Archive for December, 2009

Leader Lunch Discussion Topics for January 2010

December 21, 2009

On Thursdays at noon in the Elliott Library, Room 507, at the NY Society, join me for a discussion on the following topics:

1/7 – Juvenile Justice
articles from The NY Times, “De-Criminalizing Children” editorial 12/17/09, and “Frontline” at

1/14 – Immigration Ills
articles from The NY Times, “Immigration and Emigration” updated 8/11/09, and “A Family Divided by 2 Words, Legal and Illegal” by David Gonzalez dated 4/26/09

1/21 – Health Care Havoc
article from The Atlantic 9/09 by David Goldhill, “How American Health Care Killed MY Father”

1/28 – Medical Marijuana
transcript from CBS News dated 11/9/09 at
“Should Pot Be Legal?” and “Inside Holland’s ‘Half Baked’ Pot Policy”

Folders with relevant articles are available in the Leaders’ office.

A Call for a Just and Enduring Peace in Afghanistan

December 21, 2009

The National Leaders Council of the American Ethical Union opposes President Obama’s plan to dramatically increase the number of troops involved in the conflict in Afghanistan as unreasonable and unjustified. Increased military operations will result in increased deaths of both civilians and armed forces. Further, means of force will not solve the ongoing crisis in Afghanistan. It is the wrong means aimed at the wrong enemy.

The true enemy in Afghanistan, as in so many places, is ignorance coupled with economic deprivation, which often leads to desperation, fanaticism, and terrorism. When employed by the likes of Al-Qaida, this constitutes a real threat to open, democratic nations throughout the world. We recognize the legitimate right of nations so threatened to respond directly to the perpetrators of terrorism.

However, the only way to break the cycle and defeat terrorism is through a respectful relationship with the Afghan people, one aimed at providing the basic requirements for human flourishing—water, food, shelter, education, and a reason to choose life over death.

The needs, wishes, and well-being of the Afghan people must be at the center of rebuilding Afghanistan. A negotiated solution is necessary, one that includes all groups involved in the conflict. A lasting peace in the region can only come from the participation of all parties that legitimately represent the interests of their constituents, including Pakistan where Al-Qaida has taken refuge.

We therefore call upon The United Nations to take the lead in the reconstruction of Afghanistan through a collaborative process with the Afghan people and all other interested and affected regional parties, and we call upon the United States and its NATO allies to fully fund the initiative.

December 2, 2009

Leader’s Message – “Human Rights for All: An Ethical Culture Imperative” – January 2010

December 21, 2009
At the last meeting of the National Leaders Council in October, our colleagues in the Social Justice Caucus, a small group dedicated to facilitating movement-wide activism, presented us with several proposals, among which we selected LGBTQ (Lesbian-Gay-Bisexual-Transgender-Questioning) rights for primary attention this year. This does not mean that we will ignore other issues. Indeed, the NLC Statement on Afghanistan is printed in this newsletter and, in preparation for 2011 activism, we have committed ourselves to study issues of Economic Justice during 2010. In our respective societies, we will continue to work fervently for other social justice issues, but will devote ourselves as a body to this important human rights issue.

At the end of the year, the New York State Legislature dealt LGBT rights a heavy blow when it voted down the marriage equality bill after years of nonstop work and advocacy from so many LGBT New Yorkers and their straight allies.

We should all pause and take a moment to allow ourselves to process the range of emotions we’re feeling about the vote. And yes, I expect one of those emotions you’re feeling is anger, because it’s certainly one I’m feeling right now. Losing a vote on civil rights is devastating; knowing that the majority of State Senators still believe that it’s acceptable to treat millions of New Yorkers as “less-than” or second-class citizens is morally repugnant. But according to the NYS Pride Agenda, of which NYSEC is a member (and I participate in its clergy group, Pride in the Pulpit), there were also some positive aspects to highlight:

  • We were able to do what practically no one else was able to do with a post-coup State Senate—get a debate and vote on a bill. Hard work and determination brought the bill to the floor without a predetermined final outcome. This is virtually unprecedented in the State Senate and many critics thought it would be impossible in such a tumultuous year. Getting an up-or-down vote was always going to be absolutely essential to the strategy because it was necessary to know where each of the 62 state senators stood on marriage equality.
  • When the vast majority of African-American and Latino State Senators voted in support of marriage equality, a blow was dealt to the shameful idea that communities of color somehow stand in the way of equality for same-sex couples. In fact, some of the most eloquent arguments during the Senate debate came from African-American and Latino legislators. These men and women articulated exactly why they believe that this is an important civil rights movement and that there is no excuse to continue discriminating against LGBT families when it comes to protections that the State of New York provides to its people.
  • During the two-and-a-half-hour debate, when we heard incredibly moving arguments from Senators in support of marriage equality, we heard only one argument from a Senator who opposes our right to marry. The other 37 Senators who voted “no” were silent during the entire debate, and the only time we heard anything from them was when they were forced to say the word “no” during the voice vote roll call.
  • The “no” votes were silent because every single argument that they could use had been taken away. Early on in this campaign the most common myths that opponents of marriage equality throw out when they argue were dispelled. With these arguments neutralized, opponents of marriage equality had nothing to say and could only vote “no” for nothing more than political reasons.

Now there is a clear roadmap to follow and work to be done. Join the entire Ethical Movement in the struggle for human rights for all.