Statement from the Washington Association of Churches
THE REV. JOHN C. BOONSTRA, EXECUTIVE MINISTER
419 Occidental Avenue South, Suite
201 Seattle, Washington
98104-2886 (206) 625-9790 fax
and the debate over our public values
Issued by the Washington Association of Churches
March 6, 1996
Our society is
actively engaged In debates about the values upon which our public
policies are developed. In the midst of these diverse viewpoints,
we often experience significant tension over differing
viewpoints. These tensions affect the livelihoods of
everyone. When acts of harassment, intimidation and violence are
directed against persons holding particular beliefs, the entire
community suffers. This kind of hostility is yet another
expression of the propensity to use harassment, Intimidation and
violence within our society.
We have noted
with dismay the escalation of harassment, intimidation and violence and
have reflected on the importance of civility as a type of behavior
which can help us deal with conflicts in our values and still maintain
the civil peace and a basic sense of community.
Why "principles of civility"?
To live together
in community, there has to be some shared sense and acceptance of
common values or, there has to be a way to mediate, resolve, and live
within a pluralistic value structure. There has to be some
commonly understood practices of civil behavior between individuals and
groups in conflict situations.
values do not have to be blunted and suppressed because of what we fear
in one another. Conflicting viewpoints about public values and
policy, about race, gender, religious beliefs or any of numerous issues
over which we struggle, when they are respectfully placed before the
public, can provide new light to see common ground.
Civility is a code of behavior and a way of acting towards each other both in our public and private interactions.
civility ought to embrace clear principles of respect for the
environment, for human rights and for economic, political and racial
justice. Principles of civility strengthen our community through
an appreciation of our common ground and deepen our sense of civic
responsibility to bring about our common good.
The virtue of justice is the foundation of community.
Justice offers visions which affirm the world as a whole and foster a
wholeness of the spirit. It insists upon the common good for the whole
community. Civil behavior defines our conduct to live according to
these values. We call on public officials, readers of community groups,
and the media to join us in this trying year of debate and decision in
establishing clear standards of behavior for the civil process and to
hold each other accountable for such behavior. This can include
monitoring the public arena to determine their implementation, and to
clearly and decisively denounce their violation.
What does "civility" require of us?
Because justice requires us to respect the dignity of each and every person...
a respect for and an adherence to human rights where no one's right to
expression, viewpoint and belief is challenged by harassment,
intimidation and violence.
Civility requires that the active recognition of the human rights of every person be seen as essential to the common good.
that our commitments extend beyond our concern for stopping crimes of
hostility and be extended to the practice of promoting and honoring
Principles of Civil behavior...
... promote a community where mutuality, reciprocity, justice, truth telling, accountability, and democracy are practiced.
... unite people instead of divide them.
... promote inclusively and tolerance and respect for cultural and religious differences.
... promote an appreciation for the diversity that exists within our interconnected communities.
Civility Principles define standards of conduct:
We call on all persons of good will to ....
those who bring different points of view to the public arena and to be
able to articulate the arguments of those with whom we disagree.
- Insist that all people, no matter what their persuasion, deserve the respect democratic civility requires.
that groups who advocate and organize around particular values not seek
special privilege, let alone excuse themselves from those same rules of
democratic civility that it claims for itself. I
- Support the victims of hate crimes and physical and other forms of abuse.
the cultural order which tolerates and gives rise to crimes committed
against someone for their beliefs and viewpoints.
faith and personal convictions in situations of human conflict in such
a way as to integrate the practice of justice with the hope of