CHATHAM, NJ - Although it has yet to be written, the Borough of Chatham Council agreed in principle to a proposed resolution that will remind all that Chatham is an open and welcoming community, at its regular meeting on Monday night.
The council responded positively to suggestions during the public portion of the meeting, most notably from Chatham Borough resident Colleen Markley, who came with a petition of more than 150 signatures asking for such a resolution.
Chatham Borough Mayor Bruce Harris said he did not oppose any such resolution, but stated that he felt Chatham already has shown to be open and welcoming. He noted that he is a black, gay mayor who was re-elected unopposed and that the council also was represented by a gay Puerto Rican council member and a Jewish female council president.
But Markley felt that..."national and international stories about Chatham, our school curriculum, our teachers and administrators, have led to a misimpression that we are a close-minded community, unwilling to accept multiple viewpoints and cultures. Depending on which website or social medial platform you read, Chatham is either a town of liberal politically correct elitists or Islamaphobic bigots. I attest that we are neither of these."
Markley also said she did not come forward to debate the school curriculum, but to correct the impression of "who we are." The call for the resolution is in response to an appearance by two Chatham Middle School mothers on "Tucker Carlson Tonight" last week. The mothers had questioned the Chatham BOE about what they felt was an emphasis on the religion of Islam in a 7th grade "World Cultures and Geography" class. The two mothers told Fox News host Tucker Carlson that they had been "stared down" in a grocery store and called "bigots" on social media sites for questioning the curriculum.
"I come before the Borough this evening to ask you to pass a formal resolution reaffirming and reminding the world that Chatham Borough is open and welcoming to all, and that we as a community do not accept intolerance or hatred of any kind," Markley said.
Council member Peter Hoffman, who attended the meeting through a phone connection, voiced his opinion that the reason such a resolution is being pushed might be to cast aspersions on the middle school mothers who asked questions at the BOE meeting.
"I'm concerned that what's driving this proposed resolution is a veiled attempt to denigrate those who are asking questions, as is their right, of public officials, whether one agrees with their concerns or not," Hoffman said. "I also question the need for resolutions which state something we already know to be true - that Chatham is a welcoming town, including I hope, welcoming of those who may ask questions many may find uncomfortable."
Council member Jim Lonergan, who had three children graduate from Chatham High and two more currently in the school system, passionately supported Superintendent Dr. Michael LaSusa and the School District of the Chathams.
Chatham Resident Rozella Clyde proposed that Chatham Borough consider following the lead of Madison, which she said recently passed such a resolution
Council member Len Resto, who was harassed and bullied for being gay as a teenager and attempted to commit suicide because of it, volunteered to write the resolution that will be voted on at the next borough council meeting.