CROTON-ON-HUDSON, N.Y. -- A statement championing inclusivity by the Croton Village Board does not go far enough in addressing recent anti-Muslim sentiment that's been seen nationally, residents say.
An interfaith group of clergy released an open letter expressing concern.
"The current climate has opened the door for all manner of hate to be spoken with impunity," the letter reads. "Worse still, acts of hate are all too common. We have the chance to be very clear in making a public statement about our village’s solidarity against these acts of hate."
The clergy asked the board to release a statement conveying the village's commitment to being open, welcoming and supportive of Muslim neighbors and any who might become part of the community in the future.
"We want it to be known, here among us, in the wider community, and in the world, that in our town prejudice and hate will find no welcome home," the letter reads. "In that spirit, we urge members of the Village Board to consider and adopt a resolution against Islamophobia."
The letter was signed by the following: Brian Brennan, pastor of Holy Name of Mary Catholic Church, Bradley Dyche, rector of St. Augustine's Episocpal Church, Ben Ellerin, cantor at Temple Israel of Northern Westchester, Rev. Melissa Hinnen of Asbury United Methodist Church, Rabbi Jennifer Jaech of Temple Israel of Northern Westchester, Rev. Sarah Lenzi, of Unitarian Universalist of the Hudson Valley; and Dr. Saleem Mir of the Mid-Westchester Muslim Center.
In response, the Croton Village Board released a statement condemning any acts of discrimination and violence against any national origin, race, gender, sex, religion, disability or political viewpoint.
"Such acts run counter to the rights and freedoms upon which our country was founded and to the core values of the Village of Croton," the statement read. "Croton is committed to fostering welcoming communities and an equitable, diverse, and inclusive society."
At a work session late last month, three board members, who are part of Croton United, defended the statement, saying they didn't want to single out a particular group.
"I wanted to make it all inclusive," Mayor Greg Schmidt said. "We can have it framed and put up on our wall so people are clear that this is what we mean here. It's inclusive to everyone. This is our statement."
Trustee Brian Pugh, a Democrat, said the statement is not responsive to what the clergy was asking for. Trustee Ann Gallelli, a Democrat, also had concerns about the issue.
"There is a climate of growing bigotry against Muslims," Pugh said. "If there is another situation where a group is being singled out, we should do a statement for that group."
The New York Conference Of Mayors had recommended the board approve a general resolution rather than singling out a specific group.
At a Dec. 5 board meeting, residents also expressed concern that the statement did not go far enough.
"I watched the work session and was very disappointed," Gary Shaw said. "This was a feckless all lives matter approach to the issue. It is myopic and cowardly to not make a statement that Croton condemns any policy that calls for the registration of Muslims by the federal government. We should reject that in specific terms, not with platitudes that say, 'all are welcome.' Make the statement, be specific, stop being politicians who equivocate."
At the meeting, Schmidt said we have to work as a united voice and said when he got into politics, he viewed the world as them v. us, before he realized that politics is about working together.
"In our daily lives, if we use terms like ... those blank Republicans or those blank Democrats...you are doing exactly what every person that views an Islamic person as different- you are exactly the same as them at that moment in time."
Schmidt said he is committed to a broader statement that he believes speaks to the protection of all communities who have felt endangered by recent acts of hatred.
"Until we break down these walls, we've broken nothing," Schmidt said at the meeting. "We all have to stand together. I am committed to working with the clergy as your mayor that we do things in this community that welcome everybody and protect everybody."
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