IFLC Commentaries and Position Statements
January 13, 2021
We Must Strive for Positive Values that Protect Democracy
Along with millions of Americans, we were horrified by the recent violence at the U.S. Capitol. A mob of “protestors” caused deaths and injuries as well as destruction of a sacred building and all that it represents. Why sacred? Because it is the building where the people’s representatives do the people’s business based on the principle that all people are created equal and endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, among those are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
We are heartened that many political, civic, religious, and business leaders have issued statements condemning this violence and calling for a renewal of civil discourse, mutual respect for fellow Americans and tolerance for views that differ from our own. Each of us must ask ourselves whether our beliefs and actions support democracy, which encompasses religious freedom, inclusion and acceptance of diverse voices and racial justice. We must speak up and honor these ideals with our actions.
Those of us within the InterFaith Leadership Council of Metropolitan Detroit, along with our affiliates, share the values that underpin a harmonious community–compassion, understanding and respect. We speak from a moral perspective on social and political issues and believe that preserving democracy is a mutual responsibility. Our various faiths tell us that we cannot be passive or silent. We must reach out to all of our fellow citizens to listen, to learn and to support and preserve the values of our faiths and democracy. Violence in an effort to suppress the voices of some Americans can never be the answer.
Rev. Stancy Adams, Chair
Robert A. Bruttell, Vice-Chair
Raman Singh, President
InterFaith Leadership Council of Metropolitan Detroit
August 13, 2020
Statement Regarding Anti-Semitic posts on Instagram quoting Hitler, Louis Farrakhan on Instagram made by DeSean Jackson of the Philadelphia Eagles, other NFL players
Derogatory speech, unchecked, fuels a climate of division and hate. That hate speech may be even more pernicious when it is casual and reflexive. Whether the target is a Muslim, gay, Black, Jewish, Native or Asian-American individual, we must speak out and affirm that hate speech is equally unacceptable regardless of its source or target.
Hardly a week goes by without a news report of a celebrity or public official making derogatory comments about an individual or group because of their different race, ethnicity, religion, gender, or gender identity. The 24/7 reach of cable news and social media provides an omnipresent platform for athletes, entertainers, as well as government officials and others to say things that range from insensitive to full-blown hate speech.
An op-ed column in the Detroit Free Press recently critiqued the behavior of several athletes and raised concerns locally. DeSean Jackson of the Philadelphia Eagles expressed anti-Semitic comments on Instagram. Two other professional athletes supported him publicly, issuing their own anti-Semitic statements. The Philadelphia Eagles management responded that the player’s statements were “offensive and appalling” but took a week to penalize him with an undisclosed fine.
This was a relatively mild reaction compared to incidents of discriminatory comments about other groups.
This comes at a time when Jewish Americans are experiencing a sharp increase in anti-Semitic attacks—shootings at synagogues, assaults on rabbis and other Jewish individuals, as well as vandalism to Jewish day schools, synagogues, cemeteries, and physical and verbal assaults. Being a member of a victimized group is not a rationale for targeting others with negative stereotypes and false accusations. Logically, being part of a persecuted group should lead to empathy for others who face discrimination.
Also, white supremacist and other hate-based organizations typically target all groups who they perceive as “different” in a negative way—whatever their race or religion.
The IFLC commits to working with the organized Jewish Community, JCRC, ADL and the Coalition for Black and Jewish Unity in metropolitan Detroit to confront hate speech and help its purveyors see how it redounds to the detriment of all of us.
Related links of positive responses from professional athletes:
June 30, 2020
Statement Regarding Hateful Intrusion during June 28 St. John Royal Oak Zoom religious service.
The intrusion of racist and fascist rhetoric in the peace of a spiritual service is a hate crime, perhaps of greater magnitude than defaming a house of worship. The assault of hackers on St. John Episcopal Church’s Zoom service, on June 28, is an abomination. We extend our prayers and hope for resilience in the face of this assault and call upon Zoom to better protect faith communities from virtual assault during this difficult pandemic period.
We applaud Rev. Beth Taylor, pastor of St. John’s, for her steadfast commitment to resume her service in the face of this verbal attack and her affirmation that the safety and sanctity of her congregation is integrated with that of all people of faith in the region. As Pastor Taylor noted in a Facebook post, “We will not cease our work to bring about a just and equitable community.”
Indeed. An assault on one faith community is an assault on all. We believe the voice of hate has no home where love abides. We pray that love continues to be present at St. John’s and that its congregation will remain safe and resilient in this difficult time.
Statement Regarding Death of George Floyd
It has happened again. Another black man killed by police. George Floyd murdered before our eyes in Minneapolis. It happened as we are enduring the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and its devastation on the world’s population. The pandemic itself has revealed the ongoing racism and segregation that restricts health care, education, job opportunities and housing for black, brown, and other people of color. We see both the sharp, deadly brutality inflicted upon people of color by law enforcement officers as well as others and the slow corrosive racism that inflicts another kind of violence. People are angry – especially black people who are justifiably angry.
During this crisis the InterFaith Leadership Council is determined to be Resilient and not turn away from the racist evidence before our eyes.
Four years ago, the InterFaith Leadership Council, together with leading faith and human relations leaders, developed a “Commitment to be Resilient” to combat the rise of religious intolerance and hatred following the 2016 presidential election. All the while since then expressions of hate and incivility have increased in society. The need to promote resilience is even more compelling today, as we recognize that black lives continue to be threatened by violence and the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. We will again join with our partners, other faith and human relations leaders, to be allies, as we address the segregation that is so toxic and to clearly identify the racism that we must combat together.
Please read the two reflections below written by of our African American board members, Reverends Stancy Adams and Jimmie Wafer. White folks often do not see how wrenching racism is to the people whom it affects directly. They are heart-wrenching and offer a perspective we all can benefit from. We will also feature the perspectives from other religious traditions within our IFLC family.
Commitment to be Resilient
that we are called to lift each other up,
that we are stronger standing together,
that our differences are a blessing,
that empathy and love reveal the path to peace,
and that justice will prevail,
because each of us is Beloved.
Therefore, I commit to
answer intolerance with goodwill,
live by faith had hope, not fear
seek understanding and friendship whenever I can,
stand with those facing prejudice and injustice,
meet resistance with resiliency as I build the Beloved Community
Letter to Governor Whitmer
May 20, 2020
Dear Gov. Whitmer,
People of all faith traditions were reassured that you value spiritual expression through prayer enough to include it as a component of your COVID-19 briefing on May 15. For an issue so deeply politicized, fueling hateful rhetoric and action, you chose to calm the moment with reflection and prayer. By inviting clergy from different faiths to express their religious traditions in a media briefing often dominated by statistics and executive orders, you demonstrated courage and wisdom, a mark of civic leadership.
We live in a moment that calls for faith leaders to provide a moral perspective on issues that too often are reduced to analytics. It is a time when faith leaders, together with elected leaders, need to foster resilience in our communities ravaged by disease.
By allowing the voice of faith to join your briefing through prayer, you reminded viewers of the emotional depth of this pandemic and of hope. Your action reminded us that people are calling for compassionate leadership; and that through your actions as governor, you have provided a sense of thoughtful, sensitive direction forward.
We offer our prayer that divine presence continue to inspire your work and contribute to our healing.
Raman Singh, President
Rev. Stancy Adams, Chairperson
Robert Bruttell, Vice-Chairperson
Almont Ugliness: InterFaith Leadership Council of Metropolitan Detroit Condemns Racism at Recent Local Football Game
Shame on those football fans, parents and students from Almont High whose racist anger, whose unjustified sense of their white supremacy caused them to believe that they could lose their sense of humanity toward teenagers, allowing these people to rain ugly vitriol down on African American high school football players.
Nothing justifies it. Ironically those racist acts point out why these black students protest. For them racism is real and a suffocating daily presence. For these black Denby High students the racist acts of these people from Almont demonstrate that many Americans today refuse to honor the promise of opportunity and equality that the flag represents.
Shame. Shame. Shame
Rev. Stancy F. Adams, Chairperson
Robert A. Bruttell, Vice-Chair
Raman Singh, President
In Support of Water Availability for All
During 2018, the Religious Leaders Forum became very concerned about water shut-offs in some Detroit homes when residents could not afford their water bills. Clergy came together to develop a position statement supporting water availability and quality as a moral issue—a position that has been communicated to public officials at the local and state level and others during 2018 and 2019.
The statement, along with a list of the individuals who signed it, follows:
Religious Leaders Forum
Statement of Faith Leaders on the Accessibility and Treatment of Water in Detroit
The voice of the Lord is over the waters;
the God of glory thunders,
the Lord, over mighty waters.
— Psalm 29:3
Water plays a pivotal role in our various religious communities and congregations. We mention water in our prayers. We use water in our rituals. We find water in our Scriptures, where water is more than a metaphor for God’s loving kindness, but a promise made to people living in places where water was scarce and precious. Water makes life possible.
Water is essential to human flourishing and human dignity. In 2010, the General Assembly of the United Nations rightfully declared that “the right to safe and clean drinking water and sanitation” is “a right that is essential for the full enjoyment of life and all human rights” (UN Res. 64/292, art. 1). This fundamental human right resonates with all of our sacred teachings.
As religious leaders, we live under a Divine obligation to speak on behalf of those who do not have access to water. We bear responsibility to lead by word and action in calling for policies that are just and equitable. We are called to work with those of good will for water practices that are environmentally sustainable. We are called to give water to those who are thirsty.
In Metropolitan Detroit, thousands face the threat of losing access to water due to financial hardships stemming from a lack of meaningful employment. Many are forced to pay rates they cannot afford, and many bear the burden of living with a sanitation system that is unreliable, unsustainable, and out of date. Finally, many cannot take advantage of the assistance programs that the Detroit Water and Sewage Department has established to mitigate their plight.
Our elected officials must therefore address the essential role water and its affordability play in the flourishing of Michigan residents and communities. We are writing to encourage equitable and creative solutions to help low-income and vulnerable persons have access to clean and safe water.
We, the religious leaders of congregations throughout Metro Detroit write with one voice to urge all citizens to support our civil officials as they search for ways to reduce the barriers to clean and safe water for all. We also pledge to continue to listen to the needs of the poor and to work for meaningful change in the provision of, and access to, clean and safe water for all. Finally, we pledge to work collaboratively whenever we can to promote the common good and build the Beloved Community.
Religious Leaders Forum of Metropolitan Detroit
- Bishop David Bard, Michigan Conference of the United Methodist Church
- Rabbi Joshua Bennett, Temple Israel
- Rabbi Aaron Bergman, President, Michigan Board of Rabbis, Senior Rabbi, Adat Shalom Synagogue
- Reverend Dr. Daniel Buttry, Global Consultant for Peace and Justice, American Baptist Churches
- Reverend Dr. DeeDee M. Coleman, President, Baptist Pastors of Detroit and Vicinity, Inc.
- Reverend Dr. William Danaher, Canon of Interfaith and Ecumenical Relations, Diocese of Michigan, and Rector, Christ Church Cranbrook
- Imam Steve Mustapha Elturk, President Islamic Organization of North America
- The Right Reverend Wendell N. Gibbs, Jr., Bishop, Episcopal Diocese of Michigan
- Reverend Dr. Kenneth Harris, President and Academic Dean, Ecumenical Theological Seminary, Detroit
- Rabbi Marla Hornsten, Temple Israel
- Father Aren Jebejian, St. John’s Armenian Orthodox Church
- David Johnson, President of the Westland Stake, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
- Monsignor John Kasza, Interfaith Officer, Archdiocese of Detroit
- Bishop Donald Kreiss, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Southeast Michigan Synod
- Rabbi Harold Loss, Temple Israel
- Rabbi Jason Miller, Director, Kosher Michigan
- Rabbi Mark Miller, Senior Rabbi, Temple Beth El
- Rabbi Michael Moskowitz, Temple Shir Shalom
- Dr. Theodore Parsons III, President, Bloomfield Hills, Michigan Stake of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints
- Father George Shalhoub, St. Mary’s Antiochan Orthodox Church
- Rabbi Steven Rubenstein, Congregation Beth Ahm
- Imam Hassan Sayed Qazwini, Islamic Institute of America
- Reverend Dr. Allen Timm, Executive Presbyter, Presbytery of Detroit, PCUSA
- The Most Reverend Allen H. Vigneron, Archbishop of Detroit
- Reverend Dr. Keith Whitney, Chairman Social Action & Public Policy Committee of the Council of Baptist Pastors
Additional Clergy Who Support the Statement about Water Rights:
- Rabbi Edut Dorit, President, Detroit Interfaith Outreach Network
- Rabbi Arianna Gordon, Temple Israel
- Rabbi Jennifer Kaluzny, Temple Israel
- Rabbi Jennifer Lader, Temple Israel
- Rabbi Paul Yedwab, Temple Israel