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Santa Monica to Consider Signing Charter for Compassion

Santa Monica Real Estate Company, Roque and Mark

Harding Larmore Kutcher & Kozal, LLP  law firm
Harding, Larmore Kutcher & Kozal, LLP

By Jason Islas
Staff Writer

September 20, 2013 -- The Santa Monica City Council could add the bayside city's name to a “charter” calling for compassion in world religions Tuesday.

As part of a list of routine items considered at the top of its meeting, the Council will vote whether to sign off on the five-year-old document, drafted with the help of the Compassionate Action Network International (CANI).

But with religion at the center of the Charter for Compassion, it could prove controversial. Specifically, the Charter denounces particular religious doctrines.

Signatories to the document endorse a “return to the ancient principle that any interpretation of scripture that breeds violence, hatred or disdain is illegitimate.”

The document calls “upon all men and women to restore compassion to the centre of morality and religion.”

Additionally, signing off on the document will commit Santa Monica to ensuring “that youth are given accurate and respectful information about other traditions, religions and cultures.”

And, it would require the City “to encourage a positive appreciation of cultural and religious diversity (and) to cultivate an informed empathy with the suffering of all human beings -- even those regarded as enemies.”

Some may have trouble stomaching the much more overtly-religious overtones of the Charter as the City's governing body prepares to take it up.

“Born of our deep interdependence, compassion is essential to human relationships and to a fulfilled humanity,” the Charter reads. “It is the path to enlightenment, and indispensable to the creation of a just economy and a peaceful global community.”

Since it was drafted in 2008, the Charter has been signed by about 98,842 people including founder of the Virgin Group Sir Richard Branson, New Age guru Deepak Chopra, shoe mogul Kenneth Cole and singer/songwriter Paul Simon.

The Charter for Compassion in many ways is a more pervasive version of the City's Civility policy, which focuses primarily on behavior in public forums.

At its December 13, 2011 meeting, the City Council voted to endorse “standards of behavior that promote civility at all public meetings.”

Those standards, which are enumerated on the City's website, require residents to be courteous, and respectfully.

Residents must also exercise self-control, give open-minded consideration to all viewpoints, focus on the issues and avoid personalizing the debate and “embrace respectful disagreement and dissent as democratic rights, inherent components of an inclusive public process, and tools for forging sound decisions.”

That's not a far cry from the Charter, which reads, “We urgently need to make compassion a clear, luminous and dynamic force in our polarized world.”

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