My friend, Wayne Laugesen 

click to enlarge Stewart Sallo
  • Stewart Sallo

After reading the Indy's recently published piece on Wayne Laugesen ("Gazette's un-funny editorialist," Ranger Rich, May 29), I feel compelled to make an attempt to set the record straight.

I have known Laugesen since 1994, when he was first hired as a reporter for the then-upstart Boulder Weekly, of which I am the founder, owner and publisher. Over the course of our now-14-year association, I have had a clearer window into Laugesen's true nature than Rich Tosches, Mikey Weinstein, Rick Baker or anyone from the Colorado Springs community.

In the interest of full disclosure, I will admit that I have fundamental differences with Laugesen, which made it very challenging for me to work with him. However, rather than delve into the specifics of these differences, I will focus instead on the most relevant area of agreement between us: a commitment to defending religious freedom.

During the time Laugesen and I served together as strange bedfellows at the Weekly, we enjoyed frequent heart-to-heart conversations about the subject of religion. His points of view on religious freedom, Judaism, the state of Israel and numerous related subjects were clearly revealed to me during those discussions.

Despite my very real and sometimes troubling disagreements with Laugesen on a certain list of issues, I can state with complete confidence to the Indy's staff, and everyone in Colorado Springs, that Wayne Laugesen is a great champion of religious freedom and expression, a strong supporter of Israel's right to exist and a sincere defender of the Jewish people, along with any other groups who are subject to bigotry in any form. To accuse Laugesen of anti-Semitism or any other form of bigotry is plainly false. He is a man without a bigoted bone in his body.

My professional and personal relationship with Laugesen has been transformative for me in that it has taught me to become more tolerant and understanding of my fellow human beings. We, as a culture, are much too quick to affix labels and to enable those labels to dictate our judgment of people. As a Jew, I have often been the subject of those kinds of "stereotypes" particularly as a small child growing up in an anti-Semitic neighborhood in Minneapolis. Through knowing Laugesen, I have come to realize that, despite their majority status, Christians are also subject to stereotypical judgment and the corresponding bigotry that is more commonly directed toward those in minority groups.

Indeed, in Tosches' piece, Laugesen is the victim of bigotry, portrayed as an oddball, Timothy McVeigh-like, violent Jew-hater whom we all should fear. This is simply not the case, and it pains me to see my fellow progressives exemplifying a form of vicious intolerance that we would prefer to believe is the exclusive territory of the O'Reillys, Limbaughs and Falwells of the world.

Have we devolved so deeply into our own narrow perspectives that we cannot investigate past the surface to see the whole person? Can we not get over ourselves long enough to see that, despite differences, there is a human being on the other end of our harsh and narrow judgments who is as worthy of love and compassion as are those with whom we agree? Most importantly, can we not see that this course of action only serves to exaggerate the differences between us, thereby forsaking the opportunity to explore the greater common ground that we all share?

Wayne Laugesen is a loving father and husband, a good friend, a courageous journalist and a man of the highest integrity. He may be a conservative/Libertarian Catholic who is fanatically against abortion. And he may have some unpopular views about the role of firearms in our culture and how to protect our citizens from gun violence. But without exception, all of his views are born of his deep commitment to what we refer to in the Jewish faith as tikkun olam the repair and healing of our world. And throughout our 14-year association, I have never known Laugesen to tell a lie. If he says that his comments about Jews combining government and religion were about the Jewish state of Israel, and that they were taken out of context, that's good enough for me.

Stewart Sallo is the owner and publisher of Boulder Weekly.

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