Human Rights Commission Supports Charter for Compassion

NOVEMBER 17, 2014, TULSA, OK – At today’s meeting of the Human Rights Commission (HRC) for the City of Tulsa, commissioners approved a proposal from the Tulsa Interfaith Alliance in collaboration with the Interfaith sub-committee of the HRC to begin the process of working with city officials to have Tulsa adopt the Charter for Compassion.  The outline that was presented calls for the creation of the “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.


(l-r) Rev Stacey Cole, Chair, Human Rights Commission, Dr Andrea Walker, Commissioner, Rev. Bob Lawrence, Exec Dir, TIA

The Charter for Compassion was unveiled to international acclaim by British interfaith scholar Karen Armstrong on November 12, 2009.  That event was commemorated in Tulsa on November 15, 2009 with an interfaith celebration at Boston Avenue UMC.  Vicky Langston, one of the organizers of that event in Tulsa, said, “I am pleased to see the renewal of this project that originated with Karen Armstrong’s ground-breaking work.  It will be exciting to see it implemented in the life of our city and the lives of the people in Tulsa.”

 Rev. Bob Lawrence, Executive Director of the Tulsa Interfaith Alliance, explained why the TIA is involved in this work:  “As the Charter states, compassion lies at the heart of all religious, ethical and spiritual traditions.  What better way for people of various faiths and beliefs to find common ground as we work to make our city even greater?”  Andrea C. Walker, Ph.D., Human Rights Commissioner and member of its Interfaith sub-committee, 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.”

 Information about the Charter for Compassion can be found at To keep citizens informed of the progress of the Compassionate Tulsa campaign, a Facebook account has been established.  A website is being developed and will be announced to the public when it is available.  The campaign can also be contacted via email at, or via twitter at CompassionTulsa.

The Charter for Compassion states:

The principle of compassion lies at the heart of all religious, ethical and spiritual traditions, calling us always to treat all others as we wish to be treated ourselves. Compassion impels us to work tirelessly to alleviate the suffering of our fellow creatures, to dethrone ourselves from the centre of our world and put another there, and to honour the inviolable sanctity of every single human being, treating everybody, without exception, with absolute justice, equity and respect.

It is also necessary in both public and private life to refrain consistently and empathically from inflicting pain. To act or speak violently out of spite, chauvinism, or self-interest, to impoverish, exploit or deny basic rights to anybody, and to incite hatred by denigrating others—even our enemies—is a denial of our common humanity. We acknowledge that we have failed to live compassionately and that some have even increased the sum of human misery in the name of religion.

We therefore call upon all men and women to restore compassion to the centre of morality and religion ~ to return to the ancient principle that any interpretation of scripture that breeds violence, hatred or disdain is illegitimate ~ to ensure that youth are given accurate and respectful information about other traditions, religions and cultures ~ to encourage a positive appreciation of cultural and religious diversity ~ to cultivate an informed empathy with the suffering of all human beings—even those regarded as enemies.

We urgently need to make compassion a clear, luminous and dynamic force in our polarized world. Rooted in a principled determination to transcend selfishness, compassion can break down political, dogmatic, ideological and religious boundaries. Born of our deep interdependence, compassion is essential to human relationships and to a fulfilled humanity. It is the path to enlightenment, and indispensable to the creation of a just economy and a peaceful global community.

 About the Tulsa Interfaith Alliance – 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.  Our work is directed toward the public square, not individual faith communities.

About the 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 Chair of the HRC is Rev. Stacey Cole.

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Help Make Tulsa a Charter for Compassion City

The Tulsa Interfaith Alliance is hoping to partner with the Tulsa Human Rights Commission to identify and develop an implementation strategy resulting in Tulsa becoming a Charter for Compassion City.

We have already had one presentation before the Human Rights Commission, and will be meeting with them on Monday, October 20 at 3:30pm (their regular monthly meeting) to answer any questions.  They are scheduled to vote on our recommendation at their November meeting on Monday, November 17 at 3:30pm.  These meetings will occur in room 411 at Tulsa City Hall, and are open to the public.

To help express to the Commission the support of the broader communities in Tulsa, we have developed a petition for people to sign.  Please take a moment to review our petition and consider signing it.


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TIA Celebrates Marriage Equality Action

The Tulsa Interfaith Alliance joins with countless individuals and couples throughout the state of Oklahoma to celebrate today’s decision by the US Supreme Court that has resulted in same-gender couples being able to legally marry in the state of Oklahoma. We agree with lower court decisions that there is no justifiable reason, under the US Constitution, to deny same-gender couples the right to marry.

For us, the issue is simple: we do not want any religion to interfere with the functions of our government, any more than we want our government to interfere with the functions of our religions. There is nothing about today’s decision, or the decisions leading up to it, that will infringe on the practice of anyone’s religion, and, at least in the case of recognizing marriages, no one’s religion will now infringe on the practice of our government.

We are also mindful of the fact that the issue of same-gender marriage recognition has not been resolved for all citizens of the USA, and we call on elected and judicial officials to right the wrong that has been allowed to stand by the US Supreme Court’s refusal to decide this issue.

We applaud, with deepest gratitude, the fortitude of the plaintiffs, Mary Bishop, Sharon Baldwin, Sue Barton and Gay Phillips, whose over 10 year struggle for justice has finally been resolved in their favor. The TIA has long supported their case, and we join with them in celebrating this day.

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The Role of Faith in Health Care Decisions

September 29, 2014

The Tulsa Interfaith Alliance, in partnership with Phillips Theological Seminary and the Women’s & Gender Studies Department at the University of Tulsa, will be hosting a community forum on Thursday, October 9 at 7pm in the Allen Chapman Student Union at the University of Tulsa.  The title of the forum is “The Role of Faith in Health Care Decisions: Individuals, Groups and Government.”

Our forum will consist of a panel discussion by local, regional and national experts in the fields of faith, ethics and law as they relate to the delivery of health care in the USA.  This event is free and open to the public.

Our objective is to help re-formulate questions, rather than provide answers.  We will be approaching this from the standpoint that faith IS a part of our current health care model, and is a factor in decisions made by providers and recipients alike. We will talk about the impact on providers of being asked to perform medical procedures (or offer alternatives) that are in conflict with their moral compass, as well as the impact on recipients of health care options being limited by faith- or ethics-based decisions of others. (Such limitations range from pharmacists refusing to dispense Plan B drugs to legislation limiting end-of-life/euthanasia options.)

We will be operating under the premise that individuals, groups and government have the right under the US Constitution to make decisions based upon their conscience, so we will not address the justifications for any such decisions, nor the question of whether any such decisions are “right or wrong.” Rather, we will start from the point at which such decisions are made, and then discuss the impact on health care. (For example, we will not discuss whether the decision of many Catholic-affiliated hospitals to not allow tubal ligations is justifiable, but we will discuss how that decision impacts health care in areas where the only hospital is Catholic-affiliated.)

Our moderator will ask panelists to address issues from a pre-selected list of questions.  Attendees will be able to submit questions in writing  that will be pre-screened and then given to the moderator.  Because of time constraints, all questions may not be addressed.  To improve chances of questions being addressed, please submit them in advance via email.


Dr John Schumann, MD (moderator), a well-known blogger ( and guest host of “Studio Tulsa” on radio station KWGS.  Dr Schumann is also Associate Director of the Internal Medicine Residency Program at OU.

Bradley Henderson, JD, Legal Director of the Oklahoma Chapter of the ACLU.  Mr Henderson is a former Ass’t District Attorney focusing on domestic violence cases.

Monica Harrington, Editor of and board member of the Center for Reproductive Rights.  Ms Harrington is a former Sr Policy Analyst for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Mark Fox, MD, PhD, MPH, Associate Dean for Community Health and Research Development, OU School of Community Medicine.  Dr Fox also serves as the Medical Director of the Tisdale Specialty Health Clinic, and Youth Services of Tulsa. Dr Fox is a nationally-recognized expert on the ethical implications of health policy and innovation, ethical issues in organ and tissue donation and transplantation, and research ethics.

Marguerite Chapman, JD, LLM, is Professor Emeritus of the School of Law at the University of Tulsa.  She specializes in health care law and biomedical ethics.

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Letter to Gov Fallin re: National Day of Prayer

April 22, 2014

Dear Governor Fallin,

On behalf of the Interfaith Alliance, the Interfaith Alliance of Tulsa and Interfaith
Alliance of Oklahoma City, organizations committed to defending religious freedom
whose members represent more than 75 faith traditions, we are writing to request
that if you participate in the National Day of Prayer you ensure that your celebration
is welcoming to clergy and believers of all religions, as well as those who profess no
religion. This celebration, mandated by an act of Congress, has too often been
dominated by religious extremists who define religion by exclusion. In a nation
already deeply divided, working together, we should make this year’s National Day
of Prayer, held on May 1, a reflection of both our nation’s diversity of religious belief
and its commitment to religious freedom. This day presents a great opportunity for
us to demonstrate that religion can be a healing and reconciling force in our nation.
We are compelled to make this request because, several years ago, the National Day
of Prayer was taken over by a group of religious exclusivists led by Shirley Dobson
of Focus on the Family. Dobson’s group calls itself the “official” National Day of
Prayer Task Force yet it has no official relationship with the government and it
systematically excludes Jews, Muslims, Catholics, Buddhists, Hindus and even some
mainline Protestant Christians from National Prayer Day events it conducts around
the United States.

Moreover, The National Day of Prayer Task Force requires volunteer coordinators
to sign a statement of faith which includes the following language: ” I believe that
the Holy Bible is the inspired, only, infallible, authoritative Word of The Living God.
That there is one God, eternally existent in three persons: Father, Son and Holy
Spirit… That for salvation of lost and sinful men and women, regeneration by the
Holy Spirit is absolutely essential.” Government sanction of the Task Force’s work
clearly aligns a government- sponsored event with a particular Christian
denomination, in violation of the basic provisions of the First Amendment to the
Constitution, establishing the separation of church and state.We respectfully ask that you decline to participate in events sponsored by or issue a separate
proclamation to the National Day of Prayer Task Force. This group has a record of using
proclamations from and the participation of elected officials to raise the status of events in
which they discriminate against and exclude clergy who represent faith traditions other than fundamentalist evangelical Christianity.

If you do use your power of proclamation to mark the National Day of Prayer, we implore you to restore the annual day of prayer to what President Harry Truman intended when he signed it into law in 1952. Use your proclamation to bring together Americans of every religion and no religion, to express their faith in whatever way is appropriate for them. We urge you to issue a single proclamation for the day that calls for an inclusive National Day of Prayer that reflects our nation’s rich tradition of religious pluralism by explicitly inviting clergy from diverse faith traditions to participate equally and fully — especially in events held on government property.

Sincerely yours,

Rev. Dr. C. Welton Gaddy, President, Interfaith Alliance

Rev. Bob Lawrence, Executive Director, Tulsa Interfaith Alliance

Sarbjit Singh, President, Interfaith Alliance of Oklahoma City

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Personhood Legislation (SB 1848)

April 28, 2014

            The Tulsa Interfaith Alliance is deeply concerned by the Oklahoma House passage of an amendment to SB 1848.  The legislation would recognize fertilized human eggs as persons.  Many of the supporters of this legislation quote a religious basis for their determination that “The simple truth is, a human conceptus — an embryo — is a human being,” said Rep Rebecca Hamilton, D-Oklahoma City. “Life belongs to God.”

            The TIA is concerned any time the religious perspectives of one (individual or group) are imposed on those who do not share that belief, especially when public policy is involved.

            We fully support Rep. Hamilton’s religious beliefs, and even her right to use those beliefs to inform her work as a legislator.  However, we must strongly object to her attempt to impose her personal religious beliefs on the citizens of Oklahoma.  Although the majority of Oklahomans would agree with her that life belongs to God, there are plenty of Oklahomans who would disagree, on religious grounds, that a fertilized human egg is a human being.  For centuries, Jewish and Christian scholars have expressed a belief that human life begins when a fetus is infused with a soul, and that occurs when ruach, or ‘breath’ enters the body.  According to such a belief, a fertilized egg would not be a human being.

            Our point is simple:  religious scholars do not agree on the practices of faith in regards to reproductive choices.  If our religious leaders cannot agree on when life begins, what makes our Oklahoma legislators think they have the moral authority to legislate their personal beliefs?

            The Tulsa Interfaith Alliance does not wish to choose one belief over the other, and we do not wish our legislators to impose either opinion, especially when the express intent of the legislation is, according to Rep. Randy Grau, R-Edmond, is to “assure that none of these clinics (those providing abortion services) will prey on vulnerable women.”  We are of the firm opinion that the greatest threat to vulnerable women in Oklahoma is Oklahoma legislators and their continuing assault on women’s health care choices.

            We encourage the Oklahoma Senate to reject the House’s amendment.

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Faith-based Hospitals Limiting Access to Health Care Options

April 10, 2014

The Tulsa Interfaith Alliance actively supports the right of individuals and groups of individuals to practice their faith as they choose, and readily stands with the people of any faith who are limited in their ability to practice their faith because of government policy or inaction.  We also actively oppose the attempts of any individual or group of individuals to have the tenets of their faith imposed on those who do not practice that faith, especially when the faith of another is imposed through public policy.

Therefore, we are seriously concerned by recent reports of healthcare institutions affiliated with the Roman Catholic Church denying services to families needing the full range of legal reproductive health services, as well as the desire of some businesses to limit employer-provided health insurance to only cover medical practices in line with the religious beliefs of the business owner(s).

It is anathema to the compassionate practice of medicine for a woman experiencing a life-threatening ectopic pregnancy to be told that she must be transferred to another hospital to get the health care she needs.  In many rural communities, this would mean a woman and her family would need to travel an additional hour or more in order to get the health care that she needs to minimize the urgent and immediate risks to her health (including the possibility of death).

It is also unacceptable that a family must choose between employment opportunities and the availability of adequate health insurance.  A store clerk selling craft supplies should not have to adhere to the religious beliefs of the business owners in order to obtain insurance.

Those who are comfortable with these situations should ask themselves whether they would still be comfortable if religious beliefs with which they disagreed were imposed by those same entities.  For example, what if a Jewish-run hospital refused to provide reproductive services to any male who had not been circumcised?  Or what if a devout Buddhist vegetarian business owner provided insurance that would not cover heartburn medication for those who ate meat?

We, the Tulsa Interfaith Alliance, take seriously the responsibilities of the Establishment Clause contained in the 1st Amendment to the US Constitution, and invite people of all faiths (and no faith) to join us in opposing the attempts of any hospital, business, or other non-religious enterprise to force its religious practices and beliefs on those relying on their services.

  • Should religious institutions be allowed to operate public facilities? Hospitals are different from churches.  People expect to be treated in accordance with the teachings of the faith when they enter a church, but they do not expect that when entering a hospital.  When entering a hospital, people expect to be treated in accordance with the teachings of the Hippocratic Oath.
  • If someone disagrees with teachings of a particular faith, they are free to attend a different church (or no church). However, those options are rarely available in healthcare
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Press Conference Statement re: OK Marriage Equality Lawsuit

The following was read by our Executive Director at the press conference to commemorate the filing of our amicus brief in the Oklahoma Marriage Equality lawsuit on March 17, 2014

          We, the members of the Board of Directors for the Tulsa Interfaith Alliance, come from a variety of faith traditions.  Our faith traditions as well as our individual consciences represent a range of beliefs on the issue of same-gender marriage.  Although our religious traditions may disagree on the issue of same-gender marriage, on one point we are in total agreement:  we do not want the State of Oklahoma, nor any government entity, to decide which religious tradition we must follow.  Especially in light of the fact that our religious scholars and traditions disagree on this matter, it is of utmost importance that the rights, responsibilities and privileges afforded the civil institution of marriage should be granted solely on the basis of our shared Constitution.  Therefore, we are unanimous in our support of the plaintiffs in the Oklahoma Marriage Equality Lawsuit, and in our desire that the State of Oklahoma recognize the commitments of same-gender couples by granting them all the rights, responsibilities, and privileges of marriage.

            As an authorized minister of the United Church of Christ, my religious freedom is threatened by the state of Oklahoma refusing to allow me to treat all members of my congregation equally.  At our General Synod in July, 2005, the United Church of Christ formally adopted a resolution affirming equal marriage rights for couples regardless of gender and declaring that the government should not interfere with couples regardless of gender who choose to marry.  The resolution also called upon congregations, after prayerful biblical, theological, and historical study, to consider adopting Wedding Policies that do not discriminate against couples based on gender.

            As the former and current pastor of UCC congregations that have adopted such policies, my religious liberties, and my ability to operate in accordance with the teachings and desires of my denomination are severely restricted because the state of Oklahoma will not allow me to officiate at legally-binding marriage ceremonies for same-gender couples.  Therefore, I join with my friends, Mary, Sharon, Gay and Sue, and call upon the state of Oklahoma to cease its interference in my ability to fully function in my role as a UCC minister by requiring me to treat same-gender couples differently than opposite-gender couples.

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Judge Kern Decision in Oklahoma Marriage Equality Lawsuit

January 16, 2014

The Tulsa Interfaith Alliance applauds the recent decision by United States District Judge Terence Kern “…that Oklahoma’s constitutional amendment limiting marriage to opposite-sex couples violates the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.”  Although we are disheartened that the Court’s order was put on hold pending further appeal, we are very hopeful that the ultimate outcome of this decision will mean that Oklahomans will be able to have their loving, committed relationships recognized by the state of Oklahoma, regardless of gender or orientation.

It is worth noting that same-gender couples are already able to enter into loving, committed relationships (many of which are blessed and sanctioned by local faith communities).  The question here is not whether same-gender couples can enter into a committed relationship.  Rather, it is about whether those commitments will be treated with the same regard by the state of Oklahoma as the commitments made by opposite-gender couples.

As an interfaith organization committed to the separation of church and state, we agree with the statement by Judge Kern (and other judicial authorities throughout the USA) that “…moral disapproval of homosexuals as a class, or same-sex marriage as a practice, is not a permissible justification for a law.”  Among the various faith communities represented by the TIA, we have a range of moral opinions on the issues of homosexuality and marriage.  Despite the rhetoric used by those opposed to same-gender marriage, there is significant modern scholarship of sacred texts that finds no justification for homophobia or laws treating homosexual individuals differently from non-homosexual ones.  The belief that the sacred texts of our forebears prohibit homosexual activity is not a belief that is held by all adherents of any religion.  Especially when religious authorities cannot agree on what the religious teachings should be regarding same-gender marriage, we believe it is of utmost importance to rely on the guidance of our Constitution, rather than the loudest voices.

It is the firm belief of the Tulsa Interfaith Alliance that the right to free expression of one’s religion will always be subject to the US Constitution, but the opposite should never be true.  Quoting Judge Kern’s opinion yet again, “Equal protection is at the very heart of our legal system and central to our consent to be governed. It is not a scarce commodity to be meted out begrudgingly or in short portions.  Therefore, the majority view in Oklahoma must give way to individual constitutional rights.”

We especially wish to applaud the fortitude and example of the four plaintiffs (Mary Bishop, Sharon Baldwin, Sue Barton and Gay Phillips) as they have waited over nine years for a decision in their case.  We join with them in celebrating this step toward justice, and pledge to continue struggling with them for full recognition of their relationships, and the relationships of countless other same-gender couples in Oklahoma.

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Thoughts on the Anniversary of 9/11

We released the following on September 11, 2013

Today we pause to remember the lives that were lost in the events of 12 years ago

We remember the lives that have been immeasurably altered

We remember that people of every faith, and no faith, were victims of those events.

We remember that it was people of every faith, and no faith, who responded from the core of their common humanity to reach out and comfort one another

And, we re-commit ourselves to boldly object to any and all forms of religious extremism

To any religious expression that precludes the ability of others to believe as they choose

To any religious expression that results in violence.

Today, we pause to remember.

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