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Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Hail Columbia (and happy Diwali)

This morning as I was running errands I got a phone call. Not recognizing the number, I let it ring and lo--there was a voicemail. Who could it be, Diana? I asked myself. Perhaps it's from a job you applied to in Cleveland! I opened my voicemail box to see.

It was a Mormon missionary. How do they still find me? I lamented. I changed my phone number! I moved to a different apartment! And then, in the middle of the message, the missionary's very polite voice said that she had met MY MOTHER in Salt Lake City during conference and was calling ON HER BEHALF.

Oh Mom, why you do this? It's been five years. I'm not coming back. Let it go...and don't give out my new phone number to Mormons. You can show your love in ways that don't involve LDS personnel calling me; in fact, just saying "I love you," as you do every time we talk, is enough.

This anecdote is a roundabout way of getting to the point: Hail Columbia. Hail Columbia is an initiative begun by pagan groups in order to remind people that, oh yes, here in the US we do have this thing called "freedom of religion." And the concepts of freedom and the US as a free land are handily personified in the figure of the goddess Columbia? So much the better! Minority religious and atheist/agnostic communities and people face a lot of garbage in the form of aggressive proselytizing, hate speech, and even legal measures which favor majority religious groups (read: Christians), much of which is outright lies. Hail Columbia aims to distribute information and coordinate marches, meetings, and demonstrations to "help re-affirm the idea set forth in our founding document: 'that Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.'" There are currently coordinating groups in 26 of the 50 US states (no surprises, Utah doesn't have any yet). If you're interested in what this effort is about, check out the website's coordinators map to see if someone in your area is involved.

And on that note, it's Diwali! Best wishes of light, awareness, and clarity to Hindu, Jain, and Sikh readers out there.

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