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Lawmakers ask Obama for religious diversity summit

July 24, 2013

WASHINGTON

Nearly 40 members of the U.S. House, among them Buddhists, Hindus, Jews and Muslims, sent a letter to President Obama on Wednesday (July 17) urging him to convene a “Religious Diversity Summit” and do more to fight discrimination against religious minorities.

“The targeting of religious minorities in America is reaching a crisis point and we believe your leadership is crucial to stemming this rising tide of violence,” the letter writers said.

The letter comes just ahead of the first anniversary of the Aug. 5 attack by a white supremacist on a Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wis., that killed six worshippers. Muslim advocacy groups say there has been an increase in attacks against mosques and Muslims since the Boston Marathon bombings on April 15.

A religious diversity summit would bring together religious leaders, politicians, academics and other leaders. Among other goals, it would develop “best practices” or “guidelines” that local communities could follow when dealing with religious divisions or other religious issues.

All 37 signatories were Democrats, including Buddhist Hank Johnson of Georgia, Hindu Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii, Muslims Keith Ellison of Minnesota and Andre Carson of Indiana, and Jews Jared Polis of Colorado, Jan Schakowsky of Illinois, and Henry Waxman and Alan Lowenthal, both of California.

“The terrible and very public episodes of violence this country has seen over the past several years deserve a response, and as elected leaders we have an obligation to be a part of that response,” wrote Arizona Democrat Raul M. Grijalva, one of several Christians to sign the letter.

Heads of several religious organizations also supported the call for a summit. They include the Anti-Defamation League, Muslim Advocates, the Sikh Coalition, and the Hindu American Foundation.

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