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 Interfaith Day of Prayer

Oklahoma State Capitol, Oklahoma City

Russell L. Bennett, President,

Tulsa Interfaith Alliance

  

Religious liberty, like all great truths, is more easily defended in the abstract, than concretely and specifically.  I was reminded of this two weeks ago when I marched for Women’s Lives in Washington.  There was a bus-load of us from Oklahoma who joined the estimated 800,000 to over one million in attendance. 

 

While concern for an array of women’s health issues brought us to Washington, affirmation of reproductive freedom was central.  This is a controversial freedom, when the right of a woman to her body comes into conflict with the life in her body.  How those values are balanced is difficult and good people see it differently.  Defending our neighbor’s view, which I may not like, is what religious freedom is about.

 

I speak to you today on behalf of the Tulsa Interfaith Alliance which is composed of individuals from many religions.  We do not hold the same view as to when a human life comes into being, but we all have a place at the table.  We agree to disagree but work for the common good.  We come together out of mutual respect, understanding that each has a truth that needs to be heard.  We come together convinced that religion does not have to be a divisive force in our society but a force for healing and well-being.

 

Religious liberty is our country’s great gift to the world.  Those who founded our nation fled the religious wars of Europe.  They came here to found a nation where freedom of conscience would be honored, and all citizens, regardless of belief or no belief, would find a home.

 

We must be vigilant to defend this precious heritage, because it requires something not easily grasped, and that is the commitment to defend our neighbor’s truth, with which we may disagree.  Only when minority voices are safe is the freedom of us all secured.

 

Religious diversity is not a threat.  Religious diversity is the strength of this country.  My faith is deeper because of faiths not my own, from which I have learned.  Let this National Day of Prayer be a witness to religious liberty and celebration of our common humanity, regardless of religion, all of us children of God.

 

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