“This week, we heard that a number of churches in Wright County were the victims of vandalism aimed at their community of faith. Any time a church or house of worship is targeted, it’s a sad day for that congregation, and for our community.
“More disturbing yet, according to news reports, the incidents in Buffalo were born out of animosity for God, as well as the gay and lesbian community. In the midst of an extremely emotional discussion our state is having less than six weeks before Election Day, there is a tendency to make assumptions.
“People on both sides of this debate have experienced hostility during this campaign, and in some cases violence. It is critical that both supporters and opponents of this amendment maintain a respectful conversation as we head toward Election Day.
“I thank the clergy who have signed this letter, to remind us all that there is no room for violence in this debate. Real people – and their safety – is at stake.”
An Open Letter to Minnesotans
In the heat of a debate like this one – the debate over the proposed constitutional amendment that would limit the freedom to marry for gay and lesbian couples – people naturally feel very passionate about their position and opinion. That passion – when used for good – inspires Minnesotans on all sides of this conversation to take action and get involved in our community. But occasionally, that passion spills past the boundaries of civil discourse and action.
Recent events have suggested that the debate over the proposed marriage amendment is likely to get even more intense in the next 40 days. Reports of golf balls thrown through car windows, confrontations at the State Fair, and acts of violence in greater Minnesota have sprung up in recent weeks. We know that this is not the manner of debate that we have always and continue to strive for in the state of Minnesota.
Our faith traditions always call us to speak the truth as we know it and as we see it, but they call us to speak the truth in love. It is for that reason that we are calling on everyone who cares about this marriage amendment – no matter which position you take – to act with love and integrity.
We must be able to have a debate in this state – even a heated debate – without questioning the character of people with another perspective. We must be able to have a debate in this state without telling lies or insinuating untruths about people with another view. And we must be able to have this debate absent from verbal or physical confrontations and outbursts of violence. Our state is better than that – we are worthy of an intense debate in Minnesota that speaks the truth through love. It is something all faith traditions can agree on.
In this debate on marriage, neither campaign can claim at this point that, “no one from our perspective has stepped outside the lines of civility.” But any action that does – on either side of this debate – is unacceptable and not worthy of the tradition of the great state of Minnesota.
Our charge to both campaigns and their supporters is that such incivility would never come from the heart of the campaign itself and that everyone should agree that we must debate this marriage amendment without malice. This is so critical in our state, where we have for generations discussed important and sometimes divisive issues with honesty respect for one another and acknowledgement that good people on both sides of a debate can disagree.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.”
Only light can drive out darkness, and only love can drive out hate. And so we ask that in the coming six weeks our state join together for a vibrant conversation about what marriage means and how this amendment would impact the people of Minnesota that is spoken through love, honesty and mutual respect. Anything else would be unbecoming of our faiths and unbecoming of Minnesota.
Bishop Ann Svennungsen, Minneapolis Area Synod of the ELCA
Bishop Tom Aitken, Northeast Minnesota Synod of the ELCA
Bishop Brian Prior, Episcopal Church of Minnesota
Rabbi Harold Kravitz, Adath Jeshurun
Co-Chairs of the Minnesota Rabbinical Association
Rabbi Auraham Ettedgui, Sharei Chesed
Rabbi Lynn Liberman, Beth Jacob
Rabbi Marcia Zimmerman, Temple Israel
Photo: The Four 2012