Educational institutions must not sanction hostility toward minorities

Immediate Release
January 17, 2015
Duke University and Maiden High School
have bowed to different forms of bigotry

Faith In America today expresses its deep disappointment in Duke University's decision not to allow a Muslim prayer to be broadcast from its campus tower and stands with students who would like the prayer call broadcast weekly at the school.

The university had planned to sound the Muslim call to prayer, or adman, from the Duke University Chapel’s 210-foot bell tower for the first time yesterday. It was called off Thursday in the face of criticism from some powerful Christian voices – Rev. Franklin Graham in particular, who opposed the move because of violence associated with Muslim extremists.

Instead, the call to prayer, or adhan, was sounded in Arabic and English on Friday from a small portable speaker set up on the chapel steps. Students who gathered there reportedly condemned the university's bow to pressure and asked for religious inclusiveness.

"Faith In America joins those students who understand American democracy and religious freedom far better than Franklin Graham," said Brent Childers, executive director of Faith In America. "When it comes to criticizing religious extremists, I hope Franklin Graham will pause and take a look in the mirror. I can promise you that there are many in the LGBT community, as well as many of their family members and friends, who view him as a religious extremist because of the harm, derogation and other forms of hostility that he has justified and promoted in the past toward them."

Childers said that Muslim individuals living across America awake each Sunday morning to the sound of Christian church bells ringing and no American Muslim organization apparently has tried to oppose such acts designed to bring positive public awareness to the Christian faith. In fact, church bells ring on the Duke University each Sunday morning, according to reports.

"If bells can ring out from Christian churches on Sunday morning, then no one should expect that in America other religious groups would be prevented from producing acts designed to bring positive public awareness to their religion," Childers said.

Childers said conservative Christian leaders who seek to diminish the Muslim faith also have been the ones who often have sought to diminish the lives of gay and lesbian people.

"There is a difference between Franklin Graham's religious bigotry and the religion-based bigotry toward gay people that he has promoted in the past," Childers said. "Religious bigotry targets a person with hostility because of that person's religious belief while religion-based bigotry targets the individual because of the person's skin color, gender or sexual orientation.

"Franklin Graham should be ashamed, both as a Christian and as someone who should know a little something about religious freedom in America, for his display of religious bigotry toward Muslims. He should fall on his knees and repent for the violence and death his religion-based bigotry has fostered in the lives of countless gay and lesbian individuals."

Childers said religious bigotry and religion-based bigotry toward minorities often appear parallel in socially conservative Christian faith communities.

He said a local Christian pastor in western North Carolina recently lobbied for the cancellation of a high school play, "Almost Maine", that had a gay scene in it. The pastor, Rev. Mark Ivey of Christ Alive Church in Newton, N.C., has publicly promoted homosexuality as sinful behavior and the notion that those who support gay marriage are defiling the nation.

Ivey has also compared Islam to Nazism. In one recent sermon, he recounted a trip to a community where the Muslim call to prayer is broadcast and in that sermon warned his congregation that Islam was coming to their community in Catawba County.

"So here we have Rev. Franklin Graham on the national stage espousing religious bigotry toward Muslims and we are all familiar with his condemnation of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people," Childers stated. "Then we have small-town America pastor Mark Ivey promoting religious bigotry toward Muslims in his community and his religion-based bigotry as evidenced by his condemnation of gay people.

"Pastor Mark Ivey was successful in getting the play Almost Maine canceled at Maiden High School and Rev. Franklin Graham was successful in getting the Muslim call to prayer quashed at Duke university.

"It's truly a terrible day in America when this nation's educational institutions sanction any form of bigotry – whether religious bigotry toward Muslims or religion-based bigotry toward lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans."

Faith In America is a nonprofit organization that educates the public about the harm to LGBT youth and families when religious teaching is misused to justify and promote stigma and hostility. Brent Childers, who once aligned himself with the anti-gay religious industry, serves as executive director.

More about high school play cancelation here: wfae.org/post/almost-maine-goes-without-school-support
More about Duke University decision here: www.latimes.com/nation/la-na-duke-muslim-prayer-controversy-20150116-story