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If Baha'is weren't truly snubbed, they were insulted

Fayetteville Observer-Times (North Carolina),
Friday, May 22, 1998
Editorial page

If ignorance is bliss, a couple of members of the Fayetteville Human Relations Commission must be positively ecstatic.

The commission has stirred up a small controversy by declining to endorse a Race Unity Day sponsored by the local congregation of the Baha'i Faith.

Both sides have a point. Some say the HRC has participated in other religion-related events, so it may be showing prejudice, even if inadvertently, against the Baha'is. Others worry that the city-sanctioned commission may have gotten too involved with religious groups in the past and should reassess. To the HRC's overall credit, it is seeking legal clarification.

Nonetheless, the comments of two commission members about the Baha'is were appalling. Lt. Col. Kathleen Seith said, "Does anyone know them? I mean, they could be Satan worshipers." Joyce Malone added, "I have a fear of this group. They've been here 20 years and they only have 12 members? And they're all white?"

That's appalling. It was one thing for both women to be in the dark when the subject was first raised in April — the Baha'is are indeed a bit obscure — but it is now late May. Is it too much to ask members of such a sensitive panel to do a little research?

For the record, Baha'is follow the prophets of many religions. They adhere to a conciliatory philosophy of peace and equality for all. About the worst they are ever accused of is over-optimism. (And, no, not all members are white. They don't handle snakes either.)

As a body, the commission should clear up its legal stance in such matters as quickly as possible, and stick by it. As individuals, Seith and Malone should apologize.

Copyright ©1998, Fayetteville Observer-Times
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