E Pluribus Unum Includes Buddhists

Lama Chuck Stanford, a Buddhist leader in Kansas City, Mo., praised separation of church and state as a guarantor of religious pluralism in a recent Kansas City Star forum. The American commitment to a pluralistic society, he said, is embodied in the motto on America's seal: "E Pluribus Unum," which means "Out of many, one." For Lama Stanford, "no matter how worthy spiritual leaders may be, they serve their communities best not as government leaders but by helping their own members to grow spiritually." Because Buddhists do not consider their faith to be the only source of truth, he said, they are led to see all religions as being able to "help practitioners develop compassion, wisdom and to be of service to others."

Lama Stanford observed that the founders of American government wanted to avoid the religious wars and violence that plagued the European continent. In a society built on separation of church and state, he hopes that religious leaders will see it as their responsibility to "help cultivate citizens to become government leaders who will lead our nation with kindness, compassion and wisdom instead of only with their own self-interest." The Religious Right could learn a thing or two from this Lama.