Tuesday, June 21, 2011

TEXAS FAITH: Should churches be able to hold services in a public school?


William McKenzie/ Editorial Columnist  Tue., Jun. 21, 2011 | Permalink

This week's question comes courtesy of Texas Faith panelist Cindy Rigby, after she read this New York Times article.

The story deals with an evangelical church using a New York public school for its services. According to the article, the church does not pay rent. It instead pays the fee for the custodians.

As the story indicates, this is not the only church to use a New York public school for its services. Churches, mostly evangelical ones, use at least 60 of them.

The Supreme Court, as well as various equal access laws, have held that schools must give religious groups the same access to their facilities that they do all other clubs. But then, as this story indicates, an appellate court ruled in June that New York City could prohibit churches from holding worship services at a public school. As author Katherine Stewart put it, "Using the school system to subsidize houses of worship...risks violating the constitutional ban on the establishment of religion."

But does it? Does the holding of a church service in a public school imply an endorsement of a particular religion?

As you consider this week's question, I would ask you to think about how you would feel if a church group that you support or like wanted to do the same. How would that affect your views? And what separates a church from holding a service there versus, say, an AA group?

We have not dealt with a church/state question, so thanks to Cindy for bringing up the issue.

MIKE GHOUSE, President, Foundation for Pluralism, Dallas

Katherine Stewart's comment in the op-ed piece at the NY Times is wise. As she writes, "In a city blessed with an uncountable number of faiths, it's foolish to get schools tangled up in religion."

Indeed, holding of a church service in a public school implies a tacit endorsement of a particular religion. The group may or may not be affixing their version of the religion on the school building, but it will eventually monopolize zoning and steer (chase) others away.

A conservative value would be what is good for the goose has got to be good for the gander. To build cohesive societies where trust is the norm, and where commitment to the idea of a society where no one is apprehensive of the other becomes customary, we have to treat everyone justly. Fairness ought to be valued by all including the conservatives.

When I and my interest become subservient to the interest of the society at large, no one will lose. In business, one has to be aggressive and selfish to succeed. However, when it is at the cost of other, both will lose at the end.

As a pluralist and a Muslim, I have no problem with "a church that runs a Gender Affirming Ministry Endeavor associated with the movement to "cure" gay men and lesbians," or if the, "movement that instructs its members to pray for a Christian "reformation" of American education and for the election of like-minded political leaders," or a religious group that teaches evolution. All of them should have the access and freedom to preach what they want.

The real problem is why would I want to subsidize a group to use taxpayer's funding?
Muslims have great examples to offer. The mosque in Richardson does not lend its cultural hall to any activity that is ascribable to a particular denomination, including a few groups who celebrate the birth of Prophet Muhammad. A few years ago, Turkey, a Muslim majority democracy, had banned reciting verses from Quran in a city event where people of other faiths were participants.

Indeed, I would urge the ministries using the school for church to hang on to the conservative values of peace and safety for every American, and volunteer to ease out of the situation and not create an entanglement for the school. Let this not be an entitlement.

Even if the school has one child who is an Atheist, Zoroastrian, Native American or a Wicca, he or his parents must have equal access to the facilities to preach his take on the issues. We are a leading civilization of the free world, and we ought to be worth emulating by other nations to create a better world for the benefit of all of God's creation. The best thing for the school is to untangle itself from any religious affiliation.

 Ten Panelists have responded to the question and continue for the other 9 at -http://religionblog.dallasnews.com/archives/2011/06/this-weeks-question-comes-cour.html

Mike Ghouse is committed to building a cohesive America and offers pluralistic solutions on issues of the day. He is a speaker, thinker, writer and a frequent guest on Hannity show and nationally syndicated Radio shows and Dallas TV, Radio and Print Media. Over 1000 articles have been published on Pluralism, Interfaith, Islam, India and cohesive societies. Two of his books are poised to be released this fall on Pluralism and Islam. His work is encapsulated in 27 blogs, four websites and several forums indexed at http://www.mikeghouse.net/.

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quraan burning

Planned Muslim Response to Qur'an Burning by Pastor Jones on September 11 in Mulberry, Florida

August 19, 2013| Dallas, Texas

Mike Ghouse
Text/Talk: (214) 325-1916

Mirza A Beg
(205) 454-8797



We as Muslims plan to respond to pastor Terry Jones' planned burning of 3000 copies of Quran on September 11, 2013 in positive terms.

Our response - we will reclaim the standard of behavior practiced by the Prophet concerning “scurrilous and hostile criticism of the Qur’an” (Muhammad Asad Translation Note 31, verse 41:34). It was "To overcome evil with good is good, and to resist evil by evil is evil." It is also strongly enjoined in the Qur’an in the same verse 41:34, “Good and evil deeds are not equal. Repel evil with what is better; then you will see that one who was once your enemy has become your dearest friend.”

God willing Muslims will follow the divine guidance and pray for the restoration of Goodwill, and on that day many Muslim organizations will go on a “blood drive” to save lives and serve humanity with kindness.

We invite fellow Americans of all faiths, races, and ethnicities to join us to rededicate the pledge, “One nation under God”, and to build a cohesive America where no American has to live in apprehension, discomfort or fear of fellow Americans. This event is a substitute for our 10th Annual Unity Day Celebration (www.UnitydayUSA.com) held in Dallas, but now it will be at Mulberry, Florida.

Unwittingly Pastor Jones has done us a favor by invigorating us by his decision to burn nearly 3000 copies Quran on September 11, 2013. Obviously he is not satisfied by the notoriety he garnered by burning one Qur'an last year.

As Muslims and citizens we honor the free speech guaranteed in our constitution. We have no intentions to criticize, condemn or oppose Pastor Terry Jones' freedom of expression. Instead, we will be donating blood and praying for goodness to permeate in our society.

We plan to follow Jesus Christ (pbuh), a revered prophet in Islam as well as Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) – that of mitigating the conflicts and nurturing good will for the common good of the society.

We hope, this event and the message will remind Muslims elsewhere in the world as well, that violence is not the way. Muslims, who react violently to senseless provocation, should realize that, violence causes more violence, and besmirches the name of the religion that we hold so dear. We believe that Prophet Muhammad was a mercy to the mankind, and we ought to practice what we believe and preach. We must not insult Islam by the negative reactions of a few.

We can only hope it will bring about a change in the attitude of the followers of Pastor Jones, and in the behavior of those Muslims who reacted violently the last time Pastor sought notoriety – We hope this small step towards a bridge to peaceful coexistence would propel us towards building a cohesive society.

Like most Americans a majority of Muslims quietly go about their own business, but it is time to speak up and take positive action instead of negative reaction. May this message of peace and goodwill reverberate and reach many shores.

Lastly, we appreciate the Citizens of Mulberry, Florida, Honorable Mayor George Hatch, City Commissioners, police and Fire Chiefs for handing this situation very well. This will add a ‘feather of peace’ in the City’s reputation. We hope Mulberry will be a catalyst in showing the way in handling conflict with dignity and peace.

We thank the Media for giving value to the work towards peace rather than conflict.

URL- http://worldmuslimcongress.blogspot.com/2013/08/planned-muslim-response-to-quran_18.html

Thank you.


The people in Dallas are making an effort to understand and clean their own hearts first, when we are free from bias, it would be easy to share that with others. Islam teaches us in so many ways to "respect the otherness of others" and it is time we find simple practical ways of doing it.