Assaults on houses of worship in Tacoma

By Morf Morford

Tacoma Daily Index

Attacks on houses of worship

In a series of acts I never imagined seeing in and around the Tacoma and Seattle area has been a series of attacks on various houses of worship.

These are refections of the darkest eras of our nation’s history or even key events in global religious persecutions.

If you needed any more proof that, literally, nothing is sacred in our society, this should be the convincing evidence.

It is unknown at this point if any were related or what the motivation might have been, but the bottom line is that no faith is safe unless all are respected.

Here is a summary of what has, until recently, been unthinkable, a series of attacks on our local faith communities;

October 24, an early morning arson attack caused significant damage to St. Charles Borromeo Catholic Parish in Tacoma.

October 19, 2021 – break-in and attack on religiously-significant material at Masjid Umar Al-Farooq (the mosque at Mountlake Terrace)

October 11, 2021 – fire identified as arson at Islamic Center of Tacoma

October 10, 2021 – vandalism at St. Edward Church in Seattle

September 21, 2021 – aggravated assault on Buddhist nun at Khmer Theravadin Buddhist Temple in Tacoma

September 17, 2021– break-in and attack on religiously significant material on Khalsa Gurmat Center in Federal Way

September 12, 2021 – arson at Greater Christ Temple Church (The Oasis of Hope Center) in Tacoma

August 2021 – vandalism at St. Benedict Catholic Church in Seattle

July 2021 – vandalism at St. James Cathedral in Seattle

For those cases where the perpetrator has been found, rage, boredom and bigotry seem to be the primary motivations.

Under the rubric of religious freedom, we respect the right to worship differently much more than the right to worship not at all. – Wendy Kaminer

Freedom of religion

Literally written in our Founding documents is the concept of religious freedom – to practice our religion in safety and security.

Or have no expressed religion. But either way, the choice, and expression was individual and constitutionally protected.

There was a time when America was a bastion of opportunity and refuge, a place of religious freedom, tolerance and acceptance.

Religion in America, like business, has, for the most part, been an active marketplace of competing ideas – each one with a primary motive of proving itself superior or at least most appropriate for certain people.

Arson, fear and threats convince no one and prove nothing.

But they do demonstrate and manifest fear and bigotry – which is the hallmark and scriptural foundation of no religion. Or even core beliefs of those of no religion.

If you know the history of Christianity, you know that it was not the pagans or unbelievers who lobbied for and carried out the crucifixion, it was religious people who demanded that the state carry out the death penalty from one who threatened everything they believed in.

For one of the few times in history, church and state united in their opposition to the power of a set of truths that threatened them both.

Tolerance is thin gruel compared to the rapture of absolute truths. It’s not surprising that religious people are often better protected by atheists and agnostics than each other. – Wendy Kaminer

Only desperate and frightened people do desperate and destructive things. To put it simply, no one would set fire to a building and endanger lives out of an act of faith.

Faith traditions emerge out of history and culture. A commemoration, an icon, or a ritual may be sacred to some while it is of no consequence or interest to those of another culture and tradition.

We celebrate certain days and seasons and consider it our right to do so.

As it should be.

And it should, in a civil society, be the right of any others as well.

We may not know how or why something became set aside or valued by those of another culture, but our nation is hard-wired by our founding documents to respect individual choices and expression.

Freedom of religion, and freedom from religious prosecution is built in to who we are.

It would be difficult to come up with anything more distinctly un-American than to express contempt for the beliefs of others, and even more so, to endanger others because of their beliefs.

There are no others

Here is a famous exchange that could have come from any of the world religions;

Questioner: “How are we to treat others?”

Ramana Maharishi: “There are no others.”

Every child, every marriage counselor, every good friend, and, one would hope, every religious or political leader would know, and live by, this one principle; “There are no others”.

Every broken promise, every harsh word, every dishonest business transaction hurts us as much as, or even far more than it could hurt those we consider the “other”.

Every act of assault or, in this case destruction, is not an attack on a building, it is an attack on the very idea of trust and belief; of trust in each other and belief in something far greater than ourselves.

When I was a child many churches were left unlocked for any who sought refuge or a place of literal sanctuary.

No church would do that now of course.

They’d be fools to trust us, and any others, whether neighbors or strangers.

Back then, it was not buildings or sacred artifacts that could be ruined or ransacked, it was a sense of trust and belonging, of public and shared safety and welcoming that has been lost and thrown away.

There are few, if any, places of open sanctuary for those in need.

We don’t trust or believe or respect anyone – and many are proud of their contempt for those others.

And we, our nation, our neighborhoods, even our churches, have forgotten what it means to welcome those once seen as “others”.

Our scriptures are full of commands to welcome the stranger, the sojourner, or the angel in disguise.

Most of us could not even recognise such a philosophy.

We have built religious denominations, even political campaigns on the premise of us versus others.

These beliefs have made us ugly, small and mean.

Look at the faces of those who preach, and often profit from, accusation and distrust.

Their faces are distorted and twisted by the fury and violence they have embraced and embodied.

Conspiracy theories, suspicion and cynicism rule the land, and they rule because we have given our power over to them.

But they will not, and cannot, ever prevail.

They are not who we are.

As often as we might forget, we are literally the United States of America.

There are no others.