Rabbi Saperstein: "We hope you will make clear your commitment to religious liberty in the context of this matter by reconsidering your decision to pull advertising in the face of anti-Muslim sentiments and establish clear policies related to your advertising practices when issues of religious tolerance and liberties arise."
Washington, D.C., December 13, 2011 - Yesterday, Rabbi David Saperstein, Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, sent a letter to Mr. Richard Niblock, the Chairman, President, and CEO of Lowe's. The full text of the letter follows:
Dear Mr. Niblock,
On behalf of the Union for Reform Judaism whose 900 congregations across North America encompass 1.5 million Reform Jews, and the Central Conference of American Rabbis, with membership of more than 1800 Reform rabbis, we write concerning Lowe's decision to pull its advertisements from the TLC show, "All-American Muslim" after a "significant amount of communication on this program, from every perspective possible," as was noted in your Facebook posting.
That the initial decision to pull your ads was made after objections were raised by groups opposed to advertising on a program that portrays Muslim life in America is deeply concerning. We cannot know the actual reasons for your decision without a clarifying explanation from Lowe's. Accordingly, we are writing to urge you to clarify the rationale of your decision to pull your ad campaign, as your reported decision was vaguely based on "strong political and societal views on this topic." We hope you will make clear your commitment to religious liberty in the context of this matter by reconsidering your decision to pull advertising in the face of anti-Muslim sentiments and establish clear policies related to your advertising practices when issues of religious tolerance and liberties arise.
The past few years have seen a spate of incidents of Islamophobia characterized by bigotry, insensitivity and fear. Muslim-Americans have been the victims of attacks, verbally and physically, and multiple mosques have been desecrated nation-wide. Hate crimes against American Muslims increased by an astounding 50% in the past year. Although there are legitimate conversations to be had about the implicit message behind a program titled "All-American Muslim" (would a program called "All-American Jew" or "All-American Baptist" be acceptable, implying that being Jewish and American or Baptist and American were in some way incompatible?), the decision to pull your advertising gives comfort to those who do not wish Muslims to be part of the fabric of American life.
Our nation was founded by those who were committed to ensuring religious liberty. That commitment stemmed in large part from our Pilgrim forebearers, who fled religious persecution. Today, Muslim Americans are facing a new kind of persecution, based on stereotypes and ignorance. As Jews, who have throughout history been the victims of the worst forms of religious stereotyping, we know all too well the danger that threatens when a religion is demonized. One look at the world today makes clear that the American tradition of religious freedom has allowed a multitude of faiths to thrive in the U.S. in ways unmatched elsewhere in the world. America does not pit faith against faith; we celebrate all faiths and defend the rights of individuals who choose to abide by no faith tradition. That is the noble legacy that has been our hallmark for more than 200 years and has made us the envy of the world.
We look forward to your prompt reply.
Rabbi David Saperstein