Comments on 2016 Election Results & Tulsa Veterans Parade Discrimination

Dear Tulsa Community,

It is with very mixed emotions that I write this letter. One part of me is saddened by the wins of certain groups and the loss by others. My heart is broken for so many… so many. The one light at in the mix though is the voting down of Oklahoma State Question 790 that would have changed the language of our local constitution to allow public land and/or money to be used for religious purposes. The real purpose of this bill was to try and get the 10 Commandments Monument back at the capital.

The results were as close, with 42.8% being for the measure and 57.1% against it. According to the OK.gov website, 1,414,923 people voted on this measure, with 808,248 being the final number making it stick. Considering we have close to 2 million registered voters in this state, the fact that this measure was knocked by almost half of them is inspiring, but too close.

Our job now as people of various faiths and traditions is to stand for the separation of church and state. We need to remind our friends, family, co-workers, and others of the importance of this separation, but to do it in a loving and discerning way.

We were also sadden to hear today of the dismissal of the Council for American-Islamic Relations’ (CAIR) proposal to have a float in the Tulsa Veterans Day Parade this Friday.

Steve Porter (president of the Greater Tulsa Veterans Organizations Association) said, “CAIR-Oklahoma did not meet the new criteria because it is a political advocacy group and has not been involved in veterans affairs in eastern Oklahoma.” (Tulsa World) If this is true, are all the groups participating being judged on this criteria? Do all the bands playing have to prove any work they have done for veterans? We are not seeking any special treatment, just full equality like everyone else.

Showing our support as an interfaith community in this regard is only beginning. We must as an interfaith community, continue to stand firm with our social justice movements across this country and then celebrate the diversity of us all.

We at TIA stand with our Muslim friends and family during this time. We offer our support, or respect and our resources to the Muslim community of Oklahoma and will constantly try to show the love that we all are called on by our God of many names to show to others.

If you would like to stand with us, please join us on Facebook– Tulsa Interfaith Alliance and at www.tulsainterfaithalliance.org and join our efforts to help make Tulsa a more inclusive place.

 

Peace,

Rev. Evan Taylor

And the board of the Tulsa Interfaith Alliance

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Response to Murder of Khalid Jabara

The following statement was issued in response to murder of Khalid Jabara in Tulsa, OK by his neighbor.

We stand with many others in Tulsa (and around the world) to denounce not only the senseless killing of #KhalidJabara, but also the culture of fear and hate that bears significant responsibility for his murder.  As people speaking from multiple positions on faith and the role it plays in our lives, we call for an end to hateful rhetoric designed to minimize the humanity or spirit or worth of any other human being.  We are reminded of these words that are part of the Charter for Compassion:

We therefore call upon all men and women to restore compassion to the center of morality and religion – to return to the ancient principle that any interpretation of scripture that breeds violence, hatred or disdain is illegitimate.”

To the family of Mr Jabara we offer our deepest condolences, and our resolve to work for a world in which events like this do not happen.

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Letter to Tulsa Mayor Dewey Bartlett Calling for Compassionate Response

The following letter was sent today to Tulsa Mayor Dewey Bartlett, Jr following announcement that he has sent a letter to President Obama opposing acceptance of Syrian refugees.

November 16, 2015

 

Dear Mayor Bartlett,

I am writing to express the disappointment of the Tulsa Interfaith Alliance regarding your statements about Syrian refugees, and to offer to assist in developing a compassionate response.

I was recently able to attend the Parliament of the World’s Religions in Salt Lake City, UT (October 15-19).  Although the event had almost 10,000 people from 70 different countries and nearly 50 faith traditions, I was the only person from Oklahoma to attend the event.  While there, I heard Karen Armstrong (TED grant recipient who led the project that resulted in the Charter for Compassion) speak about our need to “nurture a sense of discomfort that there is profound injustice and suffering” in our world.

It was that sense of discomfort that led the Tulsa Interfaith Alliance to work with the City of Tulsa’s Human Rights Commission (and others) to seek City Council approval, as well as yours, in declaring Tulsa a “Compassionate Community.”  We are grateful for your support of that project, and look forward to the ways in which we can work together to make Tulsa even more compassionate.

However, we also have a strong sense of discomfort at your comments yesterday calling on the President to stop allowing Syrian refugees to relocate to the USA, and, in particular, your statement that “…we should have never allowed this to begin with.”  It is our hope that, as a Compassionate Community, Tulsa would always be a place of welcome for those in need of safety, solace, community, and a place to call home, and that such a welcome would be offered to all, regardless of whether they are fleeing economic difficulty, political turmoil, or religious persecution.

We understand and share your concern for the safety of our fellow Tulsans, but we call on you to please re-consider your earlier statements.  Refusing to provide a safe place for refugees will not necessarily make Tulsa any safer.  In fact, it could have the very opposite effect by increasing the amount of injustice and suffering in our world, thereby increasing our common discomfort.  We all share a sense of discomfort at the profound injustice and suffering of our world, especially recently.  However, we implore you to respond compassionately to that sense of discomfort and not add to it by projecting the belief that we should be afraid of those who need our compassion.

Please know that I and the Tulsa Interfaith Alliance stand ready to assist you in developing a compassionate response to recent events.  If we can assist, please feel free to contact me directly at xxx-xxx-xxxx.

Sincerely,

Rev. Bob Lawrence, Executive Director

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Open Letter Calling for Removal of Ten Commandments Monument from OK Capitol

The Interfaith Alliance of Oklahoma, along with the Tulsa Interfaith Alliance, the national Interfaith Alliance, the Oklahoma Center for Community and Justice, the Oklahoma chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, the Respect Diversity Foundation, and others issued the following statement to Governor Mary Fallin and the leadership of the Oklahoma legislature calling on the removal of the Ten Commandments monument from the Oklahoma Capitol grounds. Members of all the supporting agencies are being invited to copy this letter and send it to their respective Senators and Representatives.
       “We strongly support the decision of the Oklahoma Supreme Court, that the Ten Commandments monument should not be on the grounds of our state Capitol. Others have pointed out that this monument on state government property violates the letter and spirit of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. The Oklahoma County District Attorney has made an eloquent personal statement, as a committed Christian, as to why placing this monument on the grounds of state government is inappropriate, offensive to many, and even hypocritical.
        “The wording of the Oklahoma Constitution is very clear and the Supreme Court has done what it is supposed to do – to rule on the constitutionality of a law or action. We urge that our legislators, Governor, other Oklahoma officials, and Oklahoma citizens accept and obey this ruling. This was not a close decision, but a 7 to 2 vote, so a reversal of their decision was very unlikely. The Oklahoma Attorney General asked for a judicial review of the decision, and the Oklahoma Supreme Court turned this down. Further attempts to reverse this decision would be a significant waste of taxpayers’ money.

        “The Ten Commandments are important to many of us as a religious document. That they are part of the expression of our religious beliefs, and play a role in guiding our relationship with God and with our fellow human beings is not altered or prevented by insisting that the state abstain from any action, including funding, that would favor or promote any one religion or part thereof. There is nothing in our national constitution nor in our state constitution that refers to the Ten Commandments. To treat them as an “historical document” trivializes their religious significance, and is not an acceptable argument for placing them on the grounds of government property.

       “Those who would like to classify our nation as a Christian nation would do a grave disservice to the founders of our nation and to the citizens of our nation and state today. Our founders, whatever their personal religious beliefs, clearly were opposed to the creation of a theocracy. Governed by colonial England, in which there was an official state religion, and in which the relationship between crown and church involved a history of persecution of other religions, they had no desire to allow anything similar to be part of the free nation they were creating here in America. Indeed, they realized then, as we should realize now, that the various legislative proposals that would move us in the direction of a national religion would lead to a nation in which people of all but one religion would be merely tolerated, second class citizens. Too many have forgotten the history of Protestant colonies persecuting Catholics, and Catholic colonies persecuting Protestants. Baptists had much to fear from other Christian denominations in the Colonies. Such a situation repeatedly has been the cause of prejudicial persecution in other nations over a span of centuries. How many people of various religions, including Christian denominations, fled their home countries for this reason? How many people of various faiths have been uprooted and/or persecuted by theocratic domination, something they hoped would not happen or that they did not think could happen? Our constitution seeks to preserve true freedom of religion: freedom of religion and freedom from religion, freedom to practice one’s religion of choice or not to do so.

       “We also are very concerned about the calls to impeach members of the Supreme Court or to return to the discredited idea of electing and re-electing members of our higher courts. Our Supreme Court did exactly what it was supposed to do. Acting independently from the other branches of government, it decided NOT what the majority may want, but what is constitutional. Our nation’s founders knew how important it is to prevent the tyranny of the majority from depriving others of their constitutional rights. Our legislative branch has the right to make laws. We expect our legislators to be smart enough and responsible enough not to pass laws which, predictably, are unconstitutional and will waste taxpayers’ money with subsequent appeals. The current process for selection of justices in our higher courts is a good one, one that provides for selection of highly competent individuals, preserves their independence, and prevents legislators or the governor from threatening them when their decision is not what the legislature or governor want.”

(signed)
Carl J. Rubenstein, MD, President
Interfaith Alliance of Oklahoma

Rev. Bob Lawrence, Executive Director
Interfaith Alliance of Tulsa

Rabbi Jack Moline, Executive Director
Interfaith Alliance, National Office

Jayme Cox, President & CEO
Oklahoma Center for Community & Justice (OCCJ)

Joan & Michael Korenblit
Respect Diversity Foundation

CAIR Oklahoma

Rabbi Vered Harris
Temple B’nai Israel, Oklahoma City

Rabbi Abby Jacobson
Temple Emanuel, Oklahoma City

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Interfaith Alliance and OK Affiliates Call on Fallin to Remove 10 Commandments Monument

Despite a recent court order requiring Oklahoma to remove a statue of the Ten Commandments from the grounds of its capitol, Governor Mary Fallin has insisted on leaving the religious symbol in place. In response to the Governor’s refusal to comply with this order, Rabbi Jack Moline, executive director of Interfaith Alliance, Rev. Bob Lawrence, executive director of Tulsa Interfaith Alliance, and Dr. Carl Rubenstein, president of Interfaith Alliance of Oklahoma, released the following statement:

“The Oklahoma Supreme Court has spoken and confirmed what our organizations have always known – that the Ten Commandments monument at the Oklahoma Capitol violates both the letter and the spirit of the First Amendment. When the Founders drafted the Constitution they sought to ensure that our nation’s laws would not be based on religious belief alone. The American commitment to religious freedom and pluralism demands that we respect the manifold backgrounds from which each American comes to the common cause of our democracy. Placing the Ten Commandments before the people’s house is to say that some religious texts are more central to our law than others, that some people of faith are more American than others. The challenge of America is recognizing that every religious text has something to offer our public policy, and none should be given primacy over others.

“We are pleased that Gov. Fallin takes such great inspiration from the teachings of respect and order found in the Ten Commandments, but that private motivation should not be imposed on the public square and all who enter our Capitol.”

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‘Compassionate Tulsa’: Joint Resolution of Mayor, City Council Launches New Human Rights Initiative

Here is a copy of the press release sent out by the City of Tulsa after Monday’s press conference at which City Manager Jim Twombly (on behalf of Mayor Dewey Bartlett, Jr, who was ill) signed the resolution declaring Tulsa a Compassionate Community.

Mayor Dewey F. Bartlett Jr. and the Tulsa City Council have signed a resolution (attached) designating the City of Tulsa as a “Compassionate Community,” and calling for the Human Rights Commission to establish “Compassionate Tulsa,” a committee of citizens who will carry the message of compassion throughout our city, encouraging and recognizing acts of compassion in Tulsa.

“Adopting this resolution as a city confirms our commitment to living out compassion in all aspects of life,” Mayor Dewey Bartlett said. “Tulsa is already known as a friendly and welcoming city, and compassion will continue to promote peace and attract a diverse population that already makes Tulsa unique.”

The Tulsa Human Rights Commission has been working with the Tulsa Interfaith Alliance to have Tulsa designated as a Compassionate Community, the first in Oklahoma. Tulsa joins at least 60 other Compassionate Communities worldwide. The vision and mission statement of Compassionate Tulsa (also attached) is inspired by the international Charter for Compassion.

The Charter for Compassion was unveiled to international acclaim by British interfaith scholar Karen Armstrong on Nov. 12, 2009. The event was commemorated in Tulsa on Nov. 15, 2009, with an interfaith celebration at Boston Avenue United Methodist Church.

Compassionate Tulsa will include members of the Human Rights Commission and other Tulsa representatives of the arts; business; communities; education; environment; health care; peace and nonviolence; religion, spirituality and interfaith; science and research. This committee will promote a lifestyle of compassion in our city, documenting acts of compassion and organizing more ways for Tulsans to show their compassion.

Compassionate Tulsa has been developed through the efforts of a five-member task force including Dr. Andrea C. Walker, Ph.D, Vice-Chair of the Tulsa Human Rights Commission; Rev. Bob Lawrence, Executive Director of the Tulsa Interfaith Alliance; Human Rights Commissioner Rebecca Marks-Jimerson; Vicky Langston, community volunteer and director of the Open Tables program at Boston Avenue United Methodist Church; and Pam Rosser, Mayor’s Liaison to the Human Rights Commission.

Tulsa is the only municipality in Oklahoma with a Human Rights Commission. The purpose of the Human Rights Commission is to receive, hear and investigate complaints arising from acts or practices of discrimination. Commissioners are appointed by the Mayor and approved by the City Council.

The Tulsa Interfaith Alliance is a non-partisan, faith-based advocacy group that works diligently to maintain the separation of church and state, to address issues of unconstitutional religious expression, and to raise awareness of the greater good that people of all faiths, and no faith, bring to society.

Click here to view a copy of the resolution declaring Tulsa to be a Compassionate Community, as well as the vision, mission statement and values of the Compassionate Tulsa campaign.
If you would like to learn more about the Compassionate Tulsa campaign, please be sure to “like” us on Facebook at Compassionate Tulsa.

And, follow us on twitter at CompassionTulsa.
You can also reach the Compassion Committee via email at CompassionateTulsa@gmail.com
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City Council Declares Tulsa a “Compassionate Community”

At their meeting on June 25, 2015, the Tulsa City Council unanimously approved a resolution endorsing the Charter for Compassion, declaring Tulsa a Compassionate Community, and authorizing the Human Rights Commission to develop and oversee a 10-year implementation strategy. Our Executive Director, Rev. Bob Lawrence, made a presentation at the Council meeting talking about the history and use of the Charter for Compassion, and highlighting the various agencies that, over the past 30 days, have officially endorsed the resolution. (See the list of supporting agencies below.) Lawrence was appointed by Rev Dr Cole, Chair of the Human Rights Commission, to the special task force that has been working on getting a resolution approved by the Council and Mayor.

NEXT STEPS

On Monday, June 29 at 10:30am, Mayor Dewey F Bartlett, Jr will hold a press conference at which time he will announce his support of the resolution and hold a public signing of the resolution. Our Executive Director, Rev. Bob Lawrence, will be present to answer any questions.

Following the press conference, the special task force that has been working on getting the resolution approved will be meeting to begin identifying the initial members of the Compassion Committee that will be responsible for developing and overseeing a strategy designed to raise the awareness and increase the prevalence of compassion action in Tulsa.

COMPASSION COMMITTEE

The resolution approved by the Council grants the authority to oversee Compassionate Tulsa to the Human Rights Commission. The HRC will be creating the Compassion Committee to develop and implement a strategy to raise awareness and prevalence of compassionate action. The Compassion Committee will be a clearinghouse for information about opportunities for compassionate action, and will include five “at-large” members, and one member representing each of nine sectors of life in Tulsa: the Arts, Communities, Business, Education, the Environment, Health Care, Peace and Non-Violence, Religion and Spirituality, and Science and Research. The members representing the different sectors will be responsible for gathering together a broad range of individuals with interests in that sector and holding regular meetings designed to keep everyone aware of opportunities and experiences of compassionate action in each sector.

If you are interested in serving on that committee either “at-large” or representing one of the nine segments, please let us know.

AGENCIES SUPPORTING COMPASSIONATE TULSA

*Jewish Federation of Tulsa (Community Relations Committee)
*Oklahoma Center for Community and Justice (OCCJ)
*John Hope Franklin Center for Reconciliation
*Mental Health Association of Oklahoma
*Tulsa Metropolitan Ministry (TMM)
*Tulsa Young Professionals (TYPros)
*Tulsa Human Rights Commission
*Phillips Theological Seminary
*Tulsa Interfaith Alliance
*Islamic Society of Tulsa
*Autism Center of Tulsa
*Circle Cinema
*PFLAG Tulsa

KEEP IN TOUCH WITH COMPASSIONATE TULSA

The Human Rights Commission and the new Compassion Committee are still working out all the structure and arrangements for the new Compassionate Tulsa campaign.

In the meantime,
please be sure to “like” Compassionate Tulsa on Facebook
please be sure to ask to join our on-line discussion forum on Facebook (in this forum you can post your own thoughts and actions of compassion)
please be sure to follow us on twitter at CompassionTulsa

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Support for Supreme Court Decision Affirming Same-Gender Marriage

          The Tulsa Interfaith Alliance applauds today’s decision by the US Supreme Court in Obergefell v. Hodges affirming the right of same-gender couples to have their relationships treated, under the law, with the same respect and dignity as other couples. We join with Rabbi Jack Moline, the Executive Director of the national Interfaith Alliance in “affirming what people of faith across the country have known for years: that there is no legitimate, secular reason to deny the right to marry to” same-gender couples.

          Rev. Bob Lawrence, Executive Director of the Tulsa Interfaith Alliance, said, “We believe this decision to be about the freedom of religion, as well as the supremacy of the US Constitution, for those who believe that same-gender relationships are blessed by their Creator are now treated no differently under the law than those who do not believe so. We joyfully celebrate with all those who have struggled for too long to have their relationships treated with the same dignity and respect as other marriages.”

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Support for Woman’s Right to Wear Muslim Head Scarf

          The Tulsa Interfaith Alliance applauds the June 1, 2015 decision of the US Supreme Court in which they sided with a Tulsa woman who was denied employment at the Abercrombie Kids store at Tulsa’s Woodland Hills mall because she wore a traditional Muslim head scarf to her interview.
          Abercrombie said it rejected her application not because she was Muslim, but rather because her head scarf violated company dress policy, which forbids the wearing of caps. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) sided with Samantha Elauf and sued Abercrombie. A Tulsa federal district court awarded Ms. Elauf $20,000 in compensation. Abercrombie appealed and the decision was overturned by the 10th District Court of Appeals. It was then taken to the US Supreme Court.
          As reported by the Wall Street Journal, “the 8-1 decision heightened the duty employers have to accommodate workers’ religious practices, ruling that federal law requires ‘favored treatment’ of faith-based observances, not simply equal status with other activities.”
          Since the Elauf case, the EEOC has issued guidance to employers, advising that the duty to accommodate religious practices doesn’t depend on an applicant or employee explicitly requesting it. If an employer is unsure, the commission advises them to seek more information. In other instances, it will be “obvious that the practice is religious and conflicts with a work policy,” requiring accommodation.
          Rabbi Jack Moline, Executive Director of the national Interfaith Alliance, expressed support by saying, “In an increasingly diverse America, it cannot always be the burden of religious minorities to explain their faith to others. This decision ensures an easier path to equality in workplaces across America for people of all faiths.”
          The Tulsa Interfaith Alliance applauds Ms. Elauf for her tenacity, and celebrates with her the US Supreme Court decision. (Ms. Elauf has since found employment with another company in Tulsa.)

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Tulsa to Become a “Compassionate Community”

The Tulsa Interfaith Alliance has been working with the City of Tulsa’s Human Rights Commission for the past year on a process to have Tulsa recognized as a “Compassionate Community” by the International Charter for Compassion Committee.  A resolution to that effect will be presented to the Tulsa City Council at the June 25 Council meeting in the Council Chambers at City Hall, 175 East 2nd St.
The resolution, if adopted, would declare Tulsa to be a “Compassionate Community” and authorize the on-going work of the Human Rights Commission in raising awareness of compassion, and highlighting opportunities for individuals and groups to be involved in compassionate action.  After adoption by the City Council and approval by the Mayor, Tulsa will become the first community in the state of Oklahoma to be recognized as a “Compassionate Community.”
“This has been a multi-year project of the Tulsa Interfaith Alliance, and we are excited about reaching this major milestone,” said Rev. Bob Lawrence, Executive Director of the Tulsa Interfaith Alliance.  “But our work is not done.  We have committed to being a part of a 10-year strategy that will seek to raise an awareness of compassion in Tulsa.”
Following adoption of the resolution by the City Council, Mayor Dewey F Bartlett, Jr. has called a press conference for Monday, June 29.  Here is a copy of the press release from the Mayor’s office:
Date:  June 15, 2015
Release: #15-123
Contact: Lara Weber, Communications Dept, (918) 596-7804
A ‘Compassionate Community’:  Tulsa to Adopt Resolution Affirming International Charter of Compassion
Mayor Dewey F Bartlett, Jr. and the Tulsa City Council are adopting a join resolution affirming the message of the International Charter for Compassion, designating the City of Tulsa as a “Compassionate Community.”  A news conference for this announcement will be held at 10am, Monday, June 29, in the 15th Floor boardroom of the City Hall, 175 E. 2nd St.

“Adopting this resolution as a city confirms our commitment to living out compassion in all aspects of life,” Mayor Dewey Bartlett said.  “Tulsa is already known as a friendly and welcoming city and compassion will continue to promote peace and attract a diverse population that already makes Tulsa very unique.”

The Tulsa Human Rights Commission has been working with the Tulsa Interfaith Alliance to have Tulsa recognized as an International Compassionate Community.  These two organizations have created a “Partnership for a Compassionate Tulsa” that will be responsible for developing and overseeing a 10-year implementation strategy involving business, education, health, civic, neighborhood and faith organizations and individuals.

Andrea C Walker, PhD, Vice-Chair of the Human Rights Commission and member of the Commission’s interfaith subcommittee, stated, “The Charter for Compassion represents what we as a commission desire for Tulsa, placing the Golden Rule and avoidance of harm to others at the center of our decisions about governance, business, education, housing, and numerous other sectors.”

The Charter for Compassion was unveiled to international acclaim by British interfaith scholar Karen Armstrong on Nov. 12, 2009.  The event was commemorated in Tulsa on Nov. 15, 2009, with an interfaith celebration at Boston Avenue United Methodist Church.

The purpose of the Human Rights Commission is to received, hear and investigate complaints arising from acts or practices of discrimination.  Commissioners are appointed by the Mayor and approved by the City Council.

The Tulsa Interfaith Alliance is a non-partisan, faith-based advocacy group that works diligently to maintain the separation of church and state, to address issues of unconstitutional religious expression, and to raise awareness of the greater good that people of all faiths, and no faith, bring to society.
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