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Olympia faith leaders issue clarion call against racism and hatred

This statue outside Olympia’s Temple Beth Hatfiloh was vandalized with a spray-painted swastika in December 2015.
This statue outside Olympia’s Temple Beth Hatfiloh was vandalized with a spray-painted swastika in December 2015. Rabbi Seth Goldstein

Olympia’s faith leaders are calling on residents to join them in taking a stand against hate crimes and race-related violence.

Representatives from five South Sound congregations have announced the Olympia Charter for Compassion, which outlines a set of civic values “that we hope the larger community will adopt as a standard of behavior and as a tool for dialogue as we seek to live together in a way that nurtures the well-being of all people.”

The charter was prompted by several recent crimes in which the victims were targeted because of race or sexual orientation, said the Rev. Amy Walters LaCroix of First Christian Church. She cited examples in downtown Olympia such as the Sept. 4 assault of a woman who was leaving a charity drag show and the Aug. 16 stabbing of an interracial couple by an alleged white supremacist.

The scope of the charter goes beyond Olympia, said Walters, who noted a recent incident in Tenino where a black family’s home and vehicle were spray-painted with racist graffiti.

“We’re noticing there’s a growing number of these types of events happening in the area,” Walters told The Olympian, saying the mission transcends the walls of any church. “Maybe there is a way we can express some shared values that we see in Olympia and invite people to join us in holding those values up.”

She also referenced the fear that some people feel about this week’s election of Donald Trump, whose anti-immigration and nationalist rhetoric added fuel to racial tensions across the country.

“With this election cycle, a lot of people are feeling particularly vulnerable,” she said. “We thought this would be a good time to really roll it out and work on something positive rather than negative.”

Other faith community leaders to sign the charter so far include Rabbi Seth Goldstein of Temple Beth Hatfiloh, the Rev. Carol McKinley of the Olympia Unitarian Universalist Congregation, Pastor Elizabeth Ullery Swenson of WildWood Gathering and the Rev. Katherine Keough of Emmaus Ecumenical Catholic Community.

The group will ask the Olympia City Council to support the charter during the council’s meeting at 7 p.m. Tuesday at City Hall. The charter encourages the public to strive for respect and compassion toward one another, engage in civil dialogue, include all voices to solve community issues, speak out against bigotry and religious prejudice, and “work to build a community that welcomes and respects the unique gifts brought by all those who make up our diverse Olympia community.”

The entire statement can be viewed at olycompassion.org.

Andy Hobbs: 360-704-6869, @andyhobbs

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