Willamette Week

Sikhs imprisoned in Oregon: How a national scandal hit a small farming town

Sikhs imprisoned in Oregon: How a national scandal hit a small farming town

Oregon is a diverse state and one in which I did lots of religion coverage during the my early reporting years. There are generous concentrations of Jews, Christians and Muslims and sprinklings of other groups — but Sikhism are one faith that isn’t heard about often.

This 2013 Oregonian piece estimates there are probably less than 1,000 Sikhs in the entire state, which may explain why officials at a local prison knew nothing about this 500-year-old faith when a load of Sikh immigrants was dumped at their door.

The mistreatment of these Sikhs –- and the number of Oregonians who volunteered to help them -- led to an Associated Press story that ran last week.

We’re going to be looking at several interesting stories, because this is — sadly — a story that isn’t going away anytime soon.

SALEM, Ore. (AP) — With the sun bearing down, Norm and Kathy Daviess stood in the shade of a prison wall topped with coiled razor wire, waiting for three immigrants to come out.

It’s become an oddly familiar routine for the Air Force veteran and his wife, part of an ad hoc group of volunteers that formed in recent months after the Trump administration transferred 124 immigrants to the federal prison in rural Oregon, a first for the facility.

The detainees were among approximately 1,600 immigrants apprehended along the U.S.-Mexico border and then transferred to federal prisons in five states after President Donald Trump’s “zero tolerance” policy left the usual facilities short of space.

Almost half of those sent to the prison outside Sheridan, an economically struggling town 50 miles (80 kilometers) southwest of Portland, on May 31 are from India, many of them Sikhs — part of an influx of Indian nationals entering the U.S. in recent years...

The story is not new.

In June the Portland-based Willamette Week covered a demonstration of religious leaders railing against the detaining of so many religious refugees at this prison.

Religious leaders from the Interfaith Movement for Immigrant Justice today denounced the treatment of the 123 immigrants detained in a federal prison in Sheridan, Ore., saying many of the men are religious refugees fleeing persecution in their home nations.

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Embattled evangelical judge in Oregon gets mixed coverage -- with little religious content

Embattled evangelical judge in Oregon gets mixed coverage -- with little religious content

Not many readers may have heard about Marion County (Ore.) Judge Vance Day and his chapter on America's current religious liberty wars -- but you may soon.

Reading a piece about him in Williamette Week, a venerable alternate newspaper based in Portland, the first thing I noticed was a piece of art showing the judge hiding behind a statue of Jesus.

I thought: A religion story for sure.

Instead, the piece complained about how the judge was using all sorts of out-of-state funds for his legal war chest. For instance:

Day has achieved a lot of firsts. He's the first judge that Oregon's judicial fitness commission has recommended for removal from the bench in more than 35 years. He is the first judge ever to use Oregon's decade-old law allowing embattled public officials to establish legal trust funds. And Day has raised far more with his fund -- at least a half-million dollars -- than other elected officials who have established such funds.
Although Day's ethical and legal troubles have been well-documented over the past two years, the details of how he's used his defense fund to harness a political movement have not previously been reported.
Day has turned his proposed expulsion from the bench into a cash cow -- using his fund to hire big-name lawyers, rake in money from an enigmatic conservative foundation, and cozy up to permanently outraged right-wing culture warriors.

Hmmm. Reading further, I learned that it’s legal to have such a trust fund. Meanwhile, one thing Day has refused to do is same-sex marriages. In blue-state Oregon, that’s blasphemy.

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That 'Patriot Prayer' man takes on the anarchists, but reporters forget to ask about God

That 'Patriot Prayer' man takes on the anarchists, but reporters forget to ask about God

Activism is already out in full force in the Pacific Northwest, where the streets are inhabited by a collection of bandana-wearing antifascists, radicals, artists, anarchists, anti-racists, gays and feminists on the left and the neo-Nazis and white supremacists on the vociferous right.

Demonstrations are a staple here and the participants are almost all under 40. For instance, this piece in the Williamette Week told how the Portland (Ore.) police stood by while militia groups, alt-right demonstrators and anarchist counter-protestors beat each other up recently.

So the presence of anyone religious in this messy drama is highly intriguing.

The Vancouver (Wash.) Columbian, whose airy newsroom is across the Columbia River from Oregon, decided to profile one of the most intriguing personalities on the streets today. This passage is very long, but it's essential. Read on.

Vancouver’s Joey Gibson always paid some attention to politics but had little practical interest in the process. Then he took to the streets outside the Republican National Convention in Cleveland last summer.
There, the leader of the Patriot Prayer online community-slash-movement, whose organizing and activism has garnered national headlines after recent clashes on college campuses and the streets of Portland, was caught on camera tearing up a demonstrator’s anti-police cardboard sign. 
“Why would you destroy my property?” asked the man, who was wearing a T-shirt that read “F*** the police.”
Because Gibson, 33, was fired up. But then he felt bad for ripping up the sign. 
He handed the guy a $20 bill, and the interaction ended with a handshake. 
Now, a year later, Gibson said he is still evolving as an activist and organizer. On Facebook videos and YouTube, he preaches “Hatred is a disease.” He counts the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. among his political heroes.

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