SUMMIT, NJ - Seeking to clarify the position of local faith communities, and to encourage people of all faiths and no faith to protect and care for one another, the Summit Interfaith Council -- an association of local houses of worship -- has issued a statement outlining the common ground shared by faith communities, renouncing divisive and hate-filled speech, and containing a clear mandate for "our leaders to speak out against such language."

The statement includes a call to “affirm community safety and trust, the equal treatment of all of our citizens as well as strangers among us.” The Council bases these statements on biblical principles to “love the stranger” and “to care for the poor and oppressed.” The Council also encourages actions to promote education, access, and inclusion in houses of worship and in the community.

“I believe this statement is so important because The Summit Interfaith Council is a group of leaders from diverse faith traditions with many viewpoints and opinions; yet, we speak with one voice on matters of a moral common ground," said Interfaith President Reverend Blake Scalet. "We speak together for the dignity of all people and for a culture of respect. We stand together as people of faith united in our belief of just society and the welfare of all people”

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The Summit Interfaith Council consists of 17 houses of worship within Summit and includes broad interreligious representation from Christian, Jewish, and other faiths in the community.

Rabbi Hannah Orden, Vice President of the Council, said, “At a time of deep divisions in our country, I am proud to be a part of a group of interfaith clergy who have found common ground based on our shared traditions of valuing the dignity and worth of every human being. I hope this statement of common ground will be a voice of healing and will inspire others in our community to act with justice and compassion.”

To entire statement reads:

"A STATEMENT OF OUR COMMON GROUND

We, the Summit Interfaith Council (The Interfaith) of Summit, NJ, state unequivocally that we affirm community safety and trust, the equal treatment of all of our citizens as well as the stranger among us. We denounce the rhetoric of bigotry and hatred. We call upon our elected and appointed leaders to uphold the principles of justice, fairness and equality for all. We denounce racial bias and discrimination, anti-Semitism, anti-immigrant activity, Islamophobia, hate speech, hate crimes, homophobia as well as disrespect and unequal treatment for women and people with disabilities. We call upon our elected and appointed leaders to serve all Americans, uniting our deeply divided country. We call upon our elected and appointed leaders to create jobs with livable wages and to improve the quality of life for Americans trapped in poverty. We call upon our elected and appointed leaders to renounce the language of racism, sexism, bigotry and xenophobia.  We further call upon our elected and appointed leaders to condemn groups that spread such hate.

One of the key beliefs of the Interfaith is the biblical injunction to love the stranger. In the tradition of the prophets and apostles, God calls on the faithful to speak truth to power, liberate the oppressed, care for the poor and comfort the afflicted. We are responsible to a higher calling, a higher law that takes precedence over the flawed and outdated immigration laws.

“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

ADOPTED UNANIMOUSLY BY THE SUMMIT INTERFAITH COUNCIL, TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 7, 2017, MEETING AT CHRIST CHURCH, SUMMIT, NEW JERSEY

OUR AFFIRMATIONS

  • The Interfaith affirms the dignity of all persons (citizen, documented immigrant or undocumented immigrant) and recognizes the importance of their contributions to the social, religious, cultural and economic life of our community and county.

  • The Interfaith, along with city officials and community residents, has worked diligently to build trust among people of all races, ethnicities, and religions. These efforts make our community and county a thriving and welcoming place.

  • The Interfaith believes all people must be free to go about their daily life without fear of hate speech, hate crimes, harassment, or deportation of anyone who hopes to become a contributing member of our citizenry.

  • The Interfaith strongly opposes any federal action that may undermine the trust created in our community and threaten public safety.

  • The Interfaith is committed to ensuring that activity at the federal level will not impact our democratic values or the progress made in our community to protect individual freedoms.

  • The Interfaith affirms the humanity of the LGBTQI community.  We respect their right to live in peace and security.  We reject any laws that discriminate against them and their families. 

  • The Interfaith affirms the rights of all people freely to practice and to enjoy their religion.       We are particularly mindful of our Muslim brothers and sisters who are regularly treated with hatred and bigotry.  We reject any laws that discriminate based upon one’s religious convictions. 

  • The Interfaith affirms the right of people of color to be protected by our justice system. We call on our justice system to prosecute all law enforcement that abuses the public trust and creates fear and havoc among people of color. 

  • The Interfaith affirms the rights of persons with disabilities to be fully included in our society as they are also created in the image of God.  We reject any laws that discriminate against them and their families.

ADOPTED BY A MAJORITY VOTE OF THE SUMMIT INTERFAITH COUNCIL AT A MEETING AT THE BEACON UNITARIAN UNIVERALIST CONGREGATION IN SUMMIT ON TUESDAY, MARCH 21, 2017.

Rooted in our Common Ground and Affirmations, members of the Summit Interfaith Council may take the actions below.  We encourage the support of individual faith communities and members of the larger community.

  • Educate ourselves, in dialogue with advocacy groups, about best practices, policies, and procedures that promote safety and preserve dignity for immigrants.

  • Enable regular, public dialogue between city officials and faith leaders.

  • Speak out against hate speech, hate crimes, and harassment in all forms.

  • Recognizing that immigrants are woven into the fabric of our communities, advocate for just and equitable immigration reform as well as provide immediate assistance and support to individuals facing deportation and their families.

  • Provide assistance and resettlement support for newly arrived immigrants and refugees.

  • Work with police and the mayor to provide information and safety when possible to the immigrant community in Summit and help increase trust between law enforcement and our immigrant population.

  • Oppose any kind of religious or racialized registry.

  • Defend the constitutional right of all people to freedom of religious expression, including the right to create spaces for worship and education.

  • Advocate against laws that have a negative and harmful impact on the LGBTQ+ community; provide and promote inclusive space throughout our community.

  • Enter into dialogue with law enforcement to bridge the gap between communities of color and law enforcement.  

  • Support community policing and expect accountability if any officer betrays the public trust and confidence.

  • Advocate for a return to the police department practice of collecting and providing public access to racially identifying data for police-community interactions.

  • Promote racial justice through dialogue circles, anti-racism training, book discussions, speakers, films, etc. for all members of our communities.

  • Provide and promote acceptance, full accessibility, and inclusion for people with disabilities in our community.

ADOPTED BY A MAJORITY VOTE OF THE SUMMIT INTERFAITH COUNCIL AT A MEETING AT TEMPLE SINAI ON MAY 9TH 2017."