The Rev. Casey dunsworth

serves as Associate Campus Pastor to the Belfry, the Lutheran-Episcopal Campus Ministry to UC Davis

and as Program Director for LEVN, the Lutheran Episcopal Volunteer Network.

Reasons why I will never be elected.

I'm so amped off this Islamic center being built in Manhattan.

Some people (Sarah Palin) are not as enthused. Why? Because they think that building an Islamic community center so close to Ground Zero is an insult to the memory of those who were killed on September 11, 2001. She tweeted last month in an appeal to Muslims: "Peace-seeking Muslims, pls understand, Ground Zero mosque is UNNECESSARY provocation; it stabs hearts. Pls reject it in interest of healing." What does this building provoke? Only your ignorance, bigotry, and fear.

The building, 45-47 Park Place, is currently owned by the Cordoba Initiative, a Muslim organization that seeks to build bridges between Islam and the West. I'm sure that, today, Fox News is ranting and raving about New York City's Landmark Preservation Committee's decision to not consider 45-47 Park Place a landmark. This will allow the Cordoba Initiative to make changes to the building without fear of damaging its historical integrity. Don't get too excited -- they're not putting up minarets, they say. The building will look just like any other building in Manhattan. And it's already being used as a prayer space (AND THE WORLD HAS NOT ENDED!) so the changes will just be upgrades and remodels.

What better way to represent peace and understanding, than to put a place of community and worship near the site of such a deadly event? The problem is that not many people see it this way. Sarah Palin and friends don't understand the difference between Islam and terrorism. To them, putting in the Muslim version of the YMCA (that's practically what this is) is the same thing as allowing al-Qaeda to build its headquarters there. Herein lies the problem.

It's been nine years since 9/11, and still this country is full of hatred and blindness toward Islam. I would have hoped that it would have influenced Americans to better understand the world around them, and better understand Islam. Instead, it has made most Americans into followers of Sarah Palin, Glenn Beck, George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, and all the other old favorites -- fearmongers who preach intolerance, bigotry, and war. Listening to their lies is the easy way out. Reaching out to your fellow American who kisses the holy ground in praise of Allah instead of sitting, anonymous, among thousands in your megachurch singing praise to your money and your "religious freedom" takes guts. It takes guts that Sarah Palin does not have. It takes guts that our elected officials are afraid to have, because the public and the press (aka Fox News) have turned against them.

Look at President Obama. Idiots have argued that he is a "secret Muslim" because he reached out to our Muslim neighbors to try and establish peace in the Middle East. As though being a "secret Muslim" would be the end of the world, and a reason why he shouldn't be elected, and a reason why his voice should not be heard. If the President of the United States can't even be free to make peace with Muslim nations, how will we ever get there?

Our only hope is for our generation to take a stand. It is our responsibility to turn our society into one of love, understanding, and actual religious freedom. It is our responsibility to go to churches that preach openness. It is our responsibility to vote for candidates who will fight the bigotry and work toward peace. It is our responsibility to raise our children to love their neighbors and not think twice about whether they are Christian, Muslim, Atheist, Mormon, Jewish, or Pagan. The way our parents have tried to raise us to look beyond race, we must look beyond creed. People of faith are people of faith. People of no faith are people, too. We are all neighbors.

Love your neighbor, today. Love a Muslim, today. Love America, today. It's all within the realm of possibility.

Ah, equality.

Another reason to love Thomas.