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September 29, 2023

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Not In Our Town campaign includes fight against religious intolerance

The Not In Our Town Campaign wants all faith communities in Bowling Green to practice their religions free of intolerance.

When the campaign started, ending religious intolerance in the community was a priority because of the arson attack at the Toledo Mosque, which happened this past October prior to the campaign, said Susana Peña, member of the President’s Advisory Council on Diversity and Inclusion.

“It was something that really was at the forefront of our mind, thinking about religious intolerance and how to foster more inclusivity in our community around religious issues,” she said.

Since then, departments like the Office of Equity and Diversity have been planning ways to collaborate with religious groups in the community to make it more inclusive.

Peña said plans were discussed over the summer to get religious youths in the community involved with the campaign.

“A lot of local religious houses of worship have programs for young people during the summer,” Peña said. “We’ve thought about incorporating Not In Our Town programming that we could do with these houses of worship and young people.”

While Peña said the arson attack on the Toledo Mosque is the most significant example of religious intolerance in the community, Dave Warner, director of Active Christians Today, said smaller issues sometimes come up on campus.

“I’ve had students come to me and say that there have been people that have said things both on campus and in classrooms,” he said.

Warner said he is unfamiliar with Not In Our Town and encourages those students to not to be judgmental, which often provokes intolerant responses.

This applies to some preachers in front of the Union who provoke negative responses by being judgmental, he said.

“I know there are times like when preacher Bob comes on campus, he’s able to raise a lot of anger toward Christianity as a result of that,” Warner said. “I would hope that people would acknowledge that that’s a pretty distorted view of what Christianity is all about.”

Warner said Christian students should make sure those preachers know that they do not represent the faith they have and should turn the other cheek. People like that feed on others’ reactions so it’s best to just walk by and ignore them, he said. Madeline Duntley, director of the Chapman Learning Community and who has a has a Ph.D. in Religious Studies, said while the preachers can sometimes be an annoyance, it is important to understand why they are doing what they are doing.

“Whenever an evangelist of any sort is preaching doom and gloom or is being very non-tolerant of people’s practices, it’s because they have a world view where they have a very intentional set of right and wrong,” Duntley said. “So it’s very difficult to engage issues of tolerance and respect because for them, they feel like it’s a life or death matter.”

Being as passionate about a topic like some of the preachers are about their religion means discussing it in any way would be compromising and they don’t want to do that, she said.

Duntley said she does not support the preachers but thinks that to have a successful Not In Our Town campaign, everyone’s intentions need to be understood.

“Part of living in a world with Not In Our Town where you’re trying to promote respect, you at least have to understand enough about their religious commitments to understand why they would say what they’re saying,” she said.

Peña said putting an end to intolerance is more important than how the intolerance came about.

“I’m concerned about all expressions of hate and intolerance in our community, whether they’re articulated by a preacher or whether they’re articulated by a Twitter handle,” she said.

All issues of intolerance are ultimately connected and should be viewed as a whole, she said.

“The Not In Our Town Campaign focuses on issues of race and ethnicity but also gender, sexuality, religion and disabilities because we believe all these things are interrelated,” Peña said. “We’re trying to think about how we can think about all of these issues together and then bring communities together around all of these issues.”

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