Saturday, April 11, 2015

Truth and Meaning: Religious Freedom Amplified

The Founders of the United States were religious people. Our second President John Adams, a Unitarian, epitomized a sound partnership between State and Church. He wrote, "... it is Religion and Morality alone, which can establish the Principles upon which Freedom can securely stand." Adams experienced in his time a movement similar to what we face today — radical fundamentalists bullying their way into office and forcing their particular brand of religion on others. To this movement, Adams said,
"We have now, it seems a National Bible Society, to propagate King James's Bible through all nations. Would it not be better to apply these pious subscriptions to purify Christendom from the corruptions of Christianity ... I see in every Page, something to recommend Christianity in its Purity and something to discredit its corruptions ... The Ten Commandments and the Sermon on the Mount contain my Religion."
Critical to understanding Adams, however, was his view Christianity was not the only viable religion. Adams was well read and had enormous respect for Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism and other world religions. Adams even supported nonbelievers, when he said that "Government has no right to hurt a hair on the head of an atheist for his opinions." What Adams could not abide was the pompous priesthood of organized churches that stifled free inquiry. He wrote to Thomas Jefferson of his disgust with the use of the Cross as a tool for war, torture and oppression. "... knavish priests have added prostitutions of it, that fill the blackest and bloodiest pages of human history."

Our Founders would have found current efforts to impose so-called religious freedom laws as repugnant and un-American. Jefferson would clearly have seen these laws as an attempt to impose Christianity as a State Religion on all by sanctioning discrimination by the majority against the religious minorities. If they were alive today, Adams and Jefferson would rail against such attacks on the peoples' right to be free from the religious practices of others. Jefferson wrote,
"Almighty God hath created the mind free, and manifested his supreme will that free it shall remain by making it altogether insusceptible of restraint; that all attempts to influence it by temporal punishments, or burthens, or by civil incapacitations, tend only to beget habits of hypocrisy and meanness ... that the impious presumption of legislature and ruler, civil as well as ecclesiastical, who, being themselves but fallible and uninspired men, have assumed dominion over the faith of others, setting up their own opinions and modes of thinking as the only true and infallible, and as such endeavoring to impose them on others, hath established and maintained false religions over the greatest part of the world and through all time ... that our civil rights have no dependence on our religious opinions, any more than our opinions in physics or geometry."
What basis would Adams and Jefferson have relied upon to ensure religious freedom? In a letter to his young nephew, Jefferson recommended reading the sacred texts of religions and using his own powers of reason as guide.
"Do not be frightened from this inquiry by any fear of its consequences. If it ends in a belief that there is no god, you will find incitements to virtue in the comfort and pleasantness you feel in its exercise, and the love of others which it will procure you. If you find reason to believe there is a God, a consciousness that you are acting under his eye, and that he approves you, will be a vast additional incitement; if that there be a future state, the hope of a happy existence in that increases the appetite to deserve it; if that Jesus was also a god, you will be comforted by a belief of his aid and love."
Adams agreed, saying that "The only foundation of a free Constitution is pure Virtue." The incitement to virtue is the true path to religious freedom. Loving your neighbor, helping the needy, freeing the oppressed. Religious freedom is not about your right to do as you please. Religious freedom is not about imposing your beliefs on others you have committed yourself to serve. Religious freedom is about inciting the virtue in every person to love all people and to respect all their glorious diversity.

When government passes laws protecting discrimination on the basis of religious beliefs, it condones theocracy by indirectly permitting the establishment of a state religion consisting of the doctrines of the religious majority. But freedom of religion is a civil right and must not be subject to popular opinion. Our Founders understood that the best manifestation of religious belief was through the inculcation of virtue among the people. Let us remind our elected officials that they cannot legislate honor, trust, respect and dedication. Those traits of the people derive from virtue built from Love and Understanding.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Truth and Meaning: Religious Freedom Simplified

You run a business in a small town in Indiana. You have lived in this town your entire life and you know everyone who lives here. You are a devout Christian and you live your life according to the teachings of Jesus. How can you know if your Constitutionally-guaranteed freedom of religion is being violated?

Let's say that one day, 10 different customers enter your store. Now that your state has passed a Religious Freedom Restoration Act, you might decide to not to serve certain people because doing so violates your religious beliefs. Which of the following customers would you turn away?
  1. A teenager that spent time in a juvenile facility for petty larceny.
  2. A homemaker who needs help with her drinking problem.
  3. The local state representative who used incendiary mailers to defeat his last opponent.
  4. A Muslim who attends a mosque in a nearby town.
  5. The loan officer at the town bank.
  6. A local pig farmer.
  7. The town fortune teller and expert on horoscopes.
  8. A man who is sleeping with his neighbor's wife.
  9. A woman who has not been baptized.
  10. A gay man.
If you picked #10, then you believe that your religion preaches that homosexuality is an abomination. If, however, you did not also pick ALL of the other nine, then your judgment about the gay customer is not truly based on religious beliefs, but on prejudice. If you do not refuse all 10 of these customers, then you are condoning either stealing, drunkenness, giving false witness, heathen worship, usury, eating impure foods, wizardry and magic, covetousness, and unrepentance - all sins according to your Bible.

So the very simple question is this: Are your basing your decision to serve any particular customer on your religious beliefs, or simply on your personal bias against certain groups of people you feel are sinful?

Here is another way to look at it. Let's say that these same 10 customers enter your store. What possible actions that you could take would you deem inappropriate according to your religious beliefs?
  1. Looking the other way because the teen is just acting out.
  2. Selling the homemaker a flask of whiskey.
  3. Printing the incendiary flyers for the state representative.
  4. Selling the Muslim a rug that might be used for prayer.
  5. Co-signing a loan for a friend.
  6. Buying bacon and homemade sausages to sell to others.
  7. Asking what is in store for Aquarians today.
  8. Selling the man a box of condoms.
  9. Selling the woman a gun.
  10. Taking an order for a rainbow-colored wedding cake.
Again, if you picked #10, then you believe that your action would facilitate homosexuality and offer tacit approval of marriage equality. But if you did not pick ALL of the other nine, then you are discriminating not on the basis of religion, but because of your bias against gays.

You are not God. It is not your task to sit in judgment of others. You are not pouring the whiskey down the woman's throat. You are not defaming a virtuous candidate. You are not forcing people to perform acts of ritual impurity. You are not condoning adultery. And you are not giving a sociopath license to kill. Neither are you putting two men in a bed and telling them to have sex. You are baking a cake. That's it.

If you want to run a business according to your religious principles, fine. But, you don't get to pick which rules of your denomination you will follow and which you will not, because that is not faith - that is discrimination and a violation of basic civil and human rights.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Truth and Meaning: Agenda Alert

We all face challenges in life. Taking classes, working at jobs, paying taxes, and a host of other responsibilities consume our time — time we might prefer to spend with loved ones and good friends. We care about our city, its parks and schools. We care about our neighbors and the well being of all in our community.

You might not want to hear about one more challenge, especially if you feel it does not impact you directly. But as Midlanders, as Michiganders, as Americans, whatever our religious beliefs, we must consider all people because our morals tell us to help the underprivileged and to stand against oppressors.

In recent weeks, you may have heard and read about a number of news stories relating to gay and transgender people in Midland. If you do not know any gay people, or understand the nature of being a transgender person, you might have set these stories aside. Hearing people that you perhaps respect speak out, you may have trusted their judgment based on their authority or committed resolve.

The first realization you should face, however, is that you do know gay people. You might not know who they are — neighbors, co-workers, store owners, or members of your church — but you know them. And the time to attend to these people in your life has arrived.

As concerned citizens, the plight of your gay and transgender friends and neighbors should matter because people with an insidious agenda live among us. These people are obsessed with gay and transgender people, and the perception that their presence constitutes a danger. Sadly, a leader of these fanatics now represents Midland in the Michigan State House of Representatives. Gary Glenn’s long-time compulsive hatred of gay and transgender people resurfaced in recent days via postings on his Facebook pages — pages that purport to represent the interests of his constituents.

Now, like all citizens, Representative Glenn has the right to hold opinions and we, as his constituents, deserve to hear them. At its core, our republic functions in large part because of the transparency of our elected officials and the rights of citizens to engage in conversation with their representatives. Glenn’s recent actions placed the issues of whether gays and transgender people should be protected from discrimination at the forefront of our attention. The problem, however, lies with the fact that when someone posts a comment of concern, or an opinion that dares to disagree with Representative Glenn on his Facebook pages, the comment quickly disappears and the poster is often barred from posting again. Many of his constituents also report no attempt on the part of their elected representative to respond to letters and emails.

This censorship and unresponsiveness to the concerns of his constituents grew in recent weeks. Our state faces major challenges relating to the economy, education, the environment and crumbling infrastructure. Glenn, however, spends much of his valuable time pursuing a personal war against a group only seeking fair treatment. A gay person in Michigan currently has absolutely no protection from being fired by an employer, or evicted by a landlord simply because they were born gay. Whatever your personal opinion about homosexuality, such legalized discrimination is abhorrent.

Gary Glenn has been the long-time president and voice of the Michigan chapter of the American Family Association. The AFA publishes diatribes that incite unwarranted distrust of gay and transgender people using allegations unproven by the vast majority of medical research and unsubstantiated by every major medical association. The Southern Poverty Law Center, an organization committed to teaching tolerance among all people, maintains a list of extremist hate groups. The AFA shares a place on that list with notable stains on the American landscape, such as the Aryan Brotherhood, the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, and the Westboro Baptist Church.

If Gary Glenn, citizen, wishes to peddle his filth about people who have done nothing to harm him, that is his right. But as an elected official, one might reasonably expect more decorum and certainly more validated proof of his insinuations and accusations — claims that are rapidly turning our city into a national joke.
  • His sponsorship of House Bills 4188, 4189, and 4190, which will allow agencies to legally discriminate against qualified and loving gay and lesbian couples seeking to adopt some of Michigan’s thousands of parentless children, is unconscionable.
  • His support of businesses to discriminate against gays and transgender people based on religious beliefs, while at the same time chiding Planet Fitness for its inclusive policy that assumes the inherent worth and dignity of all people, is hypocrisy at it finest. On March 9, he clearly presumed that transgender people are dangerous when he posted that the Planet Fitness policy “threatens the safety of its female customers.”
  • His snide reaction on March 22 to the promotion of Tony Lascari at the Midland Daily News lacked the class we should expect from someone in his position. He posted, “Agenda Alert -- Midland Daily News’ new news editor: political science major who ‘lives in Midland with (his) husband.’”
  • His March 24 opposition to the recommendation of the State Civil Rights Commission regarding nondiscrimination protections based on a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity is mean-spirited and un-Christian. He posted “that local gay and gender identity rights laws are a ‘solution in search of a nonexistent problem.’”
  • And the dismissive tone of Glenn’s staff when responding to the Midland Daily News’ inquiry about his censorship of and lack of response to citizen queries (as reported on March 25) was evasive and arrogant.
This endless crusade against gay and transgender people embarrasses us. The First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States guarantees many bold and important rights for the American people. Government must never establish a state religion. Citizens have the right to speak their minds. And we have the right to redress our grievances to our elected officials and be heard. Representative Glenn’s attempts to legalize religion-based discrimination, stifle public comments, and ignore the opinions of his constituents represents not simply poor judgment, but a fundamental attack on the American way of governance.

So please be alert. There are people with an agenda — an agenda aimed at destroying families and undermining our ideals of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. These people present a real public menace by threatening innocent gay and transgender adults and children and their families, and by promoting discrimination, bullying, suicide, and homelessness among people who only want to live joyful and productive lives, just like you. This agenda rejects our commitment as moral creatures to love our neighbors and to leave judgment of others to the greater power of the universe. Write to Gary Glenn and tell him that you do not share his homophobic and transphobic agenda. Hold him accountable to communicate with you and not discard your concerns without regard. Tell your representative that you believe his actions against gay and transgender people are neither loving or just, and that his pursuit of this agenda is un-American.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Truth and Meaning: Community Values

In the past week, our state representative in Lansing has raised the issue of Midland's "community values." You might wonder if you can go somewhere to read an articulation of exactly what those values might be.

Last year, 100 community leaders were brought together by a partnership of the Midland Area Chamber of Commerce, the City of Midland and Midland Tomorrow to determine how we might best plan for the long-term success of our community. The expressed purpose of this group was "to enhance prosperity in Midland County by gathering key stakeholders to envision our best future through sharing ideas, building productive relationships and aligning economic development efforts." The process of developing a strategic plan required the group to answer the fundamental question, "What do we know to be true?"

After months of work, a report was issued that can be viewed at the Midland Area Community Foundation website at Among the nine Key Performance Areas was this statement on Diversity. "Midland County is committed to equality and inclusion and welcomes, embraces and accepts all people."

All people. That includes a commitment to not discriminate against anyone based on their heritage or culture, their physical attributes or their station in society. And in our group discussions, it also specifically included a commitment to welcome, embrace and accept anyone regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

Our state representative has recently expressed concern that people assuming new responsibilities in the community might use their new position "to promote a political agenda or bias that’s at odds with our community’s values. When it comes to holding people in positions of public influence accountable, the more public awareness, the better.” I could not agree more.

Representative Glenn, the leaders of this community have already spoken and have already detailed our community values in writing. The public is becoming more aware of your opposition to equality for certain residents of our community. Your strident unwillingness to welcome, embrace and accept your constituents based on their sexual orientation or gender identity is well-documented in your public pronouncements.

You are using your new position to promote a political agenda and a religious bias that is at odds with our community values. Therefore, the citizens of Midland County must hold you accountable for your attempts to influence the public through your homophobic and transphobic agenda. Whatever votes may have happened 10 years ago, or a century ago, have little relevance. The people of Midland County today — your constituents — are telling you to stop. Stop silencing our voices. Stop acting as if you speak for all of us. And stop ignoring our community values.

I also call on the leaders of our city and county to help Representative Glenn understand our community values by clarifying our commitment to nondiscrimination. The time has come to include sexual orientation and gender identity among the classes of people protected from discrimination in our welcoming community. Embracing and accepting our gay and transgender neighbors means protecting them from losing their jobs or their homes because of who they are or who they love.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Truth and Meaning: Gender Confusion

Recently, our state representative here in Midland, Michigan was quoted in the press as saying that the policy of Planet Fitness regarding transgender individuals threatens the safety of women. He called their policy "anti-woman" and added that it "violates the privacy, comfort and peace of mind of women."

Perhaps it is really Rep. Gary Glenn who is confused about the notion of gender and what it really means to be "anti-woman."

Here are some real "anti-woman" policies:
  • Failing to close the ongoing pay equity gap between men and women;
  • Opposing efforts to raise the minimum wage or require that businesses provide paid sick leave, both of which disproportionately affect women;
  • Forcing women to pay additional insurance premiums for medical treatment to which they are legally entitled;
  • Proclaiming the unsuitability of two women to raise children without the presence of a man;
  • Denying loving and committed women the legal rights afforded heterosexual couples;
  • Basing political opinions on the malicious and groundless lie that gay and transgender people are pedophiles and rapists;
  • Opposing efforts to educate children about gender identity and categorizing anti-bullying legislation as an insidious tactic of the dreaded gay agenda;
  • Undermining efforts to provide affordable health care to women and girls living in poverty;
  • Attacking health care agencies providing important services to women, especially in the more remote areas of the state;
  • Fighting against hate crime legislation that would protect straight women of color, lesbians and transgender women from harassment, abuse and violence;
  • Helping men whose wives have taken out Personal Protection Orders against them for domestic violence buy guns;
  • Denying spousal benefits to the partners of unmarried employees;
  • And falsely laying claim to the mythical moral high ground of "traditional family values" that will only serve to deny women basic freedoms and dignity.
Perhaps most ironic in Rep. Glenn's stance is the utter hypocrisy of his position relative to businesses. On the one hand, he wants to give companies free reign to discriminate against women on the basis of the religious beliefs of the owners. But, on the other hand, he condemns Planet Fitness for its enlightened and compassionate policy respecting the individual's right to define their own gender identity. Do you support businesses taking moral stands, or not, Rep. Glenn? You cannot have it both ways.

The most dangerous threat to the privacy, comfort and peace of mind of women in Michigan is not gay or transgender people. It is not Planet Fitness and its policies regarding gender identity. The most dangerous and anti-woman threat in Michigan — the person most truly confused about gender — is you.

To support the fight against discrimination in Michigan, please sign and forward our petition calling for protection of our trans* community.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Truth and Meaning: Silence and Selma

The greatness of a quotation sometimes surpasses time and context. We often do not know for certain the origin of a great quote because so many people adapted the message over the years that its roots got lost in history.

“The only thing needed for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” We attribute this statement most frequently to the British statesman Edmund Burke. The basic concept, however, dates back many centuries further, at least to Talmudic writings. Another variation of the quote reads, “All tyranny needs to gain a foothold is for men of good conscience to remain silent.” While widely attributed to Thomas Jefferson, no such quote exists in his writings.

In the end, the source of the idea bears little relevance. The sentiment remains as true today as ever in the course of human history. Wrongdoing requires not only the will on the part of the perpetrator, but the blind eye and closed lips of the spectator. Evil and tyranny can only succeed with the consent of the masses, either through indifference, complacency or silence.

What is evil?

Few of us would deny the presence of evil in the world. But what exactly constitutes evil? Is evil the counterbalancing force of good? Is evil a malignant mutation of good? Is evil a concept relative to the society’s sense of immorality? Is evil anything that causes suffering, whether natural or human-made?

Since we can do little about floods and hurricanes, let us deal only with human acts of evil. I believe we can characterize an evil act as possessing three essential characteristics — the act is intentional, harmful and unrepentant. In order to commit an evil act, we must first intend to commit evil. The act must cause direct or indirect harm or suffering to others. And we must feel no remorse for the act or its consequences.

For example, accidentally harming another person is not evil because you had no intent. Wishing harm on someone is not evil if no harm comes to the person as a result. And harming someone intentionally is not evil if you truly regret your action and seek forgiveness.

Therefore, actions by those who don’t call god by the same name as you are not inherently evil. Acts by those of a different nation, skin color, sexual orientation or social class are not by definition evil. Evil comprises acts perpetrated counter to the universal themes of the religious teachings of humanity. Therefore, for instance, all murder is evil. Continuing failure to love your neighbors unconditionally is evil. Ongoing idol worshiping — be it money, guns, power or status — constitutes evil.

The magnitude of evil

Obviously, some evil acts exceed others in severity. Genocide, torture and institutionalized oppression are the acts of nations. Individual citizens can hardly be held completely accountable for the acts of nations. Generally speaking, the larger the act or authority of the perpetrator, the less personal responsibility we bear.

Some responsibility for national acts, however, does exist for individuals. Every white American of European ancestry carries a small portion of blame for the mass murder of indigenous peoples. Every male American can be held accountable for our shocking statistics of sexual assault and domestic violence against women and children. Every straight American shares culpability in hate crimes against gay and transgender individuals.

I doubt that any reader of this editorial ever killed an indigenous American. I hope none of you has ever raped a woman, or beat a child. And few of you have assaulted a gay person, or murdered a transgender man or woman. And, if you did commit one of these direct acts of evil, our criminal justice system has procedures for dealing with this evil. The system falls far short of perfection, but we make a strong social commitment to the attempt. Regardless, because we support our institutions, we all share in the imperfections of our social systems.

In addition, we are, and cannot be perfectly moral creatures, so we are all directly guilty of some acts of evil. These acts may be small, almost minuscule. We cheat on a test, take claim for another’s work, fudge some numbers to get a more favorable result. We all bear the burden of evil in some small way.

Eradicating evil

No amount of faith, prayer or good intentions will eradicate evil. To destroy evil, we must act. Following basic rules of morality is a good start. Whether you read the Torah, the Gospels, the Qur’an, or any other sacred text, you will find a common core of sound ethical rules — don’t kill, don’t steal, don’t lie, help people, love others as you love yourself.

But while those rules help eliminate evil acts from your personal life, they do not help with the larger evils. Those rules did not help America from enslaving millions of African Americans; from polluting every river; from keeping millions needlessly in poverty; from abandoning veterans, the homeless and those who suffer from mental illness; and from allowing advocacy groups and lobbyists to reduce our democracy to a commodity to be purchased.

In his novel “1984,” George Orwell envisioned a society where war means peace; hate means love; spying means freedom; and conformity means happiness. Those are the conditions of a dystopian society. Those are the conditions of hell.

Silence = Death

In 1987, six gay activists in New York began plastering posters around the city featuring a pink triangle on a black background stating simply “SILENCE = DEATH.” The symbol derived from Nazi Germany, when known homosexuals in concentration camps were forced to wear inverted pink triangle badges, just as Jews were forced to wear the yellow Star of David. The Silence = Death Project compared the Nazi period with the AIDS crisis, declaring that “silence about the oppression and annihilation of gay people, then and now, must be broken as a matter of our survival.” The slogan thus protested both taboos around discussing safer sex and society’s unwillingness to resist injustice and indifference.

Fifty years ago, events in Selma, Ala. created a similar moment of people coming together to combat evil. There, on the Edmund Pettus Bridge, armed officers attacked 600 peaceful civil rights demonstrators attempting to march to the state capital of Montgomery. That day, March 7, 1965, became known as Bloody Sunday. The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. subsequently called upon clergy and citizens to come to Selma to stand united against the injustice of racism and the indifference of society to the plight of Negroes in the South.

Shocked by the televised images of savagery against unarmed and peaceful marchers, his call was answered. Two days later, a second march of 2,500 people crossed the bridge, prayed and then obeyed a court order to return to Selma. That night, Unitarian Universalist minister James Reeb was brutally murdered outside a KKK hangout in town by four white men. The subsequent shooting of Viola Liuzzo, a Unitarian Universalist homemaker from Detroit, prompted the federal government to act. The march from Selma to Montgomery was successfully completed a week later.

A new model

Many people died to secure the civil rights of African Americans. Tragically, more work remains. Quiet acceptance of institutionalized poverty, racial profiling, unjust incarceration and shooting of African American men, and recent assaults on voting rights have continued our legacy of oppression into the 21st century. Today, this work requires sankofa. Sankofa is a word from the Akan language of Ghana often associated with the proverb, “Se wo were fi na wosankofa a yenkyi,” which translates as: “It is not wrong to go back for that which you have forgotten.” Sankofa means that we sometimes must look backwards and learn from our past before we can move forward into the future.

We need to look back, to remember the events and people in Selma 50 years ago. We need to hear the voices raised up in song and prayer. And we need to channel those voices now through our own mouths. For we as individuals can only fight the evils of society by speaking out. We can remain silent no longer, because silence only means more evil, more tyranny, more death.

Buckminster Fuller once said, “You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.” We cannot change unjust laws and practices through our current model. At a time when we are electing representatives who are intellectually dogmatic, scientifically illiterate and religiously bigoted, we cannot look to government for change. We must be the change. With our voices, we can change society by saying that we will no longer accept our nation’s evils. We must stand united and shout as one that we will no longer accept needless suffering at the hands of special interests; we will longer accept the rule of violence and force; and we will no longer accept the dismantling of our inalienable freedoms by misers, bullies and zealots.

We must come together and reject the Newspeak saying that religious discrimination equals religious freedom; that right to fire equals right to work; that privatized profit equals free markets; that easy access to guns equals more safety; that homophobia equals family values; and that anti-woman equals pro-life.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Truth and Meaning: The Infallibility of Fallibility

Most of our problems today boil down to one root cause. Far too many people consider themselves, their ideas, their beliefs, their faith to be the one and only Truth. This fundamentalist way of thinking creates in our social discourse a false dualism - I am right and you are wrong. The middle ground gets obliterated and compromise means catastrophic failure.

Sadly, this disease is spreading. Some oppose anything a president does because he or she is from the wrong party. Any attempt to impose limits on access to guns is labeled by some as violating the core tenets of our Constitution. Some seek to ban all abortion, even when the fetus is brain dead and threatening the life of the mother.

American poet and artist Ezra Pound once said, "The technique of infamy is to invent two lies and get people arguing heatedly over which one of them is true." Two of the largest infamous lies facing this nation today are White supremacy and religious infallibility.

White supremacy is insidious because it preys upon our passive acceptance of privilege granted merely because of skin color. White supremacy whispers in your ear that Black and Latino cultures are inferior; that Jews are Untermenschen (subhuman); that social engineers have orchestrated the demise of White people; and that the history of North America began when White Europeans arrived to clear the land of savages. Cloaked in the disguise of love of family, White supremacy today still wears the hood and sheet that made yesterday's murderers anonymous. Embracing discredited science and social paranoia, White supremacy proclaims that those artificially forcing the different races together are the true enemy.

Religious infallibility is the doctrine that nothing you do in life matters unless you meet some precondition of faith. Salvation rests on accepting without question the literal words of some ancient document, regardless of its context or linguistic devices. Religious infallibility preaches from the rooftops that all Muslims are engaged in a holy war against you; Jews killed Jesus so they deserve any punishment God doles out to them; and Christians sit in judgment damning all others to eternal hell fire. Cloaked in the perceived purity of self-righteousness, religious infallibility brands gay people abominations unworthy of marriage equality or the ability to adopt children. Religious infallibility clings to political control like a bloated leech, seeking to turn every nation into a theocracy of injustice and intolerance.

Both of these lies are the product of small fanatical groups. Most people with light skin color do not hate those with darker skin. Most religious people are open to learning about other religions and participating in interfaith dialogue and works of charity. But the strength of these fanatics derives from an irrational conviction that they are incapable of error, and that anyone who views the world through a different lens is blinding themselves to their Truth.

That is why I am a Unitarian Universalist. We embrace fallibility. We acknowledge fallibility as a human trait. By affirming the infallibility of our fallibility, we are free to question, to search for truth and meaning wherever that search leads us. By believing that no one group has a monopoly on the Truth, we find value in all religions and philosophies. And by using our gifts of reason and compassion, we separate the freedom to believe from the freedom to oppress. By applying our gifts to the cause of justice and equality, we challenge those who would use their beliefs to discriminate, to cause harm to others.

Affirming the inherent worth and dignity of every person, and respecting the spiritual growth of others requires that we label White supremacy and religious infallibility as the lies they truly are. For the only infallible attribute of humankind is its fallibility - its susceptibility to the lies of the infamous.