Interfaith Works Responds to Anti-Muslim Remarks by Lacey City Council Member


February 25, 2016

Statement to Lacey City Council by Mary Wharton, Vice President, Interfaith Works Board of Directors:


The mission of Interfaith Works is “social change through interfaith understanding and cooperation.” Established in 1974, our membership includes religious communities and individuals of Protestant, Catholic, Jewish, Muslim, Baha’i, Unitarian Universalist, Buddhist, and many other individual faith and spiritual paths.  As part of promoting interfaith understanding, we stand in support of all those in our community who are targets of discrimination or defamation on the basis of religion, race, ethnicity or culture.

Our members work together locally to end hunger, homelessness, and other forms of suffering, and to care for our besieged planet. Muslim communities in Lacey work as hard as anyone else toward these common goals. Lacey’s Muslim citizens are engineers, doctors, bakers, store owners, department managers for the State of Washington and are fully integrated into our community life.

Freedom of speech is a cherished and unassailable right, but it makes a difference when any of us are defamed by public officials, even on “private” social media, which is not really private.

Postings on social media reflect a world view.  Anyone charged with making civic decisions in a culturally and religiously diverse jurisdiction, as Lacey certainly is, cannot act responsibly based on a world view founded on prejudice, false stereotypes and baldly false facts.  Our leaders are called to treat all citizens with equal dignity and justice.

When a public figure expresses prejudice and fear-mongering, it gives license to all those following or listening – even if it is not the whole public – to give vent to racial, religious and ethnic hatreds that lie dormant in so many of us, just as Mr. Hearn has done.  This is poison for a community.  It pits neighbor against neighbor and can escalate to vandalism and even violence, as has happened more than a few times in our community.

We are aware that the same kinds of ethnic and religious defamation have infected a corner of our national politics. We hope this will not be allowed to happen in Lacey. We also hope that the Lacey community and its leaders will respond with appropriate and meaningful actions that will move us forward together.