This past weekend we witnessed yet another horrific and cowardly attack on a house of worship, this time at the Chabad of Poway Synagogue. It comes painfully on the heels of mass bombings in Sri Lankan churches, an attack on a mosque in New Zealand, and a series of arson attacks on African American churches in Louisiana. The Poway shooting is another tragic addition to a growing list of violence targeting people in their places of worship across America and the world.
These aren’t just acts of violence; they are attacks on one of the most fundamental liberties for humankind, one that our Founders codified in the Constitution: the right to believe and worship freely. But that inalienable right – one that deserves our persistent defense – is too often attacked by those filled with hate.
Theirs is an ideology of division, anger and fear. Ours must be one of unity, love, and mutual respect.
But when Americans look for leadership, comfort and reassurance in the face of senseless violence targeting houses of worship, they don’t find an appeal to unity. It’s not that the president doesn’t offer condolences or loose condemnations. But what little consolation he offers is usually rote and contradicted in principle within days. Even as he denounces violence from one side of his mouth, from the other he excuses the voices of hate and division and sometimes even amplifies them directly.
The ultimate result is a feeling of empowerment amongst those who believe that they are fighting a war for their hateful ideology, and a belief that their violence will be welcomed. That is the power and danger of complacency in the face of terror.
That’s why we must not be complacent. We, as a nation and as a people, must stand openly and loudly for equality, liberty, and unity. We must prove that America will never accept bigotry and religious intolerance, and that we will confront it with a united front. Together, our voice is even stronger than any president’s. We must use it to redouble our commitment to the liberty of all people, and the acceptance of all faiths.