Helpers among the community of Pittsburgh area UUs. Link to the main Sunnyhill site.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

P-G blasts out DVD that is 'hate-filled'

A recent Sunday edition of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette included an obviously expensive, professionally-produced anti-Islamic DVD titled "Obsession." One of our OMD ministers who viewed the DVD frankly called it "hate-filled" and "lie-filled." It was also included in newspapers in Akron, Columbus, Canton, Toledo and other cities in Ohio; and, apparently, in still more cities in "battleground" states in the presidential election. The Cleveland Plain Dealer did not carry the DVD.

Many Unitarian Univeralists in the OMD have already expressed outrage that something which blatantly violates the principles of religious freedom and tolerance could be distributed in our community, and put into the hands of our children, under the label of "advertising". They are writing the newspapers which distributed the DVDs to let them know how they feel.

This is a non-partisan issue. Our congregations and the district are able to express their disgust with this kind of reactive messaging without any risk to their non-profit status. I believe that we are called by our values and principles as Unitarian Universalists to speak out against those who would promote intolerance and fear in our communities.

Some district congregations and the Ohio Council of Churches are organizing around this issue and leading protests. Your congregation can too. If you need assistance, please contact the district office at office at

You can write a letter to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:

Letters may be mailed to the Editor, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 34 Blvd. of the Allies, Pittsburgh, PA 15222.

Letters may be faxed to (412) 263-2014 or sent via e-mail to or by clicking here

1 comment:

Cyborg said...

Unitarian Universalist ministers have the same right to speak to any issue as any other person when they are speaking for themselves; however, when they speak as UU ministers they are speaking as employees, not individuals. They should exercise the caution required of an employee speaking on behalf of their employer; is the statement within the scope of their authority, is it prudent, and is it in their employers interest.

I question the authority, the prudence, and the advancement of UU interests of the ministers' statement regarding the DVD Obsession. Unitarian Universalists have a responsibility to inform themselves and speak their minds based on sound judgement. I have watched the DVD, the disclaimer is there in plain sight, and a disclaimer is a disclaimer; it stands on its own. The DVD is no more pointed than the ones I watched at the First Church in Pittsburgh a few years ago, which was part of an adult religous education course. Perhaps the ministers could better serve their congregations by encouraging people to view the DVD and form discussion groups. If nothing else, the First Church program was much more detailed and factually based; maybe they could put together a program to be distributed to the District churches for presentation.

I myself think that whether or not "mainline" Muslims actually oppose the terrorists actions is an unsettled issue, and the subject of legitimate debate. I offer no apology for this, nor should I. I am saying let's determine the truth or falsity of the statement. I have formed no pre-determined answer, and neither should, especially neither should, the UU ministers.

As far as political motivation, I am sure those who made the DVD have some undeclared agenda, but what conclusion about voting could any minimally aware person reach from the DVD. Neither major party is competently addressing the issue of terrorism. There is a well researched history of Islamic terrorism, and you may remember that we were attacked twice, once in the late 20th century and once early in this century. I suspect that we have not seen the last attack on American soil, and statements such as the UU ministers will serve neither the cause of understanding nor of competently formulating legitimate policies regarding terrorism.

I do not claim the DVD competently presents the issue, but Thomas Jefferson said that error of opinion is to be tolerated where reason is free to combat it. I think that the ministers' statement is reactive rather than reasoned. Terrorism, including terrorism advanced in the name of Islam, is a reality in the world. The refusal to consider it as a subject of political discussion leaves the discussion to those who will exploit it for their own ends. This DVD may intend that, but one can deduce nothing of fact or reason from the ministers' statement..

Finally, the ministers are just as much in error in linking the terrible events at the UU Church in Knoxville to this DVD as the DVD creators are in linking terrorism to Naziism. It was exploitive, whether intended or not. There are damaged people in the world, and they will find cause to do their damage. Censoring legitimate speech is not a legitimate method, nor even a method, of stopping them. Unless the ministers watched a different DVD, I saw no call to action in this DVD. I support the DVD makers right to speak their point of view as long as they are not advocating violence, even if some distorted minds reach the conclusion that violence is in order.

This is the ministers' statement from OMD:

OMD Ministers Speak Out Against "Obsession" DVD

We, the undersigned Unitarian Universalists ministers, chaplains and student ministers of the Ohio-Meadville District, wish to express our shock and dismay at the recent distribution of the inflammatory DVD "Obsession" in the newspapers and mailboxes of those of us living in Ohio, Pennsylvania and other so-called "battleground" states in this election year.

The kind of propaganda and hate speech found in this anti-Islamic DVD incites fear of an insidious nature. The weak disclaimers with which the film begins and ends, that peaceful Muslims are excluded from condemnation, does nothing to counter its violent images, the web of untruths woven around those images, or its fantastic and illogical claims of links between Nazism and Islam. We stand in solidarity with our Muslim sisters and brothers to protest the indiscriminate distribution of malicious propaganda. We reject the politics of hate and fear.

Unitarian Universalists are well acquainted with the harmful effects hate speech can have on some members of our society. On Sunday, July 27 of this year, an unfortunately mentally ill individual was prompted by common forms of media hate speech to develop a belief that liberals, including religious liberals were destroying our country. Inspired by this belief, he opened fire on a Unitarian Universalist congregation in Knoxville on Sunday morning during a children's musical performance, killing two adults, wounding many others and traumatizing an entire congregation and its children. While the shooter was certainly mentally ill, the violent acting-out of his illness was aided and abetted by the proliferation of hate speech in our society.

With such a recent memory of the effects of hate speech in our society, as Unitarian Universalists we are compelled to question why these DVDs are being distributed to residents in the so called "battleground" states during this presidential campaign. Why these places? Why now? At this obviously anxious time in our collective lives as Americans, we strongly object to this overt attempt to influence voters.

We Unitarian Universalists have long upheld the values of tolerance and inclusivity. We consider diversity to be a genuine blessing! Our core principles call us to honor the inherent worth and dignity of all people. We believe that honoring that worth and dignity includes honoring our diverse religious beliefs.

Nearly 500 years ago, a Unitarian reformation theologian, Francis David, articulated it well when he said "We do not need to think alike to love alike." And the Hadith of Bukhari 2:6 states "None of you has faith unless he loves for his brother [or sister] what he loves for himself."

It is our hope and prayer that all Americans may learn to live in the spirit of these words.

To learn more about this issue, please visit the OMD website at

Rev. Lynn Acquafondata
Rev. Wayne Arnason
Rev. Steve Aschmann
Rev. Mark Belletini
Rev. Colin Bossen
Rev. George Buchanan
Rev. Daniel Budd
Ellen Carvill-Ziemer, student minister
Rev. Melissa Carvill-Ziemer
Rev. Peggy C. Clason
Rev. Rose Edington
Jeremy Elliott, chaplain
Kathleen Fowler, chaplain
Rev. Cynthia Heilman
Rev. David Herndon
Rev. Mel Hoover
Rev. Christine Jone-Leavy
Lori Lerner, ministerial intern
John Henry Martin, Jr., ministerial intern
Suzan McCrystal, chaplain
Rev. Greg McGonigle
Rev. Eric H. Meter
Rev. Mary Moore
Rev. Chris Neilson
Rev. Michael D. O'Kelly
Renee Zimelis Ruchotzke, student minister
Rev. Arthur G. Severance
Rev. Elizabeth Schuerman
Rev. V. Elaine Strawn
Rev. Rod Thompson
Rev. Joan M. Van Becelaere, district executive
Rev. Kenneth Watts
Rev. Maurine (Renee)Waun
Evan Young, student minister