NEW YORK (Jul. 10)
In the two weeks since Black Muslim leader Louis Farrakhan denouced Judaism as a “gutter religion,” Israel as an “outlaw nation,” and its supporters as being engaged in a “criminal conspiracy,” a broad cross-section of leading Protestant, Evangelical and Roman Catholic leaders throughout the United States have condemned Farrakhan for his disparaging statements.
The reaction to the Black Muslim leader from groups such as the U.S. Catholic Conference and the Southern Baptist Convention, was welcomed by Rabbi A. James Rudin, director of the American Jewish Committee’s Department of Interreligious Affairs. He stressed that the reaction from the various groups include those which are theologically conservative and others which are theologically liberal.
Rudin asserted that this reaction, which he said was very broad in range and swift in its timing, included a denunciation of Farrakhan’s diatribe attacking Judaism and Israel, but also went a step further. “After the Holocaust, Christians realize that they cannot be silent when vicious anti-Jewish attacks are made by public figures,” Rudin said. He added that the groups which have spoken out against Farrakhan, came not only from national bodies, but from local and regional groups and leaders.
VOW RESISTANCE TO BIGOTRY
Southern Baptist leaders, including Convention president Charles Stanley, held a news conference in Dallas last week to “denounce bigotry and declare to the world that such attacks on Israel, the Jewish people and Judaism will be resisted by God-fearing Christians. ” The Baptist leaders also affirmed their solidarity with “the Jewish people everywhere and wish to assure them they are not alone.”
Along with Stanley, other signators of the statement issued at the news conference included two past presidents of the Southern Baptist Convention, Bailey Smith and James Draper; Judge Paul Pressler, a member of the executive board of the Convention; W.A. Criswell, pastor of the First Baptist Church of Dallas; and Russel Kaemmerling, editor of the Southern Baptist Advocate based in Dallas.
Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, founder and president of the Holyland Fellowship of Christians and Jews and former co-director of Interreligious Affairs for the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith, told the news conference that “It is reassuring to Jews in a time of need that Christians will stand alongside them. We hope to intensify these efforts of cooperation between Southern Baptists and Jewish people.”
Meanwhile, Dr. Claire Randall, general secretary of the National Council of Churches, issued a statement denouncing Farrakhan shortly after the Black Muslim leader remarks were broadcast on June 24 on a local Chicago-radio station.
“There is no place in this nation for the public articulation of the kind of bigotry apparent in Mr. Farrakhan’s statement about the Jewish faith. This unwarranted slur on an ancient and important religion is a threat to freedom of religion in this country,” Randall said.
‘BEYOND THE BOUNDS OF POLITICAL RHETORIC’
Rev. Donald Heintschel, associate secretary of the U.S. Catholic Conference, said Farrakhan had “gone beyond the bounds of political rhetoric” when he attacked Judaism. “Such language Catholic Americans believe with all Americans simply has no place in the public forum, “Heintschel declared.
The Archdiocese of Boston accused Farrakhan of having violated the carefully nurtured tradition of the rational dialogue among people of different faiths when he denounced Judaism. “We repudiate this mindless villification of the faith of our Jewish brothers and sisters,” the Archdiocese said in a statement. “We assure them of our unwavering love and support.”
REMARKS TERMED ‘HATE-FILLED EVIL’
In Southern California, Catholic and Protestant church leaders denounced Farrakhan, the AJCommittee reported. Bishop Robert Rusack of the Episcopal Diocese condemned Farrakhan’s “irresponsible and uninformed anti-Semitic remarks. “He added that the Episcopal Church denounces “public statements designed to ignite tensions and to undermine respect between Jews and other groups and races.”
Msgr. Royale Vadakin of the Catholic Archdiocese observed that Catholic-Americans condemn the remarks of Farrakhan “for the hate-filled evil that it is.” In stressing the spiritual bound of the Christian Church to the Jewish people, Vadakin denounced “such pemicious characterizations of other religions.”
Speaking for the Presbyterian Church, Dr. Fred Beebe, executive of the Presbyterian Synod, said that “it is troubling and unacceptable for anti-Semitism to become an issue in our Presidential election process.” He added that the remarks by Farrakhan are “an offense to those who are committed to fostering understanding and mutual respect among all faith groups.”
Rev. Gene Beutillier, of the Ecumenical Council, said “There has been so much intolerable persecution of Jews in the past that the evil of these statements can never be allowed to stand unchallenged. The abuse of religion to divide, weaken and hurt is a tragedy.”
Msgr. William Barry, president of the Interreligious Council of Southern California, said in response to Farrakhan’s remarks, “This irresponsible hate-filled and bigoted characterization is an affront both to the Jewish community and to others whose religious convictions, sentiments and practices are rooted in Jewish tradition. We call upon all responsible voices in the nation and the religious community to repudiate it.”