Petition Against Intolerance Garners Thousands of Signers, including Leaders in National Security and Civil Liberties Fields

Last week, CMD promoted a petition for religious freedom and against intolerance, that was written by Kate Martin, Suzanne Spaulding, and Lisa Graves. Many of you signed this petition, joining thousands of fellow Americans in standing up for religious freedom and against religious bigotry. Deepak Chopra also urged people to stand up with us against intolerance. Almost 3,000 people signed our petition and over 3,000 signed onto a copy our petition circulated separately, in a very short period.

Our petition was supported by numerous civil libertarians, folks from both sides of the political aisle, and several prominent leaders involved in the national security field, including Chuck Robb, Mickey Edwards, Judge Sessions (former FBI Director), John Gannon (former Deputy Director of National Intelligence), General Robert Harding (former Director of Operations of the Defense Intelligence Agency), Paul Pillar (former CIA), Howard Shapiro (former General Counsel of the FBI), Nick Rostow (former National Security Council Legal Advisor and General Counsel to the UN under President George W. Bush), Spike Bowman (former senior FBI and Counterintelligence official), Elizabeth Rindskopf Parker (former CIA and NSA General Counsel), Burton Gerber (former CIA), Jennifer Sims (former Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Intelligence Coordination and Senate intelligence committee staffer), Thomas Benjamin (former Deputy General Counsel of the CIA), and Rick "Ozzie" Nelson (former National Counter-Terrorism Center), among others.

We think that this effort, along with efforts of many others, helped provide a way for many people to stand up for America's religious tolerance as one of our country's strengths, both domestically and abroad. As we noted in last week's Weekly Spin, it was unclear whether the Koran-burning by Mr. Jones was going to happen or not as of last Thursday, but as news followers know, that event did not take place, although the heightened rhetoric against Muslim Americans remains.

While we agree with people who wrote in to complain about how the mainstream media was giving Jones' publicity stunt so much attention, we do think that it is important for people of conscience to exercise their free speech rights to help counter hateful speech, which is one of the reasons we supported the petition. We also were shocked, but not surprised, to see Fred Phelps, the hate-mongering preacher from Kansas, lamenting that he did not get as much attention when he burned a Koran a few years ago. CMD is concerned about how socially acceptable, and even rewarding, it has become in certain quarters to openly embrace religious hatred and bigotry as well as ethnic and racial bigotry.

It is an ugly season, but we are proud to help stand up against it and express appreciation to those who joined us. We think the newly flexed-bigotry is not representative of America, and in America we as a people don't tell other people how to pray or where to pray or what to pray about, preserving the sacred from the interference by the state. Religious freedom -- including the freedom to worship or not to -- is at the root of America's founding values.

Lisa Graves

Lisa Graves is President of the Board of the Center for Media and Democracy and President of True North Research. She is a well-known researcher, writer, and public speaker. Her research and analysis have been cited by every major paper in the country and featured in critically acclaimed books and documentaries, including Ava Du Vernay’s award-winning film, “The 13th,” Bill Moyers’s “United States of ALEC,” and Showtime’s “Years of Living Dangerously.”



Yes, the right to freedom of religion is being tested severely these days. Im glad the Koran burning didn't take place but the actual crime remains - that the media has given that man so much coverage and thus brought this conflict out in the open in the first place. It reminded me of the Mohammed cartoon which was equally used to stir emotions. Why? So petitions and protests like these help to counterbalance this intolerance - they are very important and my thanks goes to you!