Home > Atheism > Open Letter to Pastor Tom Tate

Open Letter to Pastor Tom Tate

Today, @AtheistUndrwrld tweeted a church sign picture that moved me. It didn’t make me smile, or curse, or drop my jaw in incredulity. It filled me with hope. I’m showing the picture before the break. Following the break is the letter I wrote to the pastor before starting this post. So, without further babble, here’s the picture:


One more quick note before the letter: The picture alone provides all the necessary information to quickly find this church on Google. Normally, I wouldn’t include the address of a person whom I’ve never met, but the web made this so easy that I thought I might as well break that rule. Here’s the letter:

Tom Tate, Pastor
Rose City Park United Methodist Church
5830 NE Alameda St.
Portland, OR 97213-3426

27 March 2012

Dear Pastor Tate,

Fair Warning: I intend to post this as an Open Letter, either on my blog, or on a DIY petition site so others can sign on, or both.

I’m an atheist. And I live about 600 miles away from you. I don’t know you, nor before a few minutes ago even knew OF you, but I wanted you to know that you turned a dismal rainy day into one I will long remember.

Today, you made my day.

You made it the instant I saw a picture of your church sign, linked to by a Twitter user I follow, saying:


I’ve rarely seen such a clear declaration that some in the religious community are indeed in favor of, at the very least, tolerance. And with the mass media in our country seemingly acting as stenographers for the farthest right of the religious nutcases, I can’t recall hearing of any clergy raising their voice in opposition to the hate they spew, at least no clergy with a national audience. And while your audience may not be national, you do have an audience, and you declared yourself clearly to the audience that probably matters most to you, your neighborhood. That took courage.

Your statement confirmed to me what I’ve always hoped, that coexistence without rancor is possible.

As an atheist, I will not pray that your statement reflects not only tolerance, but a desire to coexist peacefully with all in this world. But substitute “hope” for “pray” and strike out “will not” in my previous sentence and I’m all in.

Thank you,


Steven Dorst

With this, I fulfill my intention of posting the letter on my blog. As no one has (yet) responded to my Twitter plea for a DIY petition site recommendation, I ask you, my readers, to comment if you want to sign on. Better would be a recommendation for a petition site to sign the petition of thanks I’ve created at change.org. BEST would be for you to write Pastor Tom your own letter!

One more thing before you all start bombarding me with comments. AFTER writing the letter and signing, then sealing the envelope, I gave myself a forehead slap: Wait? What about Rev. Al Sharpton or Rev. Jesse Jackson? Yes. They are clergy with a national audience who have raised their voice. But at the time I wrote the letter, that part of it was true, I hadn’t (yet) recalled them to mind!

Thanks for listening,


PS – If you can recommend a DIY petition site AND you’re on Twitter, please tweet me the link to it: @sjdorst  Overtaken by events! I’ve created a petition online at change.org. You can sign on HERE.

  1. Robert Morwell
    30 Mar 2012 at 01:45

    I am a United Methodist pastor, like the Rev. Mr. Tate, and I can tell you that I have posted this picture on my own Facebook page and have had several of my colleages “Like” and Share it. Christian friends, family members, and members of my congregation have also responded to it enthusiastically. Frankly, there are a lot of us who grow weary of the right-wing, reactionary blowhards, to whom the media have handed a bullhorn and a spotlight. They do it, in part, because these people can be counted on to provide sound bytes that are sure to generate controversy (and ratings and readership). Those of us…and there are a LOT of us…who don’t ascribe to, or preach, such views, are just too boring to get attention. Anger always gets more ink than than the kind of quiet kindness that feeds, clothes, houses, heals, and comforts untold millions each day. (I will note that we are currently working on a fund-raiser for the local women’s shelter, a mission trip to Joplin, MO to help repair storm damage, another team just returned from Haiti where they built new homes for poor families, and we just paid the tuition for a young Liberian so he can go to college to learn to teach children in his war-ravaged nation) Wanna see a hopeful story in which the church is playing a vital part? Check out http://www.imaginenomalaria.org. And, the reassn you don’t hear us ballyhooing and bloviating like Pat Robertson & Co, is that we’re putting our time and resources into doing those works of compassion which the world so often takes for granted, and the media does little to cover. And, quite frankly, some in the atheistic community also choose to ignore and dismiss all these good works in their self-righteous screeds against religion and religious believers. Frankly, both camps could stand to better learn the virtue of humility.

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