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Ithaca Journal
September 19, 2008
Campaign calls on U.S. to end practice
By Krisy Gashler
Journal Staff
Six Ithaca churches and religious groups have joined a national faith-based campaign against torture. “Torture violates the basic dignity of the human person that all religions, in their highest ideals, hold dear,” reads the “‘Torture is a Moral Issue' Statement of Conscience” sponsored by the National Religious Campaign Against Torture.
“It degrades everyone involved — policy-makers, perpetrators and victims. It contradicts our nation's most cherished ideals. Any policies that permit torture and inhumane treatment are shocking and morally intolerable.”

The groups that have joined the national movement are Tikkun v'Or Jewish reform temple, First Baptist church, Unitarian Church of Ithaca, St. Catherine's Greek Orthodox churches, Catholic Charities and St. Paul's United Methodist church, according to Gerry Coles, chairman of the social action committee at Tikkun v'Or.

The National Religious Campaign Against Torture seeks to encourage the president of the United States to issue an executive order banning torture, according to its Web site. Churches that join the campaign are encouraged to display banners showing their support for the movement in Nov. 2008, when the new president is elected, and in Jan. 2009, when he will be inaugurated.

Banners say things like “Honor the Image of God: Stop Torture Now,” “Torture is a Moral Issue,” “Torture Harms All of Us” and “Torture is Wrong.” National and international controversy has surrounded President George W. Bush's policies on interrogation of suspected terrorists. Supporters call methods like water-boarding “enhanced
interrogation techniques” and argue that they have resulted in intelligence that has protected national security. Critics call the methods “torture,” and argue that their use is immoral and has damaged America's standing at home and abroad.

First Baptist Church Torture Banner

Coles said that Reformed Judaism, the philosophy followed at Tikkun v'Or, has long opposed torture. A national convention passed a resolution condemning torture in 2005, he said. Jewish people, because of the history of the Holocaust, feel a “particular responsibility to speak out against the violence and dehumanization of other groups, particularly religious groups, Muslims, who get categorized in the same way,” he said.
“It's not at all making a comparison” between the Holocaust and Bush's interrogation policies, Coles said. “The experience of the Holocaust just underscores, I feel, the need for Jews to speak out on issues of war and peace, issues of morality and abuse.”

Pastor Rich Rose of the First Baptist church in Ithaca said his church signed onto the anti-torture campaign because “we see it as a very basic issue of human rights that is very tied to our understanding of the Bible and God.”  

“Whether it's the Torah for our Jewish sisters and brothers, or the Bible for Christians, or the Koran even for Muslims, the basic tenet of our scripture is that human beings are made in God's image and reflect the image of God,” he said. “My personal belief is that all people are inherently good. People do terrible things, certainly, I don't want to be naive about that, but at the same time, I think we have to respect that that spark of God is present in all of us. And this to me is just a blatant and heinous violation of that tenet, that principle.”

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Rep. Hinchey Holds Forum on Iraq War

Emma Wright    (Channel 36, Elmira, NY)
March 19, 2008
ITHACA--Congressman Maurice Hinchey marked the 5th anniversary of the War in Iraq Wednesday by holding a community forum in Ithaca.  Those who came out to the forum said it’s time for some big changes.

“I think they should be removed from office, forcibly. I think that their needs to be something done where they are removed from office,” said Bill McGill.  McGill says he's fed up with President George W. Bush. The navy veteran says he's afraid America is losing its dream, and he wants the Bush administration to do something about it.

“Those who hijacked our democracy should basically be removed from office”, he said.  "I'm not a radical, I’m a person who’s responsible and I care about what's going on in America.”

Congressman Hinchey held the forum at the First Baptist Church of Ithaca as an opportunity to discuss the impact of the war. “It’s having a fairly uniform negative impact across America, everybody is suffering from the consequences,” he said. Hinchey said the effects of the war are widespread. He said it has negatively affected the national debt, personal debt, and the war's trillion dollar price tag is just plain unnecessary.
“All across this country, this situation is causing a dramatic turndown in economic circumstances,” he said. “I think that citizens should be able to voice their opinions on very important matters especially the situation of Iraq. It is a very crucial matter so we ought to be talking about it,” said Pastor Richard Rose of the First Baptist Church of Ithaca.  Hinchey says he will continue to press for the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq in congress.

Click here for full report and news video, including comment by Rev. Richard Rose of First Baptist Church.


Hinchey blasts Bush on war's 5th anniversary
By Raymond Drumsta
Ithaca Journal Staff
March 20, 2008

ITHACA — Tossing out figures in the billion and trillion ranges, Congressman Maurice Hinchey, D-22nd, commemorated the fifth anniversary of the Iraq invasion with a visit to Ithaca and a fiery speech linking the ongoing Iraqi conflict with the American economy, which he said is in a recession.  “The economic consequences we're facing are dire and damaging,” Hinchey told the crowd of 40 people assembled Wednesday evening at a community forum at the First Baptist Church of Ithaca.

Hinchey lit into the administration for what he called the illegal and unjustified invasion and occupation, and quoted President George W. Bush's Wednesday speech, in which he said the war in Iraq is “noble, necessary and just.”  “Wrong on all three counts,” Hinchey said, “as more and more people across this country know and understand, as the people of Ithaca knew in 2002. There's no nobility, necessity and justification.”

With its current budget now before Congress, the Bush administration has taken spending from things like healthcare, education and infrastructure “while they escalate the cost of the military occupation of Iraq,” Hinchey said, adding that Iraq has cost $500 billion so far, and costs $12 billion every month.

Meanwhile, Hinchey said, America is in a recession, facing rising food and fuel costs, a devalued dollar, the massive loss of manufacturing jobs and an increase in government and personal debt, with wealth being accumulated by only the wealthiest five percent of Americans.  “The economic circumstances we face continue to get worse,” he said, pointing to the Federal Reserve's bailout of investment banker Bear Stearns. Americans must confront these circumstances intelligently and aggressively, he said.

“We have to make sure we get a new administration next year that can deal with this problem.”  

Gauging by their spontaneous applause at his remarks, the crowd seemed sympathetic. But one outspoken man who wished not to be identified questioned Hinchey and the Democrats, saying they haven't held the administration accountable for things such as the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.

“They've disappointed all of us,” the man said of the Democrats.

Hinchey fired back at the man, saying the administration has been held accountable on FISA. Taking an encouraging tone, Hinchey urged the man to keep fighting.

“You can't let them knock you down,” he said.

In answering another question about a phased withdrawal from Iraq, Hinchey said one can begin “almost immediately,” but that some troop presence will be necessary in Iraq. He called for a strengthened United Nations to undertake Iraq.

“We need that organization,” he said. “I think the U.N. needs to go in there. We need to withdraw our troops.”

Questioned about why members of the administration haven't been impeached, Hinchey said it was not possible with the current make up of Congress.
Republican response

Republican response
Responding to Hinchey's visit and some of his remarks, County Legislator and Tompkins County Republican Chairman Mike Sigler said the United States' commitment to Iraq is still worth the price, and is a must-win situation.” Removing U.S. forces now would create a power vacuum, leading to the genocide of the Iraqi people, said Sigler, R-Lansing. “It would leave them unprotected,” he said of a withdrawal, adding that many Iraqis have committed to democracy — some at the cost of their lives.

Worse yet, Sigler said, a humanitarian crisis created by a withdrawal might force the United States to reinvade Iraq — a costlier prospect than the present situation, because troops would be fighting to regain territory given up in that withdrawal.  Iraq has “turned the corner,” he added, with the troop surge, by all accounts, tamping down the violence.

“The political end of this endeavor is going to take longer,” he said. “It's going to take time.”  Saying he's not well-versed in the Federal budget, Sigler declined to comment about Hinchey's budget allegations, but said voters should compare annual budgets to judge the veracity of Hinchey's statement. Domestic spending, like war spending, will be deficit spending, he added, and he welcomes a debate framed in those terms.

“Republicans don't want to deficit spend,” he said. “The problem is, we have a war we have to finish.” While he conceded that the financial aspect of the war may have currency with voters, he reiterated the need to finish the commitment to Iraq.

Sigler said that while he has constituents who served in Iraq, he doesn't hear much from them about the issue.


Ithaca Journal-
Friday, August 3, 2007
By Topher Sanders-Journal Staff

Ithaca- More than 270 people gathered in Cornell University's Ho Plaza Thursday to express support for the Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender community in response to a religious group who traveled to Ithaca to condemn homosexuality.

Rev. Rich Rose, of the First Baptist Church of Ithaca, adresses a crowd of over 270 people rallying in support of the Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender community of Ithaca Thursday morning on Cornell's Hoy Plaza in Ithaca.

Rainbow flags were waved enthusiastically and signs reading "God is Love" were held by many in Ho Plaza as they shouted chants against bigotry.

"We are just here for a moment of solidarity, empowerment and to reinforce what our community is about" said Gwendolyn Dean, director of the Cornell's Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender Resource Center.

Several hundred yards away, four members from Westboro Baptist Church of Topeda, Kan. stood on the corner of Dryden and Hoy Roads at the entrace of Cornell holding signs
Westboro Baptist Church

stating that God hated homosexuals, and that homosexuals should die.

The church believes the United States should be destroyed because of its allowance of homosexuality and what they perceive as other perversions.

"We had a reminder just last night that the wrath of God again is pouring down on this nation," said Shirley Phelps-Roper of the church, referring tothe collaps of the highway bridge in Minneapolis that killed at least four people.

Rich Rose, reverence of the First Baptist Church of Ithaca said Baptists do not stand for the Westboro Baptist Church's mission.

"I would just like to affirm for you that Baptists are not defind by hatred, exclusion of this kind of bigotry that we have seen right around the corner," Rose said. "Baptist in its true definition stands for liberty and the support of diversity in communion."


What does the Lord require of you?
To do Justice, love mercy and walk humbly with your God.
~Micah 6:8~