MCC Issues Press Release Calling Out Incivility and Prejudice In Lewiston Mayoral Race
Incivility and Prejudice in Lewiston Mayoral Race
It is with a heavy heart that the Maine Council of Churches has learned of yet another incident involving bias attacks on Ben Chin, a candidate in the Lewiston mayoral race.
While the MCC neither endorses nor opposes candidates for office, we believe strongly that political campaigns should be civil, statements should be true, and religion should not be used as a political hot button to inflame voters.
Yesterday, State Rep. Lawrence Lockman, R-Amherst, stated on social media that Chin has made “anti-Christian” comments and that “Chins hates America, hates Americans, and hates Christians, and he wants to allow noncitizens to vote.”
Actually Chin is an Episcopalian, trained as a lay reader and well-versed in biblical study, liturgy and theology. He periodically gives sermons at Trinity Episcopal Church in Lewiston.
The MCC would have stood in solidarity with the victim of the attack even if he were not a Christian because people of all faiths and those who don’t have any faith tradition deserve to be treated with respect. Just this week the Council co-sponsored a panel discussion in Portland that featured a Muslim imam, a Jewish rabbi and a Catholic bishop, who spoke of the importance of respecting other faiths.
One of the fundamental principles of the MCC is the concept of “civil discourse” by candidates and public officials.
It is that principle that Chin’s Episcopal bishop, the Right Rev. Stephen T. Lane, referred to in a statement on the attack, which read, in part: “Spirited public discourse is an important part of our civic life. Personal attacks on the character, ethnic origin, or religious beliefs are not. I call on all public officials and those seeking elected office, regardless of party or affiliation, to act in a way that reflects respect for every human being.”
The Episcopal Diocese of Maine is a member denomination of the Maine Council of Churches.
“With sadness I’ve followed the attacks on Ben Chin, mayoral candidate in Lewiston. I believe the recent attack on social media by a Maine legislator – one that focuses on Ben’s identification as a Christian – demands a response. Ben is a faithful Episcopalian and a member of Trinity Episcopal Church in Lewiston where he has served in leadership positions and continues to be licensed by me as a lay preacher.
“While the Episcopal Diocese of Maine does not engage in advocacy in elections, we adamantly subscribe to the Maine Council of Churches’ Covenant for Civil Discourse. Tenets in the Covenant include acting respectfully towards others, including those in opposition, and to refrain from personal attacks as well as statements that characterize an opponent as evil, among others.
“Spirited public discourse is an important part of our civic life. Personal attacks on the character, ethnic origin, or religious beliefs are not. I call on all public officials and those seeking elected office, regardless of party or affiliation, to act in a way that reflects respect for every human being.”
The full Covenant for Civil Discourse, a statement that all state and national candidates are invited to sign, can be found here.
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