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Day of Reflection panel discussion explores religious diversity

Rabbi Vered Harris, from Oklahoma City’s Temple B’nai Israel. will be keynote speaker at the Interfaith Alliance Day of Reflection on May 2.  Photo provided
Rabbi Vered Harris, from Oklahoma City’s Temple B’nai Israel. will be keynote speaker at the Interfaith Alliance Day of Reflection on May 2. Photo provided

By Darla Shelden
Contributing Writer

The Interfaith Alliance Foundation of Oklahoma will hold its 10th Annual Day of Reflection service themed “Under God” and Religious Diversity, on Thursday, May 2 at 7 p.m. at Temple B’nai Israel, 4901 N. Penn in Oklahoma City.

The event will examine the implications of a pluralistic society and the use of the phrase, “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance. The discussion will look at the reason the phrase was added during the 1950’s, the potential impact on religious liberty and whether it implies that America is a theocracy.

Rev. Jeff Hamilton, event chairman said, “The Interfaith Day of Reflection is an event that seeks to balance the traditional National Day of Prayer, held on May 2.”

Keynote speaker Rabbi Vered Harris, from Oklahoma City’s Temple B’nai Israel said, “The Interfaith Day of Reflection is an opportunity to realize a crucial aspect of living a faithful life. Our traditions teach ethics, rituals and ways to connect with God.

“Through reflection we discover how these teachings apply to our daily lives, in and out of our religious communities,” Harris added. “Considering the late addition and the political tone of including ‘under God’ to the Pledge of Allegiance, we can ask: how does this clause represent us as Americans of diverse faiths, cultures and beliefs?

“I look forward to exploring this part of our Pledge of Allegiance as Americans united in faith and our commitment to diversity and respect,” Harris said.

Panelist include Ada Hunter, world religions specialist, Jim Huff, advocate for separation of church and state, Rev. Kris Ladusau, Buddhist minister, Dr. Vahap Uysal, from the Muslim community, and Nick Singer, representing the humanist tradition.

Last year Hunter taught world religions at Oklahoma City University and is currently working on an advanced degree in spirituality. An artist and member of the Interfaith Alliance board, Hunter brings experience to the topic of the implications of the phrase, “under God” for a pluralistic and religiously diverse culture.

A retired public school educator and member of Citizens United for the Separation of Church and State, Huff has taken the implications of this phrase before school boards. A Baptist himself, he notes that historically Baptists were at the forefront of the movement to keep church and state separate.
Interfaith Alliance board member Rev. Ladusau is a spiritual leader of the Dharma center in Oklahoma City. Before becoming a Buddhist, Ladusau was a Methodist, giving her an appreciation of the concept of God. The Buddhist faith has no formal concept of God.

Dr. Uysal, a University of Oklahoma finance professor, is a member of Oklahoma City’s Institute of Interfaith Dialog, an organization that brings communities together through interfaith dialog and conversation.

Recently seeking office in the Oklahoma Legislature, Singer is an attorney and a representative of the secular humanist society. Adding to the discussion, while not an atheist, his orientation is not that of the typically religious person.

Emanuel Synagogue’s Rabbi Abby Jacobson will serve as event moderator.

Following the program, the annual ringing of the bells ceremony honoring the various religious traditions will be held.

A representative from each tradition will read its statement on religious freedom and then ring a bell. Attendees will respond, “Let Freedom Ring”.
This ceremony affirms various religious traditions, which include Unitarian Universalist, Sikh, Hindu, Buddhist, Unity (Christian), United Methodist, Judaism, Catholic, Islamic, Disciples of Christ, Urantia, Friends, and Baha’I.

The Day of Reflection serves to demonstrate the variety of religious expression in Oklahoma and nationwide.

Hamilton said, “As people of many faiths, we respect religious diversity and we will work together to make our society more inclusive, our public discourse more civil and our nation more affirming of diversity.”

The Interfaith Alliance Foundation of Oklahoma, an advocacy organization for inter-religious understanding, actively works on legislative issues that affect religious freedom, human rights, civil liberties and public education.

In a statement concerning the recent bombings at the Boston Marathon Sabi Singh, President, Interfaith Alliance of Oklahoma said, “Our hearts ache in sympathy with the city of Boston and those affected by this senseless and cowardly act of violence.

“People of goodwill from all faiths and persuasions need to unite to condemn such acts and use their best efforts, in their respective constituencies, to prevent such events and bring those responsible to justice,” Singh added.

The service is free and open to the public. For more information, call 405 640-3914

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