Portage (MI) City Council
23 July 2013
Tim Earl (402 words - 2:13)

As you gather here today to see to the business of our city, I ask you to consider who you are here to serve. Not a deity, but the diverse population of Portage. This includes not only Christians of many sects, but also Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, Wiccans, non-believers, and others.

As Aristotle said over 2,000 years ago, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Our community is made stronger by the presence of different cultures, traditions, and viewpoints. The freedom each of us enjoys to follow our own spiritual path with no government interference, established by our constitution over 200 years ago, has served as a shining example for the rest of the world, and has contributed to the astonishing success of our nation. When we forget or ignore this principle of inclusion, we turn our backs on the wisdom of the founding fathers and tarnish their legacy, weakening our society in the process.

We don’t have to respect each other’s views. But we do have to respect each other’s right to hold those views and practice their beliefs without fear of persecution, as long as it doesn't infringe upon the rights of others.

But the differences between us are really not that significant. Nearly every religion claims that its holy book serves as the basis for human morality, and yet they’re remarkably similar. Even atheists, with no holy book of our own, share many of the same values as believers. Whereas a Christian may value all life as a gift from God, an atheist values life just as much because he believes that it’s all we have, and all that we’ll ever be. In the end, our goal is the same: to enrich the lives of others and make the world a better place for everyone. It’s our common humanity, not ancient texts, that unites us all and guides us to treat each other with dignity and respect.

And so I ask you to consider that common humanity as you deliberate tonight.

Because in this chamber, it doesn't matter what Jesus would do, or Buddha or Mohamed, or even Jefferson or Lincoln. What matters is what’s best for the citizens of Portage today and in the years ahead. Let that be the principle which guides your decisions.