Update: CBS5.com's report on the "faith center fight" surrounding the proposed Sufism Reoriented sanctuary is up on the station's website. Reporter Joe Vasquez did a good job pulling the story together.
About 50 moms, dads, and kids, holding signs and shouting "Save Our Saranap" protested late this afternoon outside the Sufism Reoriented headquarters in Walnut Creek. They were showing their opposition to the size and design for the religious organization's massive, 66,000-square-foot proposed "house of worship."
What spurred their protest? Well, in part it was spurred by a post on this blog that was published Sunday.
And--finally!--a mainstream news organization has shown ian nterest in the debate over this project, presenting both sides, I presume. The debate has sharply divided residents in this once tranquil unincorporated neighborhood between downtown Walnut Creek and Lafayette.
That news organization is CBS5.com. Reporter Joe Vasquez (seen above with Save our Saranap, or SOS, protesters) stopped by Sufism headquarters on Boulevard Way, just south of Interstate 24, to talk to representatives of the organization and to protesters for a report that is scheduled to air tonight at 11 p.m.
Meanwhile, a quickly organized group of Saranap residents, holding mostly hand-made signs, gathered to express their opposition to the project, as it is currently envisioned.
During the protest, many motorists drove by honking in support. One man, who described himself as a long-term resident of the neighborhood, said he had sent his kids to the private K-5 Meher Schools, which Sufism operates in the neighborhood. He said his kids had a great educational experience at the school. He explained that he wasn't all that aware of the debate about the sanctuary but was concerned to learn, according to SOS protesters, that construction of the project would involve the destruction of all the trees on the 3.25-acre property.
At least one motorist, a man in a gray pickup, very much disagreed with the protest. He drove past the protesters, who included kids, and shouted "You're trying to take away our church!"
Contrary to what this one this motorist said, Save Our Saranap members do not want to stop Sufism Reoriented from building his sanctuary. SOS just wants Sufism Reoriented to reconsider the size and design to make it more appropriate for this residential neighborhood.
Finally, I'm glad that Joe Vasquez and CBS5.com are tuning into this issue. Maybe, finally a real dialogue can begin, where both sides can air their viewpoints. That has not happened before now, not in the larger public domain. The Contra Costa Times published two lame stories over the summer about Sufism Reoriented and the project. They were basically rewrites of Sufism Reoriented press releases, and the Times reporters didn't bother to talk to anyone from the growing numbers of people who were not happy about the project.
I am sympathetic to SOS members organizing and raising questions. Still, I'm happy to see that people sympathetic and supportive to Sufism Reoriented and its sanctuary plans left comments on my prior blog posts, offering an alternate viewpoint from what I'm hearing from my Save Our Saranap friends. Many of those comments, from both supporters and opponents of the project, were very informative, heart-felt and well thought out.