At Rally for Decency MCC President Advocates for Civil Discourse

Full text of Aug. 31, 2016 speech below


The Maine Council of Churches is an organization of nine Christian denominations. We are non-partisan and we do not endorse political candidates. Although our denominations do not agree on all issues, we come together as a Council where we find common ground – addressing issues of poverty, advocating for human rights, promoting environmental justice – and what has become perhaps our signature issue – civil discourse in our democracy.

For without civil discourse it’s hard to get anything done.

I am here this evening – at this gathering that has been promoted as “The Rally for Decency”— to urge government leaders and citizens of Maine to treat each other with respect and decency – particularly in the upcoming days as the state contends with the fall-out from the Governor’s remarks last week.

Those remarks were unconscionable and, like leaders in Westbrook and elsewhere, the Maine Council of Churches issued a statement Saturday saying so. The Governor’s remarks have reverberated across the nation, embarrassed our residents, and distracted our leaders from dealing with critical issues affecting our state.

We are grateful for the Governor’s apology to Representative Gattine earlier today and hold him and his family in our hearts as he seeks spiritual guidance about his actions and his future. We pray for him, the Legislature, the Secretary of State and all those who may have a role in determining what happens next. And we pray for those he has hurt by his actions and his words.

It is NOT our role, however, as the Maine Council of Churches, to suggest what those next steps might be.

Instead, we urge political candidates running in November, and the governor as well, to take a positive step toward civility.  As an expression of good faith, they can sign the Maine Council of Churches’  “Covenant for Civil Discourse” which is available on our website:

By signing the Covenant, they pledge to:

  • Act respectfully towards others;
  • Refrain from making statements characterizing their opponent as evil;
  • Refuse to make untrue statements;
  • Value honesty, truth and civility while striving to find workable solutions;

And they expect any person, party, campaign or organization working on their behalf to meet these same standards. If those standards are violated, the candidate agrees to disavow those inappropriate statements.

When the Council asked federal and state candidates to sign the Covenant In 2014, we received 100 responses, out of 400. This year we hope for a larger return.

In 2014, we heard from two of three gubernatorial candidates. Gov. LePage was not one of them. Although he is not running for re-election this year, we urge him to consider signing the Covenant anyway as a step in the healing process for the state and for himself.

In the pews and in our communities, we have heard the anxious voices of those distraught about the ugly tone of politics this election year. We have asked former U.S. Senator George Mitchell to give us guidance about what we the people can do to change that tone. The Maine Council of Churches is sponsoring his talk —  “From Mudslinging to Mutual Respect: How to Make Politics More Civil” on October 20th. It will be a free breakfast session in Waterville. You can register on the Council’s website.

In the upcoming days and weeks, we of the Maine Council of Churches ask that the people of Maine communicate with each other with respect and decency and treat each other with something you don’t hear much about  — compassion. This is a difficult time, when there is already too much divisiveness, anger and hate festering in our nation.

We believe we are all Children of God and deserve compassion — whether we are black or white; Christian or Muslim; male or female, or a person named Paul LePage.


Bonny Rodden
President of the Maine Council of Churches