Obama convenes a discussion of religious pluralism

Printed from: https://newbostonpost.com/2015/12/17/obama-convenes-a-discussion-of-religious-pluralism/

WASHINGTON During debates about immigration, extremist ideologies and diversity of beliefs in the U.S., religious pluralism will take center stage at the White House Thursday.

An afternoon gathering, entitled “Celebrating and Protecting America’s Tradition of Religious Pluralism,” will bring together various religious leaders and representatives from nongovernmental organizations to discuss what the White House dubs “our traditions of religious inclusion, freedom and cooperation among those with different beliefs.”

Robert P. Jones of the Public Religion Research Institute will kick off the session by focusing on the religious landscape today, and its likely future.

The institute’s research has shown that while America is less and less dominated by Christians, the number of inter-religious families and “multi-religious” individuals is rising. For example, the population of Hispanic Protestants and Catholics will grow – as will “religiously unaffiliated” individuals, but white Protestants and Catholics will likely shrink in the future. According to the institute’s research, most Americans under 30 identify as having no religious affiliation.

In Massachusetts, the growing lack of religious ties has been shown by several earlier studies.

Tuesday, President Barack Obama spoke at a naturalization ceremony, delivering words of encouragement to the freshly minted citizens that will likely be reflected in Thursday’s discussion as well:

“We must resolve to always speak out against hatred and bigotry in all of its forms – whether taunts against the child of an immigrant farmworker or threats against a Muslim shopkeeper,” he said at the ceremony in Washington. “We are Americans. Standing up for each other is what the values enshrined in the documents in this room compels us to do – especially when it’s hard.  Especially when it’s not convenient. That’s when it counts. That’s when it matters – not when things are easy, but when things are hard.”

During a White House news briefing Tuesday, Press Secretary Josh Earnest answered a reporter’s question about Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump’s call for banning Muslims from entering the country: “This nation was founded by people who were fleeing persecution and looking for a place where they could freely practice their religion,” he said. “This is basic to what it means to be an American.”

Thursday’s celebration comes at an important time, when many Muslims, Sikhs and other ethnic and religious minorities have expressed concerns about discrimination and harassment following terrorist attacks in Paris on Nov. 13 and San Bernardino, California, on Dec. 2, that were either sponsored or inspired by the Islamic State. This year, a Public Religion Research Institute poll found that  more than half – 56 percent – of Americans say the values of Islam are at odds with American values and way of life, while 41 percent disagree. By comparison, in 2011, Americans were evenly divided on the question.

To watch the live-streamed event, visit whitehouse.gov/live or on YouTube from 1 p.m. until 4:30 p.m. eastern time.

Contact Kara Bettis at [email protected] or on Twitter @karabettis.