Saperstein: The use of divisive, embittering, derogatory language about a religion or about the founding figure of a religion is nothing other than an attempt to delegitimize that religion..
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WASHINGTON, June 20, 2002 - Rabbi David Saperstein, Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, today released the following statement concerning the recent comments on Islam made by Rev. Jerry Vines at the annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention. The full text of the statement follows:
More than nine months after the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, our nation is still trying to heal. Indispensable to that healing is the America's commitment to stand united in opposition to all forms of hate and intolerance, understanding that we must defend vigorously the fundamental freedoms and the American traditions of pluralism and respect for diversity that those who attacked us wished to destroy. Such values are distressingly undermined by Rev. Jerry Vines' recent statements to the Southern Baptist Convention denigrating Islam and by the Convention's refusal to repudiate these comments.
At the annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention on June 10, Rev. Vines, a past president of the Convention, attacked the Muslim religion, stating that "Islam is not just as good as Christianity" and referring to Mohammad, the prophet of Islam, as a "demon-possessed pedophile." Rev. Vines also attacked "religious pluralism," asserting that "Allah is not Jehovah… Jehovah's not going to turn you into a terrorist that will try to bomb people and take the lives of thousands and thousands of people." Rev. Jack Graham, the recently elected president of the Convention, described Rev. Vines' remarks as "accurate," and refused to condemn them.
I urge Rev. Vines and Rev. Graham to immediately retract and apologize for their statements. The use of divisive, embittering, derogatory language about a religion or about the founding figure of a religion is nothing other than an attempt to delegitimize that religion. Most unfortunately, in the context of the spate of hate crimes that, since September 11, have targeted those in the Muslim community, this kind of language will be heard by some as a religious sanction for those who engage in such reprehensible behavior. In the aftermath of the terrorist attacks, President Bush wisely told the nation, "America was targeted for attack because we're the brightest beacon for freedom and opportunity in the world. And no one will keep that light from shining." That light shines for all Americans, and we must not allow anyone - and particularly those who represent religious values - to diminish that light by dividing our nation.
The Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism is the Washington office of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations (UAHC) , whose over 900 congregations across North America encompass 1.5 million Reform Jews , and the Central Conference of American Rabbis(CCAR) whose membership includes over 1800 Reform rabbis .