No such thing as ‘second-class’ faith, White House asserts

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WASHINGTON (RNS) Amid rising rhetoric and crimes against American Muslims in the wake of recent terror attacks, the White House on Thursday (Dec. 17) broadcast a counter message about religious pluralism.

“There are no second-class faiths in the U.S.A.,” Melissa Rogers, head of the White House Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships, said at a forum on American religious pluralism in a building next to the White House.

But lately, some Americans have been eager to showcase their anti-Muslim attitudes.

After terror attacks committed by Muslims in Paris and San Bernardino, Calif., GOP presidential front-runner Donald Trump called for a ban on Muslims entering the U.S. Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson has said he would not vote for a Muslim for president. Mosques have suffered a spate of vandalism.


READ: Anti-Muslim rhetoric puts Sikhs on edge too


Rogers opened the White House forum, “Celebrating and Protecting America’s Tradition of Religious Pluralism,” calling for Americans of different religious faiths to strive for more than tolerance.

“Pluralism is about participation and engagement with one another across our differences, not simply co-existing beside one another,” she said, paraphrasing Harvard University religion professor Diana Eck, who runs the Pluralism Project.

Neither does pluralism mean a homogenization of religious beliefs, Rogers continued. Rather, it asks us “bring our various particularities and beliefs to the table of conversation.”

The forum highlighted the increasing diversity of the nation’s religious landscape. About two-thirds of senior citizens are white and Christian, as opposed to 3 in 10 of Americans under 30, Robert Jones, CEO of the Public Religion Research Institute, pointed out to the gathering. “That’s a really big sea change,” he said.


READ: Vice president joins faith leaders in condemning anti-Muslim rhetoric


The White House invited secularists to the event, making the point that people who have no religious affiliation are a fast-growing group, and now account for about 1 in 5 Americans.

Naim Baig, president of the Islamic Circle of North America, who had been invited to the forum but was unable to attend, said he appreciated any effort to counter religious bigotry.

“I can’t imagine any other place in the world where you see such a beautiful representation of faith,” he said of the United States. But “people who are spreading hatred need to be called ‘haters,'” he continued.

Today people are targeting Muslims, “tomorrow it may be someone else.”

Video courtesy of The White House via YouTube

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  • The Atheist Constitution of the United States continues to protect us all:

    “Congress shall make no law establishing a religion..” – US CONSTITUTION

    NO RELIGION SHALL RULE OVER ANYONE ELSE!

    AND I LOVE IT!

  • RMW

    I’m not American so your Constitution is meaningless to me. But doesn’t it go on to say “..or prohibiting the free exercise thereof’?
    And while we’re at it, I heard that recently Oklahoma banned Islamic sharia law from being implemented, only for that ban to be overturned by a court. Does that mean one day Oklahoma and maybe the rest of the US must implement sharia law?

  • Sharia Law (like all religious law) is already banned by the Constitution.
    Any person has the right to subject themselves to any religious rules they want as long as they do not force others to do so.

    The Oklahoma law banning Sharia Law is silly, fearful nonsense – since it is redundant. The people of Oklahoma often forget there is no enforcement of Christianity either.

    Creationism and forced school prayer is the Christian version of Sharia Law. Christians try to impose this nonsense on schools all the time without realizing it opens the door to exactly the Sharia Law they are afraid of.

    The best defense against Sharia Law is the full Separation of Church and State as written into the Constitution.

  • RMW

    “Sharia Law (like all religious law) is already banned by the Constitution.”
    “The Oklahoma law banning Sharia Law is silly, fearful nonsense – since it is redundant.”
    Taking those two together, it may be that one day your Constitution itself maybe overturned – maybe for being silly fearful nonsense.

    “The best defense against Sharia Law is the full Separation of Church and State as written into the Constitution.”
    First of all, the usual meaning of ‘Church’ is probably irrelevant to Sharia in the first place, therefore separation of church and state is meaningless to it.
    Second of all, in your court case of Lemon v Kurtzman, your Supreme Court did say “”Our prior holdings do not call for total separation between church and state; total separation is not possible in an absolute sense. Some relationship between government and religious organizations is inevitable.”

  • @RMW,

    “Church is probably irrelevant to Sharia…”

    Wrong. You are not paying any attention.
    “Church” refers to all religion. “CHURCH” means Sharia, or Catholic law, Protestant Law…or ANY religious law.

    “Constitution may be overturned”

    Not a chance. The Constitution enshrines rights for everyone and only Trump supporters are interested in destroying it, they are a very small portion of the population who are ignorant nobodies.

    “Congress shall make no law establishing a religion..” – Constitution
    That is the separation of church (meaning religion) and state (meaning the government). End of story.

  • RMW

    @Atheist Max
    ““Church” refers to all religion.”
    Never heard of any such assertion anywhere.

    “Not a chance.”
    Who are you to say? You’ve got future-seeing powers now?

    ““Congress shall make no law establishing a religion..”
    And it goes on to say, “..“..or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…”

  • Larry

    “@Atheist Max
    ““Church” refers to all religion.”
    Never heard of any such assertion anywhere. ”

    Because you are ignorant and/or dishonest. “Separation of church and state” is not worded as such in the Constitution. It is the underlying concept of the Establishment Clause. It is a concept that one separates religion from the apparatus of government. The word “Church” is used because the phrase came from a minister (Roger Williams). One criticizing the homegrown Christian Theocratic state of the Puritan Massachusetts Bay Colony.

    “Church” is meant to describe all faiths. In any honest reading of the phrase that is understood. One does not expect 17th century theologians to give much credence to other religions being given government authority.

    Christian fundamentalists have nothing of value to contribute towards combating religious based terrorism of the Islamicists. Christians fundies only enable Islamic fundies with their nonsense.

  • I disagree, as Christians don’t go about stoning/beheading/whipping/immolating non believers,