Mountain Home church leader cursed for inclusiveness

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Arkansas gets some web attention on the widely read Crooks and Liars:

It quoted the WWJTDo blog:

The Unitarian Universalist church in my hometown of Mountain Home, Arkansas recently published a letter in the local paper letting the community know that they welcome everyone at their church regardless of race, religion, or sexual orientation.

The reaction? The church had its windows shot out one night and were left this note:

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I searched the Baxter Bulletin archives and found this letter to the editor in June:


From Alice Hurley, Minister,
Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Mountain Home:

While the Arkansas Supreme Court considers their position on same-sex marriage, let's take a moment to reflect on the importance of the separation of state and church. Arkansas state, as a representation of all people contained within its boundaries, cannot dictate the conduct of a church or fellowship of any religion or philosophy. It has a responsibility to ensure all citizens are treated equally under the law. Conversely, individuals and private organizations, religious or otherwise, do have the right of discrimination.

Once the state ensures everyone is represented equally, then individuals are free to choose, within the bounds of law, whom they befriend and what organizations hold their loyalty or membership. Individuals can be open to learning about different people and cultures, choosing to be inclusive and tolerant of their neighbors in a community, or they can choose to be insular and discriminatory.

We at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Mountain Home choose not to discriminate. Our Fellowship Hall is open to all truth-seekers, regardless of race or sexual orientation. Please feel free to visit our fellowship and consider becoming part of our family. We respect the right of people to choose their marriage partners for themselves, and are happy to perform, for members or non-members, commitment ceremonies and same-sex marriages, as soon as the state of Arkansas realizes it cannot discriminate and must ensure that all of its citizens are equal under the law.

I talked later with Mrs. Hurley, 82, lay leader of the small congregation. The anonymous letter was sent to Bill Rhodes, the president of the congregation about two weeks ago. What appeared to be pellet gun holes were found in a church window Sunday, though she's drawing no conclusions about cause and effect in the case of either the letter or the holes in the window. The church sits by a traffic light and teenagers with a BB gun might have just popped off a few shots, she noted.

"I think it was just somebody blowing off steam," Hurley said of the letter. She noted that she signed her letter. And she said she wished the writer of the anonymous note would get in touch. "I'd arrange for him to have five to ten minutes of time to speak at our service Sunday. We'd be happy to listen to him. I won't say we'd agree with him, but we'll listen." 

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