-area radio hosts even walked into a mosque with a stereo playing the Star Spangled Banner. One was wearing a turban. And a Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf T-shirt. While broadcasting live, on air.


Abdul-Rauf claimed in a 2010 interview with HoopsHype.com that “[a]fter the national anthem fiasco, nobody really wanted to touch me.” He played only three more seasons in the NBA before going overseas to play professionally. In that same interview, he discusses how his home in Mississippi was burned down just a few months prior to Sept. 11. He eventually left the state.


So Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf stood up (or in this case, sat down) for his religious beliefs. He made his religion a visible aspect of his life and a visible aspect of his professional basketball career. Just like Tim Tebow. The difference of course being that Tim Tebow was satirized on “Saturday Night Live.” Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf had his home burned down and felt blacklisted from the NBA.


Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf pales in comparison to the outspoken nature of Cassius Clay. In 1964, Cassius Clay announced his membership in the Nation of Islam, and changed his name to Muhammad Ali. In 1966, Ali spoke out against the draft and became a conscientious objector to the Vietnam War based on his religious beliefs. In 1967, Ali was convicted of draft evasion.


But even before his conviction, Ali was causing controversy. Sports Illustrated dubbed Ali the most hated athlete in the world in April 1966. In the same article, Ali’s faith was referred to as being a part of his “fanatically religious side.” Instead of being something to admire, his faith was inconceivable fanaticism. No Christian leader supported Ali’s display of Islamic faith in the same way that Muslim leaders have supported Tebow’s display of Christian faith. Just like Tebow, though, Ali – the person, the boxer, the Muslim – could not be separated from his religion. This was never clearer than in his conscientious objection to the war in Vietnam.


By now, even casual boxing fans are familiar with Ali’s quote “I ain’t got no quarrel with them Viet Cong … No Viet Cong ever called me nigger.” That one quote made Ali a social activist. And his social activism was based on his faith. Ali claimed that Islam prohibited war unless called for by Allah. That one belief made Ali’s religion a wider social issue. What followed was public outcry. Ali was stripped of his championship belt, had his boxing license suspended, and was convicted of draft evasion. The Supreme Court ultimately overturned it. But for four years, Ali, arguably the greatest boxer of all time, did not fight.


So Muhammad Ali stood up (or in this case, sat out) for his religious beliefs. He made his religion a visible aspect of his life and a visible aspect of his professional boxing career. Just like Tim Tebow 40 years later. Just like Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf 30 years later. Ali was an outspoken proponent of his religion, Islam, but was vilified for his outspoken religious beliefs. His Islamic beliefs.


Again I ask, what if Tim Tebow were Muslim? He’s not. So maybe it doesn’t matter. There is no way to separate the man and the religion. Some people praise him for it, others recoil. When this happens, avid defenders of Tebow invoke freedom of religion. But as Tebowmania makes its way into politics, sports, religion and the everyday life of the mainstream United States, it is important to think about how we approach religion in this country. How we approach religious freedom in this country. Do we accept freedom of religion, any religion? Or do we accept freedom of Christianity?