Thursday, August 09, 2007

Comments about proposed "Sufi Church"

I have received several e-mail messages and telephone calls regarding a proposed religious building on Dublin Canyon Road in Pleasanton. There’s been a lot of misinformation about this proposal, much of it spread by a local radio broadcast. A recent article in the Contra Costa Times - Sufis seek to build study center <> - clears up much of that misinformation.

I’d like to expand on a few of the key points addressed in that article:

-We have a planning process in Pleasanton that is the same for everyone. Any individual may bring a proposal for a land use to the City Planning Department for review. The Planning Department educates the applicant as to what uses are appropriate given the type of use and its placement. New structures and major renovations to existing structures must go before the Planning Commission - a body of appointed residents who advise the City Council. The Planning Commission may approve a project, or it may reject it. If the project is rejected and the applicant feels strongly that the project is a good one, the applicant can appeal the decision of the Planning Commission to the City Council.

-I understand that a group of people have proposed building a structure that they describe as a Sufi church. This proposal will be before the Planning Commission, at the Commission’s next regularly scheduled meeting. Depending upon the outcome of that meeting, the proposal mayor may not come before the City Council - though my guess is that it will at some point in the near future.

-Neither the Mayor and Council, nor the City of Pleasanton is in the business of building churches, synagogues, mosques, or any other religiously-affiliated building. The Constitution forbids that kind of excessive entanglement between church and state. The City of Pleasanton receives many proposals for development. Even if I or any other Councilmember believed that the proposed project was unfit for a particular place in our community, we can’t pull the plug on the public process. In fact, it’s part of our job to make sure that the process is as fair and objective as possible.

I want to add that I am dismayed and disappointed by the harsh, and occasionally bigoted, tone of some of the messages I have received. I want to emphasize that this isn't an observation about even a majority of those who have contacted me, but it does describe such a significant minority that it concerns me greatly.

This is not the time, and Pleasanton is not the place, for the incitement of hatred or fear. This is the time, and Pleasanton is the place, for embracing our diversity - who we are as a people, and who we are as a community. It is by our commitment to being an all-inclusive, well-educated, and caring community that we allow for the important exchange of cultural similarities and differences and a heightened understanding of who we are - and what we as a community teach our children.

I remain yours in service,

P.S. I do not respond to "anonymous" calls and notes. If you can't tell me who you are so that I know you are one of my constituents, I cannot respond. I think it’s only fair that I reserve my time for those who elected me.


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