Yellow Journalism and the URI

June 14, 2005

A recent article on George Lucas, the Presidio, and the URI in the Canada Free Press is an excellent example of the yellow journalism that now plagues the Internet, particularly in the blogging domain. Instead of providing the courtesy of a link to the article, I'll just talk about it instead. Some might say I'm engaging in a yellow tactic myself &mdash but then again, I don't claim to be producing news at Conscientia.

I'll give you a couple of choice quotes though:

"Lucas creatures join the murky, hypocritical, we-have-a-monopoly-on-peace taxpayer-supported Neverland of the populous United Nations brethren." …

"URI claims that since 1996, over 1,000 people have participated in six regional conferences around the world. The cathedral in Chartes, France is the latest to join the movement. Its global headquarters and interfaith board of directors are located in San Francisco. Supporters have waited since 1996 for the release of a draft charter from the organization, and the draft is scheduled for release in June of 2005."

Problem #1: presenting this quote about Lucas and UN, etc. in the middle of a news article. Completely out of place, unsubstantiated to any degree, without context, etc. Problem #2: no investigation of the facts. What follows is a letter to the editor I fired off earlier this evening:

Ms. McLeod,

While I respectfully disagree with the implications of your recent article "The Summer of Star Wars at make-believe Presidio," I write today to submit a few corrections of fact rather than focus on our different interpretations of the symbolism of Lucas and his neighbors in the Presidio. It seems your source of information about the United Religions Initiative (URI) is quite outdated; I believe most of the facts listed date from 1999.

While I do not have a specific count of participation in URI events around the world since 1996, it is now well beyond the 1,000s, incorporating participation in hundreds of events each year. Gatherings small and large are conducted by over 300 local Cooperation Circles spread around the world. I have heard that the Cathedral of Chartres has some relationship with Grace Cathedral, where Bishop Swing presides, but this is completely independent of the United Religions Initiative. While the original board of directors was based in the San Francisco area (out of necessity), this year the URI held its second successful Global Council elections, resulting in the election of members from 17 countries (new Trustees will take office at the upcoming Global Council meeting in Seoul, South Korea in two weeks). A clear majority of the outgoing and incoming Global Councils lives outside of North America. Several different drafts of the charter circulated prior to 2000; the final draft was released in February of 2000 and the charter officially signed at a ceremony in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA, on June 26, 2000. Thus along with the 60th anniversary of the United Nations, we will be celebrating the 5th anniversary of the URI at the Global Council meeting.

Finally, I cannot help but add one comment: please do visit the URI website (, or even my own InterfaithNews.Net, to learn more about the actions of interfaith activists around the world who work to overcome suffering and create better lives for people every day. URI participants who run hospices for HIV/AIDS victims, who push for international intervention to stop the rape and pillaging in Darfur, who sit together in small groups working to overcome their own religious prejudice — these are, to me, heroes greater than the Jedi of the screen, heroes who live and work to make our concrete reality a better place for all.

Stephen A. Fuqua

Regional Coordinator for North America, The United Religions Initiative
Editor, InterfaithNews.Net