South Shore Clergy Group addresses hate speech at public meetings (Opinion)

Coalition of Clergy in the South Shore

We represent religious and spiritual communities across the South Shore of Lake Tahoe and in El Dorado County. We make this unequivocal statement in solidarity with the Jewish community in our county and across the country:

The antisemitic hate speech that overwhelmed the El Dorado County Board of Supervisors’ meeting on Tuesday, September, 26, 2023, during the meeting’s public comment periods was un-American, un-Christian, and does not and will never represent our communities. Hate is not welcome here.

We know that hate comes from fear, and we can engage the power of our minds to overcome fear. As Dr. Martin Luther King said, “These forces that threaten to negate life must be challenged by courage, which is the power of life to affirm itself.” We lean on courage now to master fear with love in our own communities.

We endorse all action that supports civic life and affirms all people. In the case of hate speech and behavior, we make clear it has no place here. We know that by condoning it, we hurt all people, including the perpetrators of hate speech themselves.

We call attention to SB 1100 which added Section 54957.95 to the Government Code, effective January 1, 2023. As described by law firm Liebert Cassidy Whitmore1, under this amendment to the Brown Act, when a member of the public is disruptive in a meeting, a governing body must warn them that their behavior is disruptive and that if they do not stop their behavior, the governing body may remove them from the meeting.

If the member of the public does not promptly cease their behavior, the governing body’s presiding member or their designee may order their removal. SB 1100 defines disruptive behavior as behavior that “actually disrupts, disturbs, impedes, or renders infeasible the orderly conduct of the meeting,” including but not limited to, behavior that, (1) violates one of the governing body’s regulations addressing the conduct of open meetings, or (2) a reasonable observer would perceive as a threat to use force by that member of the public.

In enacting SB 1100, the Legislature sought to balance concerns regarding public decorum and protecting public officials’ safety, with the public’s rights to free speech and assembly under the State and Federal Constitutions.

We call on the El Dorado County Board of Supervisors to take action:

1. Conduct all public meetings in a manner consistent with California law (SB 1100, Section 54957.95) including:

a. Give warning to members of the public if their behavior is disruptive.

b. Remove them if they do not promptly cease their behavior.

2. Enact policy for El Dorado County addressing conduct in open meetings to include the following requirements:

a. All callers contributing to public comment to be on video.

b. All callers contributing to public comment state their name and address, ensuring that members of the public that provide public comment are residents of El Dorado County.

c. Ensure all time limits are upheld in public comment periods.

3. Engage the community in proactive dialogue and growth on topics of tolerance and nonviolent conflict resolution.

4. Pass a resolution to adopt the month of July as Religious Freedom and Tolerance Month.

We stand for an American nation that upholds religious and spiritual freedom, that acknowledges its past errors, and that promotes life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness for all people. We recognize, celebrate, and affirm the many contributions to the richness of American life from our fellow citizens of varied backgrounds, religious, ethnic, and otherwise.

As Jimi Hendrix said, “When the power of love overcomes the love of power, the world will know peace.”

And, again in the words of Dr. King, “Not arms, but love, understanding, and organized goodwill can cast out fear.”

We call on the El Dorado County Supervisors to represent the various congregations and all people of our County. Take immediate action to stop hate speech in its tracks.

Our coalition is comprised of the following individuals:

  • Rabbi Lauren Ben-Shoshan, Temple Bat Yam, South Lake Tahoe
  • Rev. Stew Bittman, Unity at the Lake, South Lake Tahoe
  • Dr. Anne Davidson, Unity at the Lake, South Lake Tahoe
  • Giffin Dixon, Hope Lutheran, South Lake Tahoe
  • John Eldridge, Unity at the Lake, South Lake Tahoe
  • Rev. Dr. Greg Hughes, Lake Tahoe Community Presbyterian Church, South Lake Tahoe
  • Father Joseph Sebastian, St. Teresa Catholic Church, South Lake Tahoe
  • Rev. Peter Skewes-Cox, St. John in the Wilderness Episcopal Church, Glenbrook2
  • Pastor Diana Turner, Hope Lutheran, South Lake Tahoe
  • Rabbi Evon Yakar, Temple Bat Yam, South Lake Tahoe

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