Uniting Against Religious Intolerance in a Climate of Fear

Scott Lane and Iknoor Singh at the White House.

Since the devastating attacks in Paris and the mass shooting in San Bernardino, the United States has seen a spike in hate crimes against Muslims, efforts by governors in 30 states to bar the resettlement of Syrian refugees, and dangerous escalation in anti-Muslim rhetoric from presidential contenders.

In an effort to stem the tide of religious intolerance, a variety of civil liberties and faith-based organizations have launched a new campaign, “Know Your Neighbor,” to promote interfaith understanding and protect basic religious freedoms. Last Thursday, the American Civil Liberties Union joined a diverse collection of advocates at the White House, including the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty, the Center for Inquiry, the Hindu American Seva Societies, Muslim Advocates, the National Council of Churches, the Sikh Coalition, and others to help build knowledge and tolerance in this time of increasing divisiveness about religious liberty – a value we believe is at the heart of the American experience. 

The Know Your Neighbor initiative offers a pledge for all to sign, affirming the intention to get to know fellow Americans of all belief systems and to speak out against hatred for and misinformation about others. 

Two of our clients, who attended last week’s campaign launch at the White House, know all too well the importance of the ideals expressed in this pledge. Scott Lane’s stepson, C.C., attended a public school in Louisiana where teachers harassed him because of his Buddhist faith. C.C.’s teacher told his class that Buddhism was “stupid,” and school officials told Scott and his wife that they were in the “Bible Belt” and would have to accept the school’s constant promotion of Christianity and disparagement of C.C.’s faith. 

Iknoor Singh, a Sikh student at Hofstra University, was prohibited from joining ROTC because of his religious appearance, which includes a turban, beard, and unshorn hair. When he applied for a religious accommodation, the Army denied his request (even though they had granted thousands of similar accommodations for non-religious reasons).

With the help of the ACLU, Scott and Iknoor both fought this religious discrimination and won. And the ACLU will continue to defend the religious rights of all, majority and minority faiths alike (see a list of our work in this area here). But, while litigation and advocacy are key tools in protecting religious liberty and religious pluralism, so too is the type of community outreach promoted by Know Your Neighbor.

So, as the New Year approaches, make a resolution: Get to know your neighbor and those in your community, even if you don’t share the same faith or belief systems, and stand up against hate. Now, more than ever, it could be your most important New Year’s resolution to date.

To learn more about the initiative and what you can do to help, go to http://knowyourneighbor.us/.

Add a comment (10)
Read the Terms of Use

Anonymous

The ACLU is nothing but intolerant hypocrites. They have since their beginning tried to eradicate Christianity. They hate Christianity. They hate Jesus. But now they are trying to protect the religion of hate and violence better known as Islam. Muslim are torturing and killing all over this planet. Prediction. There will be more terrorist attacks which will only put Trump in the White House and ostracize Muslims.

Mandy (Former...

Anonymous,
The real terrorists which everyone in this country should be worried about are homegrown terrorists such as White Supremacist groups (the KKK), Militias, and other right winged hate groups.

I'm proud of the ACLU for protecting the rights of minorities who are victimized by "Christian Oppressors".

Lorna

I love how big and brave people can be behind a keyboard. Really, it warms the cockles of my heart.

The ACLU has won hundreds of cases *defending* Christians. They have also fought for the KKK, and other hate groups. The ACLU isn't about hating anyone, their mission is to protect the rights of *everyone*.

Your decision to remain willfully ignorant to this fact, while spouting hatred, and your general contempt towards the idea non-White, non-Christians have rights and deserve equal protection under the law, is heart breaking.

There's this awesome book you should read. It was an eye-opener for me, 'The Bible'. Maybe you've heard of it? It's a little slow in the start, loads of genealogy etc, (reads a bit like 'The Silmarillion') but the second half really picks up! Jesus, sort of the main character of the second half, he's got some wacky ideas about protecting those who are different, feeding the hungry and not concerning yourself with the state of other people's souls.

Guy

They will defend your beliefs if threatened, they will also make sure separation of Church and State is also followed.

Arthi Jacob

A war on Christianity? Did you sprain your back with that stretch? Not only are your views on Islam completely unfounded, it is based on the extremist ideals of militant people that have been discounted time and time again by the Muslim community. Prediction. You will continue leaving these annoyingly ignorant comments.

Anonymous

Bloody Insane to even discuss this. Military has always had certain standards of dress, and if poor Iknoor wants to be in the military, he needs to comply with the military dress code-period end of that discussion. However, the quote about denigrating his Buddhist faith is disgusting, and that is appropriate for redress by the ACLU.

HawkAtreides

You missed something critical - the Army has granted exemptions to other ROTC cadets and even other soldiers on both religious and non-religious grounds. Iknoor Singh's case is not a one-off, nor is it out of line with exemptions the Army had already granted to others.

Lorna

Yes indeed, the U.S. Armed Forces have always had standards of appearance, many have been racially...insensitive, to put it diplomatically. As recently as 2014 the U.S. Army had horribly racist language in their description of "unacceptable" African American hairstyles.

Many cultures and militaries have historically been less than inclusive.

That doesn't make it right.

The status quo is not always the "best" idea. Slavery, denying women the right to vote, marital rape being considered "not a crime", denying non-White vets the GI Bill or VA mortgages they *earned*, were all status quo.

Cultures grow, learn and advance. They see the errors of their history and change. (best case scenario)

In a country as diverse as America, it's sort of vital to learn, grow and change behaviors that are not right. Stagnation is never a good idea.

Anonymous

How about they all sign an agreement to ostracize and inform on radicals in their churches/mosques...anyone who is out to kill in the name of religion; not protect them as they do now...

Child of the On...

What about those who were told to deny Christ or were shot. Did you guys forget about them? Or the people that are small business owners and are being forced to violate their CHRISTIAN beliefs or be sued and close their businesses?

Sign Up for Breaking News