COMMITMENT STUDY

AFFIRMING THESE TRUTHS

All people are equal, but have not had equal access to power, privilege and resources.

One of the most joyful moments of life is that moment when the nurse gently places the newborn baby into the arms of the exhausted but exuberant parent. Whether it takes place in Pueblo, Highlands Ranch, North Park Hill, Alamosa, Durango or Aspen; whether the child’s new name is Tawana, Tammy, Diego, Chung or Dakota; whether the family lives in an apartment, a home, or is homeless, whether the family consists of a single mom, two moms, two dads, a mom and a transgendered dad or a dad and mom; that moment! that moment is one of great joy with anticipation filled with hope for the future. The hope and joy of that moment are matched by the expectation of opportunities that will be available to this child. Food, shelter, clothing, health care, education and employment are all opportunities that every parent desires and expects for their child.

People are created equal is ingrained within us and by that we mean every person not only should have equal opportunities but should be treated equally under the law and therefore the legal system. The fact that the statue holding the scales of justice is blindfolded is suppose to mean that every person who comes before her is to be treated no more, no less fairly than any other.

We affirm that all people are created equal; we also confess that not all people have been or are treated equally. From the origin of the U.S. Constitution that counted some human beings as only three-fifths a person and gave the vote to only male property owners, some have had access to more power than others.

Whether we look at Board Rooms, Corner Offices, Faculty Lounges, Operating Rooms, Defendant Tables, Death Row Cells, Traffic Stops, or Gated Communities, it is clear that race, gender and economic status play a role in determining that some are more privileged than others.

Access to resources plays a significant role in determining a person’s ability to achieve success. It begins with access to pre-natal care that promotes a healthy beginning of life. Nutritious food as a toddler, the quality of the local school system, the encouragement of involved parents, the physical resources that allows a child to be free from hunger and sufficient clothing that allows the child to be free of ridicule are just a few of the resources that make such a difference in early life.

Access to power, privilege and resources in life is as important as the concept of being born equal.

All people have the inalienable right to be treated equally in life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Webster defines inalienable as impossible to take away or give up. To be treated equally is our right from birth and no one has the right to take it away from us or deny us that right.

They do not have to like us, respect us, agree with us or even want to live next to us, eat at the same lunch counter, rent us a motel room or be in the same bathroom, but it is our right to be treated equally under the law. They can not take that right from us…….or us from them.

Religious freedom is central to the fabric of our country.

The First Amendment of the Constitution prohibits Congress from making any law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof. People of faith and of no faith have long been protected from the State imposing a particular faith-based belief system upon them.

As our country was founded, the lesson from Europe of abuses by a State sanctioned church was recognized and it was determined life for all citizens would be better if people were free to practice their faith, but not have another’s faith imposed upon them.

Religious freedom can never be used as permission to restrict or ignore the rights of others.

As with all freedoms, there are limitations that protect the rights of others. My right to free speech does not allow me to yell, “Fire!” in a crowded theatre when there is no fire. My freedom of speech does not allow me to ignore your freedom to not be slandered with untruths. Your children’s freedom of religion means they are free to offer a silent prayer at anytime or anyplace, but my freedom of religion does not give me permission to force/intimidate your children into praying as I instruct them to within a public school setting.

A person’s religious freedom allows them to believe, even preach, that same-gender marriage is wrong or that there is no such thing as transgender. However, other people’s right to be treated equally under the law prohibits that person from denying them access to a marriage license, or an apartment or a bathroom or from adopting a child.


DISCUSSION QUESTIONS:

  1. Equality as a concept is so ingrained in us that we often take it for granted until it is threatened. Have you had a personal experience where your rights where being restricted? Share the situation. Were your personal rights in conflict with the rights of others? Did you consider it an experience of oppression?
  2. How do you exercise your religious freedom rights?
  3. Share how you agree or disagree with the concept that your rights have limits.
  4. How does this discussion about religious freedom play out in today’s conflicts about woman’s reproductive rights, same gender marriage, and bathroom access for transgender persons?


WE AFFIRM THAT WE WILL BE ACTIVE IN ASSURING THAT:

All people are treated equally

Speak up in my community grocery store, or bank, or neighborhood gathering, or church/synagogue/mosque when someone is not being treated equally.

Write a Letter To the Editor if there is a situation of inequality in our community. 

What other ways can our faith community be active in assuring that all people will be treated equally?

All people experience community life and systems of our society based on justice for all

Be a physical moral presence at immigration hearings, or court cases that seem to be based on prejudice, or where women are being intimidated because they are pursuing their legal health care alternatives.

Advocating within our local zoning commission, city council or state legislature to assure that laws and decisions uphold equality for all.

Have assigned persons in our congregation/organization to be responsible for keeping an eye out (in news reports or community chatter) for situations where equality is threatened in our community and bring them to the attention of our congregation/organization.

If on Facebook, “Like” the Interfaith Alliance of Colorado to enable us to be informed of opportunities to be a witness for equality and justice for all.

What other ways can our congregation be active in assuring that all people experience community life and systems of our society based on “liberty and justice for all?”

All people are free and empowered to thrive

To thrive indicates more than ”just making it.” It connotes to flourish or to grow vigorously. When applied to a person’s life, we see that person demonstrating great growth toward a fullness of life – shalom!

For a person to thrive: he/she must be free from poverty, hunger, oppression and prejudice. To thrive, she/he must be empowered by education, wellness, opportunity and a sense of belonging and encouragement.

How can our congregation be an instrument of making sure people in our community are free and empowered to thrive?


TO BE AN INTERFAITH FORCE FOR GOOD

What changes (organizationally and priorities) will our congregation/organization have to make to BE an Interfaith Force for Good? How do we make those changes?


RESOURCES

The First Amendment
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.
www.law.cornell.edu/constitution/first_amendment

Striking A Balance: Advancing Civil and Human Rights While Preserving Religious Liberty
http://civilrightsdocs.info/pdf/reports/2016/religious-liberty-report-WEB.pdf

Indiana
The law: https://iga.in.gov/legislative/2015/bills/senate/101#digest-heading
Why a big deal: www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/04/01/indiana-religious-freedom_n_6984156.html
Revised law: www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2015/04/02/indiana-religious-freedom-law-deal-gay-discrimination/70819106/

North Carolina
www.charlotteobserver.com/news/local/article67845317.html

Georgia
www.cnn.com/2016/04/05/us/mississippi-governor-signs-religious-freedom-bill/
www.cnn.com/2016/03/25/opinions/georgia-religious-freedom-law-threatens-lgbt-rights-holbrook/
North Carolina – Georgia
www.cnn.com/2016/03/28us/georgia-north-carolina-lgbt-bills/

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