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Chicago religious leaders speak out against Mayor Emanuel-sponsored ordinances restricting First Amendment rights

By staff

Chicago, IL – As part of the pressure campaign to stop Mayor Emanuel from restricting the freedom to assemble, the Interfaith Committee of the Coalition Against NATO/G8 War & Poverty Agenda (CANG8) circulated the following statement to faith leaders in the Chicago area. The letter with the signatures of 35 prominent ministers and faith leaders was presented to Mayor Emanuel's office Wednesday morning, Jan. 18, just before the opening of the City Council meeting.

The Interfaith Committee intends to continue to gather the support of faith leaders to defend the right to protest war and austerity.

The text of the statement follows:


WHEREAS the founders of our American democracy, when debating the freedoms that should apply to “we the people,” rejected the proposal that these freedoms be “tolerated,” and affirmed that these freedoms are “rights – even unalienable rights – that the government must always honor; and

WHEREAS the Bill of Rights – not the Bill of “Toleration” – of the United States Constitution places the freedom of religion first, but associates it with the essential freedoms of speech, of the press, of peaceable assembly, and of petition the government for redress of grievances; and

WHEREAS religious leaders and their communities have a long and continuing tradition of defending these essential and interconnected rights whenever the government has sought to compromise or deny them as a means of exercising control, exploiting fear, and imposing unreasonable physical and expressive restrictions on persons and groups; and

WHEREAS the political and community leaders of the City of Chicago have determined that benefits will be realized by inviting the G8 and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization to hold their scheduled summits in May of 2012 in the City, and that these invitations have been accepted; and

WHEREAS the political leaders of the City of Chicago have now used the occasion of the forthcoming summit meetings of the G8 and NATO to rewrite and make significantly more restrictive and oppressive those ordinances applying especially to the freedom of speech and the freedom of peaceable assembly, and to threaten and intimidate with massive police action, arrest, and exorbitant fines those who are planning to assemble and speak in protest against the policies and actions of the G8 and NATO as well as other matters of national and international concern; and

WHEREAS these political leaders of the City of Chicago have taken steps to unreasonably limit the hours and places for free speech and peaceable assembly during the G8 and NATO summits, including spaces that are officially acknowledged to be “public” in character, and even to discourage non-protesting persons, groups, and institutions from their presence in these public areas; and

WHEREAS, we as leaders of faith communities of the greater Chicago region and other parts of the country have a religious and public responsibility for demanding that political and community leaders meet their assigned duties ethically, legally, and in keeping with the Constitution of the United States of America;

WE, therefore, the undersigned religious leaders petition the Mayor of the City of Chicago, Rahm Emanuel, and members of the City Council, to cease and desist from the enactment of any and all laws and ordinances, policies and practices that, in word or in spirit, violate, compromise, and undermine the clear and consistent meaning of the United States Constitution and it Bill of Rights.

Signatures (Institution/Religious affiliation is for identification purposes only)

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