Mourning the Loss of Rev. Peter Gomes: News Roundup

This week, the world lost one of its most powerful religious voices against intolerance with the loss of Rev. Peter Gomes, who passed away Monday at age 68 following complications from a stroke. In other significant news, a mosque project in New Jersey met with staunch opposition, and the King hearings move forward despite opposition.

Mourning Rev. Gomes
Reverend Gomes was the Plummer professor of Christian morals at the Harvard School of Divinity and the Pusey minister of Harvard’s Memorial Church.
 
“Religious fundamentalism is dangerous because it cannot accept ambiguity and diversity and is therefore inherently intolerant,” he declared in an Op-Ed article in The New York Times in 1992. “Such intolerance, in the name of virtue, is ruthless and uses political power to destroy what it cannot convert.” (The New York Times)
 
Drew Faust, Harvard’s president, called Rev. Gomes “one of the great preachers of our generation and a living symbol of courage and conviction.” (Boston Globe)
 
Reverend Gomes was known, in part, for his readings of the Bible, which he defended from both the right (urging us not to find justification for racism and misogyny in its pages) and the left (urging us not to discount it as corrupt or anachronistic).To those ends, he authored 1996 bestseller “The Good Book: Reading the Bible with Mind and Heart.”
 
The students of Harvard, who he addressed at the opening and closing of every school year, must surely feel this loss deeply, as do all of us who care about religious diversity and intolerance.
 
To build or not to build?
This week, the township of Bridgewater, New Jersey held hearings to determine whether controversial new changes to its zoning laws, which would have the effect of preventing construction of a new mosque, would pass. (The hearing that would have made the final determination was eventually postponed to later in the month.)
 
Debate over the proposed zoning changes – which were put on the table only after the Al Falah mosque submitted its completed application – has generated intense heat on all sides. Mosque supporters see the proposition as a mask for Islamophobia and are prepared to challenge the new restrictions as violating federal land-use law, while neighborhood residents voice concerns over the traffic and congestion the new mosque will cause.
 
This is the latest in a string of mosque projects across the country that have met with opposition, the most well-known being in Temecula, California (where the construction was ultimately approved) and Murfreesboro, Tennessee (where a lawsuit is pending).
 
 
Hearings Move Forward
The controversial King hearings on the radicalization of American Muslims are slated to begin next week on March 10, even as lawmakers differ as to their necessity.
Japanese-American lawmaker Mike Honda blasted the plans this week in a San Francisco Chronicle op-ed, tying King's hearing to the World War-II era detention of Japanese-Americans in internment camps.
 
"Rep(resentative) King's intent seems clear: To cast suspicion upon all Muslim Americans and to stoke the fires of anti-Muslim prejudice and Islamophobia," Honda wrote.
 
"This should be deeply troubling to Americans of all races and religions. An investigation specifically targeting a single religion implies, erroneously, a dangerous disloyalty, with one broad sweep of the discriminatory brush." (AFP)
Opposition to the hearings continues to build in other quarters as well. 128 religious leaders in California from across the spectrum came together to condemn the hearings as being unnecessarily divisive. “As religious leaders and people of faith, we stand together to express our profound concern about the Congressional hearings you have proposed to investigate the Muslim-American community. We fear this effort will only further divide our community and undermine our nation’s highest ideals.” (ThinkProgress)
 
In other news:
  • Full-face veils outlawed as France spells out controversial niqab ban (The Guardian)
  • Designer to face trial over anti-Semitic remarks (CNN)
  • Ill. teen says high school suspended him for wearing rosary (Associated Press)
  • When despots fall, religion can play key role in rebuilding societies (Notre Dame News)