This morning, a diverse group of Columbus religious leaders gathered for a press conference in response to repeated threats against the Noor Islamic Center. The leaders called for an end to the violent threats, and expressed their solidarity with Columbus’s Muslim community
The Noor Center has received threats and harassing communications that include blaspheming drawings. The threats via mail and via phone have all been turned into the Hilliard Police and the FBI.
Rev. Rebecca Tollefson, Director of the Ohio Council of Churches, said, “Today, faith leaders of all backgrounds are standing shoulder to shoulder with our Islamic brothers and sisters. Distortion and misunderstanding about the basics of this faith have led to these threats.”
Rabbi Eric Woodward from Congregation Tifereth Israel said, “Jews and Muslims have a long history of getting along and being close to each other. But even if that were not the case, loving those around us is a human duty. We all stand in solidarity as people who want to worship in peace and live in peace.”
Rev. Lynda Smith of the North Unitarian Universalist Congregation said, “The Unitarian Universalist will be letting their congregations know that an attack on Muslims in an affront to us all, and to our shared values. This is why we are calling on other faith leaders to raise awareness about this injustice, this hate has to stop.”
“The increased cases of hate crime due to Islamophobia has victimized the Noor community in the last few weeks with threating calls full of profane language and harassment. These acts have frightened our community,” said Imran Malik, President of Noor Islamic Center.
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Washington, DC – Today, prominent national religious leaders joined U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine to discuss the devastating potential consequences of a negative ruling in the King v. Burwell case that was argued before the Supreme Court yesterday.
“In his letter to the faithful on Ash Wednesday, Pope Francis called us to be islands in the sea of indifference. The Affordable Care Act reaches into the lives of people who have been drowned in the sea of indifference,” said Sen. Tim Kaine. “We need to pray for the Supreme Court to have the wisdom to understand something that is very, very plain.”
The faith community played an integral role in organizing and advocating for the passage of healthcare reform – including many of today’s speakers. Now that the law is once again threatened in the Supreme Court, these leaders are working to raise awareness of the disastrous moral consequences of a negative ruling in King v. Burwell, as well as reaffirm their commitment to fighting for quality, affordable healthcare for all Americans.
“If every person is created in the image and likeness of God, doesn’t that mean they deserve access to healthcare? Millions of souls across the United States have found quality, affordable healthcare, and if the Supreme Court rules with the plaintiffs in this case, it will cause incredible suffering. This is a moral imperative,” said Rabbi Jonah Pesner, Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism.
The faith leaders stressed that the focus must remain the Americans whose healthcare and lives were at risk.
“This case is about more than six words. And while we might want to say that it is about just words, as a person of faith, I know this is about life and death,” said Sister Simone Campbell, Executive Director of NETWORK Lobby and Nuns on the Bus organizer. “This is a situation where the Supreme Court can choose life. This is really about the common good, so we are advocating and praying that the Supreme Court will choose life over death.”
“We hear often about the numbers involved with the Affordable Care Act. But there’s a human side to the equation, and those numbers have human faces. There’s 11.4 million stories,” said Rev. Norman Wilson, Senior Pastor at Freedom Hall Church of the Living God in Orlando, FL and a leader with PICO National Network.
The audio from today’s call is available here.
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Atlanta, GA – Today, a diverse group of Georgia faith leaders announced a Faith Week of Action in opposition to a controversial “religious freedom” bills that have been introduced in the state legislature. The Faith Week of Action is the latest part of an ongoing, clergy-led campaign against the divisive legislation. Since December, clergy have been writing op-eds, holding rallies and lobbying lawmakers, citing their concerns about the potential for an increase in discrimination against people of all backgrounds.
More than 200 clergy have now signed a letter opposing the bills. The letter will run as full-page ads on Thursday in the Atlanta Journal Constitution, Marietta Daily Journal, Columbus Ledger-Enquirer and Athens Banner-Herald. The ad can be viewed here, as well as on the coalition’s website.
In addition to the newspaper ads, the clergy have organized a call-in on Tuesday, as people of faith from across the state will call their state representatives and state senators to urge them to oppose the “religious freedom” bills.
“These bills are not about religious freedom. They are about the right to discriminate—against gays and lesbians, against women, against children, against African-Americans. As a Christian pastor, I don’t want that done in my name,” said Rev. Timothy McDonald, III, Pastor of First Iconium Baptist Church.
“As a Baptist, I know that religious liberty is critical for a healthy church and a free nation. That’s why I oppose the unnecessary, dangerous Religious Freedom Restoration bills,” said Rev. Julie Pennington-Russell, Pastor of First Baptist Church of Decatur. “Hundreds of faith leaders are speaking out against this ill-conceived legislation.”
“I’m proud to stand with 200 fellow clergy opposed to these unnecessary ‘Religious Freedom’ bills,” said Rev. David Lewicki, Co-Pastor at North Decatur Presbyterian Church. “Both the U.S. Constitution and Georgia’s State Constitution already secure our religious freedom.”
Rev. McDonald, Rev. Pennington-Russell and Rev. Lewicki are all available today for interviews to discuss the clergy campaign against “religious freedom” legislation in Georgia.
The clergy are part of a growing chorus of business leaders, legal experts and people of faith who are opposing these unnecessary and harmful bills.
The full text of the clergy letter is below. The complete list of the more than 200 Georgia faith leaders who have signed the letter can be found here.
As faith leaders from diverse traditions, we believe freedom of religion is one of our most fundamental rights as Americans, but religious freedom does not give any of us the right to harm or exclude others.
We oppose this proposed legislation. First, it would put an individual’s religious beliefs ahead of the common good. Second, it could unleash a wave of costly lawsuits that will add burdens to both the courts and taxpayers alike. Third, it is unnecessary because our freedom of religion is already guaranteed and protected by the U.S. Constitution and Georgia’s State Constitution.
Fourth, a state RFRA could legalize discrimination by allowing businesses to refuse to serve customers based on religious objections. We believe that businesses that are open to the public should be open to everyone on the same terms. We strongly oppose giving for-profit corporations religious rights that could allow them to discriminate against employees based on any characteristic—from their religious practices to their sexual orientation. This principle harkens back to the civil rights movement and our nation’s core values of equality and justice.
We all have different views on the issue of marriage for same-sex couples, but we are united in condemnation of discrimination and in firm support of equal protection under the law.
We caution our elected leaders against supporting this unnecessary RFRA, which opens wide the door for exclusion and division. Instead, they must preserve the current protections already afforded to us through the Constitution.
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Atlanta, GA – Today at 10:30AM, a group of prominent clergy will hold a press conference before delivering a letter to Gov. Nathan Deal signed by more than 500 Georgia faith leaders calling for Kelly Gissendaner to be spared. Hundreds of clergy and people of faith from the across the country have also signed the letter. Gissendaner is scheduled to be executed tonight.
An online petition has also gathered nearly 50,000 signatures calling for the execution to be stopped.
Press conference and delivery of a letter signed by more than 500 Georgia clergy calling for Kelly Gissendaner to be spared.
Bishop Rob Wright, Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta
Deacon Richard Tolcher, Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta
Georgia State Capitol Rotunda
206 Washington St SW, Atlanta, GA 30334
Today – Monday, March 2nd at 10:30AM
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Atlanta, GA – A group of clergy from across the state gathered at the Georgia State Capitol Wednesday to call on their legislators to oppose a pair of “religious freedom” bills being proposed in the state legislature. After a morning of lobby visits, the group gathered to reiterate their moral and religious objections to the proposed legislation.
Rev. Pam Driesell, Senior Pastor of Trinity Presbyterian Church, said, “This bill is a wolf in sheep’s clothing. It gives the appearance of being something good, when in reality, it’s something harmful. These bills perverts freedom into an opportunity to harm others, and they violate the most basic religious principle: not to use our freedom to harm, but to use our freedom to do good.”
Rabbi Joshua Lesser of Congregation Bet Haverim said, “I believe these bills weaponize religion. They erode the common good through discrimination. I thought Georgia had grown to be a more tolerant state, but this legislation proves we have not.”
Rev. David Key, Sr., Director of Baptist Studies at Candler School of Theology at Emory University, said, “As a Georgia Baptist, I believe strongly in religious freedom, but I do not support this legislation. RFRA is not about religious freedom, it’s about discrimination. Religious freedom doesn’t give any of us the right to harm others. This legislation is unnecessary, this legislation is harmful, and the state of Georgia doesn’t need it.”
The delegation that gathered at the State Capitol on Wednesday is a fraction of the more than 180 clergy from many denominations who signed a letter released at the beginning of the legislative session that urged legislators not to pass the “religious freedom” bills.
The lobby day is part of an ongoing campaign by Georgia clergy to lobby against the passage of controversial “religious freedom” bills.
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