Face hate with love

In his article, “The Current Crisis in Race Relations,” Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. states: “The problem of race is indeed America’s greatest moral dilemma. The churches are called upon to recognize the urgent necessity of taking forthright stand on this crucial issue.”

In response to an impending protest of a “hate-driven“ Unite the Right rally, clergy gathered for a night vigil on Aug. 11 in Charlottesville, Virginia.

The clergy responded to this almost 60-year call to action from Dr. King.

They understood his message, and the need, to reintroduce a national moral leadership that has been sorely missing around race in these United States of America. More importantly they knew the threat was real and dangerous. Despite the risk, they gathered to demonstrate love in the face of hate, respect for all humanity and patience in the need for change. They envision one America. Instead, they were terrorized by demonstrators carrying torches and subjected to Nazi taunts of “blood and soil” intended to spread fear and intimidation.

The following day the white supremacy marchers during their protest crossed all boundaries by beating these clergy with clubs and brass knuckles much like Dr. King described years ago in his Playboy interview.

“Such things happened as Klansmen abducting four Negroes and beating them unconscious with clubs, brass knuckles, ax handles and pistol butts.”

Is this not history repeating itself?

Have we learned nothing from our history? Have we learned nothing of what hate does to our soul? Look closely at the photos of the faces of hate! How does the world see us? More importantly how do we see ourselves?

Michael Schwerner, Andrew Goodman and James Chaney registering blacks to vote near Meridian, Mississippi, were killed by a Ku Klux Klan lynch mob and their bodies were found on Aug. 4, 1964. Now, Aug. 12, 2017, Heather Heyer was killed, with many others injured, as a car plowed through an anti-protest rally in response to a white supremacy rally protesting for removal of a confederate statue. Is this not history repeating itself?

Dr. King was our conscience. He provided the moral leadership that many hunger for today. We must all embody his qualities and principles. We must all be accountable and fulfill our moral duty to extinguish hatred and violence with love and peace. As Sen. Paul Ryan said this week, “there is no room for moral ambiguity.” It is time for us to challenge individuals spewing hateful rhetoric, not with violence, but with love and patience.

Gaynelle D. Wethers is president of The Interfaith Alliance of Rochester.

Wage justice needed

While your editorial on our community’s anti-poverty efforts acknowledges the need for systemic change if we are to lower the level of poverty in our region, it fails to draw attention to the one measurably effective way of getting people out of poverty: wage justice. In this county there are more than 20,000 people being paid wages that leave them in poverty. How do people making less than $18 an hour afford to live here and what hope have they of moving up? Each week, faced with low income and the cost of rent (between $700 and $800/ month) and child care (between $150 and $250/week per child), families of hard-working men and women find themselves simply in the poverty grind. 

We need to face the reality of our economy: Wages that provide for less than self-sufficient resources perpetuate poverty in our midst. Perhaps we need to hear the prophets of old who decried the hoarding of wealth as an idolatrous way of life. At a time of national self-examination Jeremiah spoke of the sin of greed as a national failure. (Jer. 8:10) 

It is obscene that in this affluent country men and women are kept in poverty while many enjoy salaries way in excess of what it takes to live comfortably in this region. It is just wrong to believe that we can solve the problem of poverty if we do not address the distribution of wealth. Your editorial correctly says that all segments of our economy must be held accountable. Yes to solve this problem of inequity we need public institutions, faith communities, corporations, and even small business to review how people are paid in their employ. Every business plan should include a level of wages that provides for self-sufficiency. 

Poverty is not a poor people’s problem; it is our problem. We who benefit from the vast wealth of this economy have a moral obligation to see that wealth is shared justly. How about a campaign to designate businesses and organizations with the label, “ We pay sufficiency wages”? RMAPI seems to be focusing solely on the mentoring of people as if their state of being poor had something to do with what is lacking in them. It is another form of blaming the victim.

Three years ago we learned from Thomas Picketty (Capital in the Twenty–First Century) that the free flow of money leads to the accumulation of money by the few at the expense of the many. We need to be unafraid of regulating money in such a way that it is distributed fairly. As Jesus once said, “To whomsoever much is given, much will be required.”

- The Rev. Peter W. Peters, Ph.D., is retired and active in several community groups.

Letter From Our President

February 3, 2017

Dear TIAR members, The following statement is being sent to:

President Trump
Vice President Pence
Sen. Schumer
Sen, Gillibrand
Rep. Slaughter
Rep. Reed

If you believe that there are others that need to receive this statement please let me know and it will be sent to them.


The Interfaith Alliance of Rochester (TIAR) stands in solidarity with our Muslim sisters and brothers who have been targeted by President Trump’s recent executive order preventing, without cause, individuals of selected Muslim countries from entering the United States. For decades the United States has been a haven for people fleeing persecution. President Trump’s executive order slams the door on people who are most in need-men, women, and children to escape violence, war, and death as well as other Muslim Immigrants who have been vetted by the united States government.

This is not about national security as President Trump claims. The refugees who spend two years in refugee camps are stringently vetted. To be clear, this is a bigoted political move against a group of people based on their religion. It does nothing to make America safer and only serves the interests of the terrorists. It is an immoral, unjust and shameful executive order, creating unnecessary chaos and trauma to those already so traumatized.

In Faith,

Becky Elwell,
President, The Interfaith Alliance of Rochester

A Letter from Rabbi Jack Moline, President, Interfaith Alliance

Dear Friends and Members of TIAR,

We have now had a few days to process the implications of the 2016 presidential election. We are just now starting to see what the incoming Trump administration will look like. And just as we did when President Obama was preparing to take office, we are making clear our commitment to protect religious freedom for all Americans.

The rhetoric of the campaign gives me reason to be deeply concerned about what the future may hold. And we can’t afford to wait and see if a President Trump will make good on his campaign promises to roll back the religious freedom protections we have fought so hard to secure over the last 8 years, including rights for the LGBT community, respect for Muslim Americans and rules against discrimination by religious institutions that use taxpayer dollars.

Time is of the essence: those on the Religious Right are not wasting any time in taking credit for this election and inserting themselves into the new administration. Just yesterday, Franklin Graham sent out a tweet saying “I believe God’s hand intervened Tuesday night to stop the godless, atheistic progressive agenda from taking control.”

I can tell you as a man of faith and a member of the clergy for more than three decades, the results of Tuesday’s election were a mortal act, not divine. The Trump presidency is a reality, but it does not – and will not – require us to sit idly by as our religious freedom is chipped away.

I am reaching out to Mr. Trump’s transition team and making sure our voice is heard. I need you to do the same. Let me ask you to do two things.

  1. Let Mr. Trump know that you expect him to protect the religious freedom of all Americans regardless of their faith or belief. Let him know that you expect him to respect the rights of religious minorities, and you expect him to hold the line on LGBT equality. Visit his transition team website (http://org2.salsalabs.com/dia/track.jsp…) and tell him your concerns.
  2. Choose three friends or family to share this email with and ask them to join the effort by signing up for our mailing list (http://org2.salsalabs.com/dia/track.jsp…) and following us on Facebook. 

Now is the time to engage, now is the time to make your voice heard, and now is the time to expand our base.

A core principle of Interfaith Alliance is our belief that we can unite diverse voices to challenge extremism and build common ground. Please take a moment to help us do that and engage those around you to join our effort.

Rabbi Jack Moline
President, Interfaith Alliance

Public servants must aid the poor

Op-Ed piece in the 9/19/15 D&C

Who speaks for the poor? If not our county executive and the County Legislature, why? If not the faith community, why not? As men and women of faith, it is our responsibility, no, our obligation to cast a light on the moral dimensions of our county budget.

In the words of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., he calls upon the faith community to “face its historical obligation in this crisis. In the final analysis the problem of race is not a political but a moral issue.” Our county budget demonstrates who is important and who is not, what is important and what is not.

Therefore, we call upon the county executive and the Legislature to:

invest in early childhood education (such as universal pre-K).

invest in child care so that low-income parents can continue to seek employment.

increase the minimum wage so that is more nearly a living wage.

According to Marian Wright Edelman, president of the Children’s Defense Fund, “government can either hurt or help families.” Knowing this how can we ignore that Rochester has the second highest concentration of poverty and the seventh highest child poverty rate in the country? How can we ignore children being detained in centers seeking safety or their small bodies being washed ashore seeking freedom and living in communities where they are afraid to walk to school. We can do better! We must do better!

In his book, Stride Toward Freedom, the Rev. King addresses this very issue. He states that, “economic insecurity strangles the physical and cultural growth of the victim. Not only are millions deprived of a formal education and proper health facilities but our most fundamental social unit—the family—is tortured, corrupted and weakened by economic insufficiency. The living standards need to be raised to levels consistent with our natural resources.”

As men and women of faith, we must challenge our churches not to sit silent and settle for the status quo. According to the Rev. King’s book Strength to Love, the church must recover “its great historic mission, will speak and act fearlessly and insistently in terms of justice and peace, it will enkindle the imagination of mankind and fire the souls of men.” Should not our church communities be the conscience for our public welfare?

The children are our investment for the future of this community and our nation and their families deserve equal economic opportunities.

“A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual doom.” — the Rev. King It is with this in mind, we challenge our public servants to fulfill their responsibility to assist and aid families in need and do not harm or hurt and damage them any further.

The New York state Constitution states, “The aid, care and support of the needy are public concerns and shall be provided by the state and by such of its subdivisions… as the legislature may from time to time determine.”

County executive and the Legislature, as stewards of public funds, will you inflict harm or will you build common good for all?

Becky Elwell is president and Gaynelle Wethers is vice president of The Interfaith Alliance of Rochester

C. Welton Gaddy "Interfaith Alliance Welcomes Step Forward on Marriage Equality, Urges Quick and Decisive Action"

Interfaith Alliance Welcomes Step Forward on Marriage Equality, Urges Quick and Decisive Action
October 6, 2014

WASHINGTON – Following today’s decision by the Supreme Court to decline to review the same-sex marriage cases from the 10th, 4th and 7thCircuit Courts, Rev. Dr. C. Welton Gaddy, president of Interfaith Alliance, released the following statement:

“My heart is filled with joy for the couples that will see their relationships legally affirmed following today’s decision. The Supreme Court thankfully brings the wait for equality to an end for couples in Wisconsin, Utah, Oklahoma, Indiana and Virginia. However, it leaves far too many others in limbo, denied equality before the law. That lack of resolution is unacceptable in our democracy that claims equal justice for everybody.” 

“While the political and legal logic of today’s decision are evident, the moral logic remains confounding. How can we abide a decision that denies people living in some states the same fundamental human right to marry that is given to people in other states? If the Constitution’s promise of religious freedom mandates that no one religion’s definition of marriage can be given precedence by the state, how can that freedom be limited to only those Americans who happen to live in the right jurisdiction? Our nation’s leaders – whether through the courts or the legislature – must act swiftly to secure equality and freedom for all Americans. There is no moral justification for delay.”    

Peter W. Peters "Build Trust, Relationships"

From the D&C, October 2, 2014

Build trust, relationships

Many thanks to David Andreatta for his wise comments on the clergy-police walkabouts. While this is a commendable initiative, Andreatta rightly points out that there is much to be done to create trust. When will we learn that systemic segregation does not build trust? Whether it is the image of a predominantly white police force, or segregated neighborhoods separated by poverty and unemployment.

What David pointed out is what all of us really know in our hearts, that to build trust and to build relationships it takes time and patience. There is a well-known maxim, shared by many religions, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” How many of us would like to be loved while being isolated by poverty and lack of opportunity? 



Paul Hammer "There is More to 'Justice'"

From the D&C:  September 24, 2014

There is more to ‘justice’

The front page words, Seeking Justice (Sept. 19), prompt me to ask, what is justice?

Sometimes we seem to emphasize justice as proper punishment, even the death penalty for especially horrific evil deeds (e.g., beheading people, killing a policeman). Certainly this may be part of an understanding of justice.

But biblical understandings of justice move beyond this. We see this when a prophet like Micah says, “Do justice,” or the prophet Amos says, “Let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.” We see this when Jesus says, “Strive first for the kingdom of God and God’s justice.”

Their use of justice points beyond to righteousness, i.e., the right-making of social, economic, and political relationships to enhance human life. Such justice moves beyond a balancing of scales to the building of structures that can lead to “liberty and justice for all.”