Rev. Duffy Peet

Rev. Duffy Peet

Support Local Journalism


Subscribe


Over the past several weeks the issue of racism in this nation has been receiving the attention it has deserved and needed for a very long time. The death of George Floyd while in police custody has been the catalyst for demonstrations, protests and calls for change since May 25. Over the past several weeks people across this country and around the world have raised their voices to say that prejudice, discrimination and injustice based on a person’s skin color must cease.

Clearly there are historical, social and legal aspects to the prejudice, discrimination and injustice that people of color, including Black and Indigenous people in this country, experience on a daily basis. What many people don’t know, and some might wish to ignore or deny, is that there is a religious aspect to such prejudice, discrimination and injustice. And the religious aspect plays an important part in the creation and maintenance of the historical, social and legal aspects of the prejudice, discrimination and injustice of today.

For those who are unaware of the religious aspect I am speaking of, I would encourage you do an internet search of the phrase “discovery doctrine,” or the more commonly used term “doctrine of discovery.” This “doctrine” is based on edicts issued by religious leaders of the 15th century. One such edict of 1455 directed King Alfonso of Portugal to “invade, search out, capture, vanquish and subdue all Saracens and pagans whatsoever, and other enemies of Christ wheresoever placed…and to reduce their persons to perpetual slavery…and…take all their possessions and property.” Portugal utilized this edict to justify the taking and sale of African slaves. In 1493 another edict was issued granting rights to the rulers of Spain. This edict states in part:

“We ... by the authority of Almighty God ... give... to you and your heirs..., forever, all islands and mainlands found and to be found, discovered and to be discovered, towards the west and south, ... from the Arctic pole ... to the Antarctic pole .... And we...appoint... you and your said heirs .... lords of them with full and free power, authority, and jurisdiction of every kind.”

These edicts asserted that only certain people had rights and that others had no such rights. Even the basic human right to life, a right set forth in our U. S. Constitution, was denied to the majority of the world’s peoples. And parts of these edicts have been cited in U. S. Supreme Court cases. These edicts are counter to my religious values and the religious values of many, many others. Numerous protestant denominations as well as the World Council of Churches have passed resolutions that repudiate this “Doctrine of Discovery.”

It is time for religious leaders of all faith traditions to unite and condemn what this doctrine sets forth and perpetuates, the denial of basic human rights for all people. It is time for religious communities of all types and sizes to work together, in love, for justice—justice that has long been denied.

Support Local Journalism

To see what else is happening in Gallatin County subscribe to the online paper.

Rev. Duffy Peet is the minister of the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Bozeman.