Update at 8:30 p.m. on Wednesday
The leaders of 's clergy community gathered at the steps of the today to deliver a joint message of "justice, reconciliation, unity and peace."
The group at today's press event included: the Rev. Karen Gronback Johnson, Old Stone Church, United Church of Christ; the Rev. Stanley Kemmerer, , Episcopal; the Rev. John L. Lavorgna, Roman Catholic Church; the Rev. Gerard G. Masters, St. Clare Roman Catholic Church and the Rev. Thomas Sievel,
Each one took turns reading from a prepared statement, which was also read in Spanish (that translation is posted in the gallery that accompanies this article), followed by a question and answer session with reporters.
A video of that Q & A is posted in the gallery that accompanies this article. And the statement is printed below in full:
"The event if this past week have left our community shaken and divided. As a result of a Federal Justice Department investigation, f have been accused of and arrested for crimes against the society they are sworn to protect. They were acting in our name. There are hints that the findings of this investigation may implicate others.
Also we learn that a segment of our population has been suffering from harassment and targeting. A two-year investigation by federal authorities tells us this is fact.
Our community is so divided that one side applauds the efforts of the police officers who have been named, and the other side applauds those who have relieved them from service. How will we heal our town?
First, we acknowledge that we don't have all the answers. We have heard some ignorant comments based on supposition and gossip. Let us minimize the bashing of any of those involved and consider that each one is a child of God, created in God's divine image, a human being with the same human rights as anyone.
Second we acknowledge that there are many on our police force who do their jobs in an upright and honorable way, every day, to keep us safe.
Third, we acknowledge that our Latino brothers and sisters are hard-working residents who simply want a better life for themselves and their families. They are part of the fabric of our community. We acknowledge that with each wave of immigration into our great nation, people have been treated unfairly; Irish and Italians, Poles and Jews and others all suffered prejudice at the hands of those who happened to come before them. Why do we perpetuate this cycle? Our Judeo-Christian heritage demands that we welcome the stranger in our midst.
Fourth, we acknowledge that East Haven has has a reputation for racial prejudice for many years, though many have welcomed diversity in our neighborhoods and our lives and will continue to do so. Some of this culture is taught to children at a young age by the comments of the adults in their lives.
As leaders of the communities of faith in East Haven, we affirm that ALL people have gifts and talents to offer our society. ALL people are beloved of God regardless of ethic origin, race or religion. With one voice we speak of the Judeo-Christian valleys of justice and fairness toward all persons, regardless of their ethnic origins. They cry of the prophet Micah comes to mind:
'Yo have been told… what is good, and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?"
We believe that there is a great need in our community for prayers for justice and peace, and for sustained reflection on human rights and justice. All of the citizens of East Haven need to build a culture that honored human rights and welcomes diversity of races and cultures. We, the undersigned religious leaders in East Haven, stand ready to facilitate this work of reconciliation.
One of the tasks of faith communities is to create a sacred space for worship and for the building up of relationships. There is a general understanding of justice as being in the right relationship with God and with one another, and it is this process of justice that we must now undertake. It is our plan to hold meetings within our parishes so that people of differing backgrounds can get to know one another face to face, to site down at a common table, to share our names and our stories, and to meet one another with the safety of the church's sacred space, so that we are no longer strangers. We offer this as a first step to the work of justice, reconciliation, unity and peace within our town.
Rev. Karen Gronback Johnson, Old Stone Church, United Church of Christ
Rev. Stanley Kemmerer, Christ of the Epiphany Church, Episcopal
Rev. John L. Lavorgna, Our Lady of Pompeii, Roman Catholic Church
Rev. Gerard G. Masters, St. Clare Roman Catholic Church
Rev. Thomas Sievel, St, Vincent De Paul Roman Catholic Church
Additionally, at in New Haven earlier today, the Congregations Organized for a New Connecticut or CONECT — a coalition of Connecticut clergy representing more than two dozen multi-faith congregations in New Haven and Fairfield Counties — called upon state and local officials to act immediately to reform the .
The summary of the group's platform for reform is posted in the gallery that accompanies this article.
Original Story (Tuesday at 4:42 p.m.)
Leaders in 's religious community plan to make a public call for unity tomorrow afternoon in an effort to bring the town together "in light of concerning the ," the church leaders stated in a late afternoon press release today.
The release, which is posted in the gallery that accompanies this article, was jointly signed by the Rev. Karen Gronback Johnson of the Old Stone Church. And the Rev. Thomas Sievel of .
The talk will take place tomorrow on the steps of the at 251 Main Street, which sits across from the East Haven Town Hall.
The press conference will begin at noon.
"We will be calling for unity in our town to address the issues of racism, to promote cause of justice, and to find ways in which we can work together to meet one another on common ground, so that no one should be thought of as a stranger," the church leaders stated.