Interfaith Community in Tennessee Stands up Against Proposed Anti-Muslim Law
At least 13 states have introduced bills guarding against non-existent threat of Sharia Law. And last November, Oklahomans passed one such measure that is being challenged as unconstitutional.
Now, the Associated Press reports that “Tennessee is considering making it a felony to follow some versions of the Islamic code known as Shariah, the most severe measure yet put forth by a national movement whose members believe extremist Muslims want Shariah to supersede the Constitution.”
The interfaith community is not standing idly by while Muslims are targeted.
On March 1st, a press conference was hosted by Interfaith Coalition of Tennesseans demanding that lawmakers drop the Anti-Muslim Bill.
The following statement was offered by Rev. Dr. Dan Rosemergy, minister of the Greater Nashville Unitarian Universalist Congregation, chair of the Interfaith Alliance of Middle Tennessee and member of the national Interfaith Alliance Board of Directors:
I’m pleased to stand with my colleagues and friends—of many faiths and organizations– to oppose House Bill 1353 (Senate Bill 1028).
In the first place it’s simply an unnecessary piece of legislation. We all live and abide by the secular laws of the land, and no religious or faith law or practice changes that or exempts any believer from those secular laws.
Second, this legislation fans the flames of unfounded fear of Islam and its adherents; and misrepresents the tenets of the faith. It wrongly associates an entire faith and its millions of believers with threats to our homeland security by extremists and terrorists. I’m concerned about extremists and terrorists of any faith.
Third, the legislation is based on a complete misunderstanding of Shariah law as practiced in our country. The term Sharia literally means “the path to a watering hole” and is often described as a religious code for living, the same way the Bible offers a moral system for Christians or the Talmud and Mishnah in Jewish law.
Finally, to restrict or penalize the lawful religious practices of any faith is a violation of our Constitutional right for the freedom of religion.
The Interfaith Alliance works to ensure that faith and freedom flourish so that individuals can worship freely or not worship at all, so they can embrace matters of personal conscience without fear of government intrusion, and so that all can live in a vibrant, healthy society. The Alliance was created in 1994 to celebrate religious freedom and to challenge the bigotry and hatred arising from religious and political extremism infiltrating American politics.
In recent months we have grown increasingly troubled by the rise of Islamophobia in our country. We have made strong statements when Islamic Centers have met opposition across the country including here in Middle Tennessee. The Rev. Dr. C. Welton Gaddy–President and CEO of Interfaith Alliance–recently joined a coalition of more than 50 religious freedom, human rights, national security and Muslim organizations in writing a letter to the Speaker of the House of Representatives John Boehner expressing concern about Representative Peter King’s (New York) proposed hearings on “the radicalization of the American Muslim community and homegrown terrorism.” Their letter urged Rep. King “to address all forms of violence motivated by extremists beliefs and to do so in a full, fair, and objective way” instead of “singling out a group of Americans for government scrutiny based on their faith.” The Interfaith Alliance is deeply concerned about the demonization of Muslims in America
This is what I think is happening here in Tennessee and it is wrong.
It is time we stand together in support of the Islamic community and all other communities of faith.
It is time to speak out against any infringement of religious freedom by government at any level.
It is time for us to work together in celebration of our rich religious diversity.