As representatives of Jewish and Christian traditions in Fort Worth, we write to express our dismay about recent examples of the absence of religious tolerance and civility in our state and city.
We witnessed the failure to assure our Muslim brothers and sisters were made welcome in their state capitol. We also witnessed the protest in Fort Worth to the prayer of Imam Moujahed M. Bakhach as he invited God’s blessing on the Stock Show rodeo.
We appreciate the quick response of our governor, who reaffirmed the right of all Texans to enjoy the freedom of religion and the obligation to support tolerance and civility in our public life.
Our founders assured us both the right to freedom of religion and the freedom from privileging any one religion. The assurance of these rights is the obligation of every American and certainly every elected official.
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These constitutional rights are only secure for any American when they are protected and assured for every American.
The decision of the Fort Worth Stock Show and Rodeo to recognize and include representatives of the many religious traditions in our community is one we truly welcome and applaud.
We believe the ruptures in the fabric of our common life that became visible recently in Austin and at the FWSSR present an opportunity.
We call on city and county officials to work with leaders in religious communities to move beyond the minimal expectations of tolerance and civility in matters of religious faith and to help us develop deeper understanding and trust for one another as neighbors.
This will not be simple, but it would be a very positive step. It will begin with honesty and a readiness to listen and learn from one another.
For example, Christians know that our record even in assuring rights to tolerance is deeply flawed.
Recent history attests to crosses turned into flaming signs of hate and burning churches, tolerance of religiously motivated hate speech, and desecrated synagogues and mosques.
We must not allow these kinds of actions to go uncontested. Just as Christians and Jews are anguished by those who pervert our religions in the service of political violence, so our Muslim neighbors reject the perversion of their faith by political extremists.
The meaning of the word Islam is peace.
In the sacred scriptures of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam — where many of the same stories and ethical commitments are found — we are mandated to love our neighbors not simply as an act of tolerance but because in them we are invited to see the very face of God.
In extending hospitality to those we might consider strangers, we “entertain angels unaware,” and we deepen our own experience of God’s love made real in acts of hospitality, justice and compassion.
Deepening interreligious understanding and trust among people in our city will strengthen the bonds that hold us together as a community.
The sacred scriptures of Judaism, Christianity and Islam call us to seek the welfare of the city because God calls us to honor and support the well-being of all people as children of God. May it be so.
The Rev. Dr. Warner M. Bailey, Brite Divinity School; Dr. Cheryl Kimberling, president, Multicultural Alliance; Rev. Walter McDonald, pastor, Baker Chapel A.M.E. Church; Rabbi Ralph D. Mecklenburger, Beth-El Congregation; The Rev. Dr. Nancy J. Ramsay, Brite Divinity School; The Rev. Karl Travis, pastor, First Presbyterian Church; The Rev. Melinda Veatch, executive director, Tarrant Churches Together.