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DIVERSITY PLEDGE MAKES ROOM FOR ATHEISM

inclusive-signRed Bank has adopted a diversity statement as a “tremendous strength and asset to the community.” (Photo by Dustin Racioppi; click to enlarge)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

The Red Bank Human Relations Committee must’ve thought it had all its bases covered when it drafted a diversity statement and sent it along to the borough council for adoption last week.

But even though it was a “wonderful gesture,” said resident Stephen Mitchell, the statement, which highlights the borough’s acceptance of diversity, was missing one contingent to make it fully embracing: non-believers.

Mitchell, an atheist, pointed out that 15 percent of Americans are religious non-believers, and thus the statement should reflect that.

So the council amended the statement to include the group.

Now it reads, with the amendment in bold:

Diversity, when it is accepted and respected, is a tremendous strength and asset for any community. It encompasses an understanding that each individual is unique and valuable to the welfare of the community. It recognizes and celebrates the differences amongst individuals, and capitalizes on the strengths resulting from these differences. Diversity works best when a community explores these differences in a safe, positive, and nurturing environment. The Human Relations Advisory Committee of Red Bank, NJ, in an effort to set an example for inclusivity, adopts the broadest definition of diversity with the following statement: The dimensions of diversity shall include, but are not limited to the following: race, ethnicity, persons of faith and non-believers, sexual orientation, sex, gender identity, disability, socioeconomic status, cultural orientation, physical abilities, political beliefs, age, and national origin and status.

Simple enough. And now, with the adoption of the statement, Red Bank has on the books a document that Mayor Pasquale Menna called a “no-brainer” and, along with the pending completion by council members of a diversity survey, helps earn the borough points in the Sustainable Jersey program.

When the council was first asked to review the statement in April, Menna said “Diversity has been our credo forever, since Moses came down from the mountain. We haven’t deviated from that at all.”

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