A statement from some 40 Christian, Jewish and Muslim faith leaders in the Madison area. This was published in the Wisconsin State Journal on Oct. 5, 2014. (Complete list of signers at the end.)
In the aftermath of the furor over the video showing Baltimore football player Ray Rice knocking out his fiancé in an elevator, a Twitter campaign called #whyistayed exploded online. Women explained why they could not leave an abusive relationship.
Their stories were many and varied, but one thread cited religious beliefs and religious leaders that kept them from leaving.
“I stayed because my pastor told me that God hates divorce,” wrote Beverly Gooden, who created #whyistayed. “It didn’t cross my mind that God might hate abuse, too.”
Yukio Strachan from Iowa tweeted: “Christian counselors said his emotional violence wasn’t abuse. I was ‘too sensitive’ and needed to be tougher.”
From Nashville, Lauren Ashley May wrote that she stayed “because the elders of our church told my mother and I that it was our fault.”
As faith leaders in the Madison area, we are concerned about the messages our traditions have sent in the past (and in some cases, still do). We want our congregations to be safe places for people experiencing abuse and we want to help move the wider community to collective action to protect people facing domestic violence.
Over the past year, many of us have worked with health care providers, law enforcement personnel, service providers, the staff at Domestic Abuse Intervention Services and other agencies dealing with domestic violence to learn more about ways faith communities can be helpers rather than obstacles to those trapped by the control of a spouse or partner.
We want to say clearly that even though we take the commitments of marriage seriously, those commitments should never be used as leverage to keep someone in an unsafe relationship.
We want to say clearly that reconciliation cannot happen until the abuser gets treatment, not simply pastoral marriage counseling.
We want to say clearly that forgiveness is an important value in our traditions, but it does not relieve anyone of the consequences for mistreating another.
We want to say that whatever understanding one has of the roles of spouses in marriage, nowhere is there justification for abuse or violence by one spouse toward another.
We have developed this web site with resources particularly designed for people in varied faith communities. We welcome others to join us in this effort to keep the virtues of respect, compassion, courage and hope in the forefront.
Dane County has made enormous strides in recent years in shining a light on domestic violence and mobilizing the community to respond. As faith leaders, we applaud that and are grateful we can seek ways to be a greater part of the solution and less a part of the problem.
Rev. Phil Haslanger, pastor, Memorial United Church of Christ, Fitchburg
Rabbi Jonathan Biatch, Temple Beth El, Madison
Ibrahim Saeed, Islamic Center, Madison
Rev. Tina Lang, associate pastor, First United Methodist Church,
Rev. Rich Johnson, pastor, All Saints Lutheran, Fitchburg
Rev. Kerri Parker, pastor, McFarland United Church of Christ
Rev. Mark Elsdon, Campus Pastor/Executive Director, Pres House – UW Madison
Rev. Dietrich Gruen, Hospice Chaplain with Generations Home Care & Hospice, Benevolence Fund Coordinator at High Point Church
Rev. Eldonna Hazen, pastor, First Congregational United Church of Christ, Madison
Rev. Stephen Marsh, pastor, Lake Edge Lutheran, Madison
Rev. David Carlson, pastor, Bethany Evangelical Free Church, Madison.
Rev. Miranda Hassett, rector, St. Dunstan’s Episcopal Church, Madison
Rabbi Andrea Steinberger, Hillel Foundation at the University of Wisconsin-Madison
Rev. Luke Bocher, pastor, Congregational United Church of Christ, Evansville
Elsa Gumm, Staff and lifeServe Coordinator, the Church at Christ Memorial, Fitchburg
Rev. Kent Ulery, Interim Associate Conference Minister, Wisconsin Conference United Church of Christ
Rabbi Joshua Ben-Gideon, Beth Israel Center, Madison
Rev. Glen Reichelderfer, associate pastor, Christ Presbyterian Church, Madison
Rev. Paula Harris, pastor, St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, Madison
Rev. Carol Barth, pastor, First Congregational United Church of Christ, Lake Mills
Rev. Jerry Hancock, director, Prison Ministry Project of the United Church of Christ
Rev. Charlie Berthoud, pastor, Covenant Presbyterian Church, Madison
Victoria Lazo, director of UNIDOS Against Domestic Violence
Rev. Dorota Pruski, associate priest, St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church, Madison
Rev. Erica Liu, Campus Pastor, Pres House
Rev. Tisha Brown, Director, Lay Academy. Wisconsin Conference, United Church of Christ
Pastor Roger Roberts, stated supply pastor of Dale Heights Presbyterian, Madison
Rev. Joanne Thomson, Associate Conference Minister For Church Development and Renewal, Wisconsin Conference, United Church of Christ
Rabbi Laurie Zimmerman, Congregation Shaarei Shamayim, Madison
Rabbi Renee Bauer, Madison
Rev. Winton Boyd, pastor, Orchard Ridge UCC, Madison
Rev. Tammy Martens, associate pastor, Orchard Ridge United Church of Christ, Madison
Rev. Jason Mack, minister of community First Baptist Church, Madison
Rev. Mark Yurs, pastor, Salem United Church of Christ, Verona
Rev. Heide Hackman, pastor, First United Church of Christ, Belleville
Rev. Jim Iliff, pastor, Middleton Community United Church of Christ
Rev. Lex Libertore, pastor, Lake Edge United Church of Christ, Madison
Rev. Fran Deaner, Bashford United Methodist Church, Madison
Rev. Peter J. Morris, Pastor, Arbor Covenant Church, Madison
Rev. Karla Schmidt, Campus Minister, The Crossing, Madison
Rev. J. Manny Santiago, Executive Director, The Crossing, Madison
Kevin Laufenberg, pastoral associate, St. Bernard Catholic Church, Middleton, WI
If you are a faith leader who would like to add your name, please email Phil Haslanger.