‘…we are deeply troubled that rancor, threats and incivility have become commonplace…’

I don’t know what is left to say about the horrible Arizona shootings — or the reaction to the shootings.

I think pundits/talking heads are now reacting to the reactions to the reactions to the shootings.

But a group of religious leaders from across the ideological spectrum today released a statement, actually an open letter to Congress, that may be worth reading. So here it is:

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Dear Members of Congress,

As Americans and members of the human family, we are grieved by the recent tragedy in Tucson, Arizona.  As Christian, Muslim and Jewish leaders, we pray together for all those wounded, including Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords as she fights for her life.  Our hearts break for those lives lost and for the loved ones left behind.  We also stand with you, our elected officials, as you continue to serve our nation while coping with the trauma of this senseless attack.

This tragedy has spurred a sorely needed time of soul searching and national public dialogue about violent and vitriolic political rhetoric. We strongly support this reflection, as we are deeply troubled that rancor, threats and incivility have become commonplace in our public debates.

We appreciate the sacrifices you make and risks you incur by accepting a call to public service, and we urge you to continue to serve as stewards of our democracy by engaging ideological adversaries not as enemies, but as fellow Americans.

In our communities and congregations, we pledge to foster an environment conducive to the important and difficult debates so crucial to American democracy. In our churches, mosques and synagogues, we come together not as members of a certain political ideology or party, but as children of God and citizens called to build a more perfect union.  We pray that you do the same.

Anti-abortion leaders condemn NYC abortion rates

Archbishop Dolan and other religious leaders who oppose abortion held a press conference today to lament abortion rates in NYC.

They said that, based on data released by the NYC Department of Health, 41 percent of all pregnancies ended in abortion in 2009.

That’s 126,774 live births and 87,273 abortions.

Rabbi Chaim Dovid Zwiebel of Agudath Israel of America, an Orthodox group, said: “We’ve been hearing for many years from pro-choice supporters that abortion should be safe, legal and rare. If that’s the goal, we’ve clearly, abysmally failed, especially here in New York City.”

Dolan: “I re-affirm Cardinal John O’Connor’s promise of a quarter-century ago that every woman facing a difficult pregnancy will be provided with free, confidential help of the highest quality from the Archdiocese of New York,” said Archbishop Dolan. “We are prepared to do everything in our power to help you and your unborn baby to make absolutely certain that you need never feel that you have no choice but an abortion.”

According to the stats, released by the anti-abortion Chiaroscuro Foundation, 60 percent of pregnancies for black women ended in abortion.

Reverend Michel Faulkner. “There is something terribly wrong with this picture. As an African American, I cannot passively accept the demise of my community in the name of choice. I choose to stand up and say: ‘why are these numbers so high?’ We did not survive the middle passage and 300 years of Slavery and 100 years of Jim Crow laws to suffer this. I call on every New Yorker to stand for life. We must not allow this trend to continue. New York City is the place where people’s futures begin, not end.”

A statement on (traditional) marriage

So a group of religious leaders released an open letter yesterday affirming that marriage is between one man and one woman. Period.

The letter repeats a common argument of recent years, that maintaining the traditional understanding of marriage is not only right but the best thing for everyone.

“Marriage is an institution fundamental to the well-being of all of society, not just religious communities,” says the short letter, officially called “The Protection of Marriage: A Shared Commitment.”

The letter is signed by 26 religious leaders. You can, more or less, guess who they are: Archbishop Dolan; Leith Anderson of the National Association of Evangelicals; H. David Burton, presiding bishop of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints; Richard Land of the Southern Baptist Convention; and other Orthodox Christian, Orthodox Jewish and conservative Christians leaders. Also: Manmohan Singh of the American Region of the World Sikh Council.

Who’s missing? Who do you think? Episcopalians. Presbyterians. Non-Orthodox Jews. Other liberal or progressive religious types.

Here’s the full text of the letter:

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Dear Friends,

Marriage is the permanent and faithful union of one man and one woman. As such, marriage is the natural basis of the family. Marriage is an institution fundamental to the well-being of all of society, not just religious communities.

As religious leaders across different faith communities, we join together and affirm our shared commitment to promote and protect marriage as the union of one man and one woman. We honor the unique love between husbands and wives; the indispensible place of fathers and mothers; and the corresponding rights and dignity of all children.

Marriage thus defined is a great good in itself, and it also serves the good of others and society in innumerable ways. The preservation of the unique meaning of marriage is not a special or limited interest but serves the good of all. Therefore, we invite and encourage all people, both within and beyond our faith communities, to stand with us in promoting and protecting marriage as the union of one man and one woman.

‘There can be no place for religious bias of any kind…’

I just walked in after a long weekend and a morning assignment and one of the first things I see is a new statement about the proposed downtown Islamic center from a group of New York’s religious leaders.

It’s basically a call for civility.

I’m sure you’re getting tired of hearing about this (and so am I), but here is the statement:

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JOINT STATEMENT FROM NEW YORK RELIGIOUS LEADERS

New York has a long and proud history of dialogue and respect among the various faith groups that live together in this magnificent city. It is especially troubling, then, whenever religion is seen as a source of misunderstanding and disagreement. As religious people, Muslims, Jews and Christians know that at the heart of each of our faiths is the promotion of peace and understanding among all God’s children. Consequently, there can be no place for religious bias of any kind – including anti-Semitism, anti-Christianity, or anti-Islam — in any of our communities.

Public discussions about the proposed Islamic center near Ground Zero have recently become an unfortunate source of tension and animosity here in New York City. As leaders in our religious communities, we join together to voice our shared concern for the way in which New Yorkers have become polarized on this issue. All of us must ensure that our conversations on this matter remain civil, that our approaches to each other are marked with respect, and that our hearts stay free of bitterness.

As religious leaders, we stand ready to assist in facilitating a dialogue that will not only lead to a resolution of the current dispute, but also lay the foundation for a new and deeper understanding among us all.

Imam Shamsi Ali
Director, Jamaica Muslim Center, New York

Rev. Dr. A. R. Bernard
President, The Council of Churches of the City of New York

The Most Reverend Nicholas A. DiMarzio,
Bishop of Brooklyn
Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn

The Most Reverend Timothy M. Dolan
Archbishop of New York
Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York

Rabbi Yaakov Kermaier
President, New York Board of Rabbis

Imam Izak-EL M. Pasha
Masjid Malcolm Shabazz, New York

Rabbi Joseph Potasnik
Executive Vice President, New York Board of Rabbis