What does it mean to defend something? According to the Oxford English Dictionary, to defend is to “resist an attack on; protect from harm or danger.” What exactly is the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) intended to defend against?

If I didn’t know better, I would guess that a law in defense of marriage was intended to protect same-sex partners who are married in states that recognize same-sex marriages and who then relocate to states that do not. Sadly, this is not the case. It is instead intended to defend a very specific definition of marriage and to deprive same-sex couples of the rights extended to heterosexual couples across the nation. Rather than defend the very personal decision to commit one’s self to another, it seems that the federal law has effectively mangled the sanctity of marriage for many same-sex couples. Read the rest of this entry »

Rabbi Irwin Kula’s April 30th blog post in The Huffington Post is a thought-provoking discussion on the rate of social change. It inspired me to consider how different things were in this country just a short time ago. I am aghast at how recently my fellow Americans enslaved other humans, at how fiercely plantation owners fought to hold onto their rightful living, breathing property. I am angry that respected leaders and thinkers fought against equal rights for anyone who was not a white male property-holder. I am horrified that, less than 70 years ago, FDR authorized the internment of nearly 120,000 Japanese Americans for no other reason than their national heritage. I am ashamed that some states banned interracial marriage until 1967 when the Supreme Court finally ruled anti-miscegenation laws unconstitutional.

Appalling as they may be, these practices (and many others) are a part of our nation’s history. They represent brutalities and inequities, violations of the very principles our country stands for. Recalling these events conjures great sadness, but one from which I can also cultivate hope. I experience a moment of grace at the realization that, despite overwhelming inertia, change is possible. Not only is it possible, it is inevitable. Read the rest of this entry »

As the U.S. Democrats push for immigration reform laws that recognize the contribution of the many non-citizens residing within U.S. borders, border states are taking matters into their own hands. Arizona’s newly passed legislation originally required that police officers question individuals who they believe may be in the country illegally. A Phoenix police officer effectively sued in response, saying that the new law would require him to stop school children in the area he patrols during the day to inquire about their citizenship. Arizona state lawmakers seemingly predicted resistance from some police precincts: the law includes a clause that enables the state to sue police departments that do not enforce the new mandate. The law was amended on May 1 to only allow questioning of people who police stop, detain or arrest, but civil rights advocates say that police can and have invented all kinds of reasons for stopping people they want to question. President Barack Obama has voiced concern and is exploring strategies to challenge Arizona’s new legislation.

In the meantime, some policymakers in Utah are hoping to implement similar legislation. Although Utah lawmakers may have been entertaining such legislation before Arizona established its new law, they have certainly been influenced by the dramatic actions of their neighboring state. Read the rest of this entry »

April 22nd Intercultural Conversation

“Rethinking Freedom in a Polarized World”

Summary by Madeline Bailey

This month’s Intercultural Conversation hosted by the Center for Intercultural Dialogue featured presentations by Dr. Sharon Schuman of the University of Oregon English department and Reverend Dan Bryant of Eugene’s First Christian Church. Read the rest of this entry »

It is no secret that U.S. “counterterrorism efforts” have harmed Muslims in America by wrongly associating Islam with terror. Many government agencies and officials, however, are attempting to repair relations with Muslims and Arab-Americans. Obama administration officials have orchestrated a number of meetings with Muslim and Arab-American leaders to discuss security and other policy measures. Read the rest of this entry »

Israelis cannot live in the West Bank and most Palestinians cannot live in central Jerusalem. As a result, Israelis and Palestinians who want to share a home in Jerusalem only have one option: they must move to Kufr Aqab, a neighborhood that is technically considered part of Jerusalem, but which lies outside the wall Israelis constructed to separate the greater part of the city from the Palestinian side of the West Bank. Read the rest of this entry »

Almost ninety years after the ban was enacted, the Oregon legislature determined that the law was unconstitutional and that teachers possess the same rights to religious free-exercise as all other Oregonians. The landmark decision is clearly a positive step toward equal rights for all Oregonians.

In France, however, the law seems to be moving in the opposite direction and the government is taking strides toward banning the burka. How do we reconcile opposing movements and sentiments in these two developed nations?

View the Oregon press release: http://oregoncatalyst.com/index.php/archives/3169-Governor-Signs-Repeal-of-Ban-on-Religious-Dress.html

View the BBC story on the burka in France: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/8458831.stm

The iFreedom Mastercard, geared specifically for a Muslim audience, was launched this week in Canada. Historically, devout Muslims have not held credit cards because it is against shariah law to own a card on which one must pay interest. The new card enables users to pre-load up to $6ooo on the card and use it like any other credit card, but without the associated debt. Read the rest of this entry »

Nelson Mandela Marks 20 Years Of Freedom : NPR.

February 11, 2010

A joyous celebration of a man and his persistent belief in universal freedom and equality. This piece includes sound bytes from moving speeches Mandela made both before and after his 27-year prison sentence.

Artists Break Down Barriers Between India, Pakistan : NPR.

February 11, 2010

Two of the biggest media groups in Pakistan and India have orchestrated an attempt at a peace initiative called Quest for Peace. The goal is to bring the two nations together through music, literature; and other cultural and business interactions. They held one of their first conferences last week, and Steve Inskeep speaks to Mohsin Hamid who attended the meeting.