Maine Council of Churches asks candidates to sign pledge to keep campaigns civil

Posted July 31, 2014, at 4:06 p.m.

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Rev. Dr. William Barter
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Rev. Dr. William Barter

PORTLAND, Maine — The Maine Council of Churches has asked candidates to take a pledge that they will run civil campaigns this election season.

The MCC mailed out nearly 400 letters on July 15 asking people whose names will appear on the ballot in November to sign a “Covenant for Civil Discourse.”

As of Thursday, 64 candidates, including Democratic gubernatorial candidate Rep. Mike Michaud, have signed and returned it, according to Rev. William Barter, executive director of the MCC.

So far, Michaud is the only gubernatorial candidate to take the pledge, the Lutheran minister said. Those running for federal offices also have not signed it.

“A flourishing democracy requires rigorous public debate that includes freedom of expression for all points of view,” the council said in a press release issued last week. “For such debate to serve the ends of democracy and the common good, it must be rooted in an environment of mutual respect and honesty.”

By signing the covenant, candidates and all persons of conscience are asked to make the following promises:

— To act respectfully toward others, including those who oppose me in public debate, and to attempt to understand others’ point(s) of view. I extend this attitude of respect to all those engaged in civil discourse in the U.S.

— To refrain from personal attacks, while maintaining the right to vigorously disagree.

— To refrain from making statements which characterize my opponents as evil.

— To refuse to make untrue statements in defense of my position.

— To value honesty, truth, and civility while striving to find workable solutions.

— To expect any person, party, campaign or organization working on my behalf to meet these same standards for civil discourse, and to disavow statements that violate these standards.

About 80 candidates for county, state and federal offices signed a similar pledge the MCC sent out two years ago, including U.S. Sen. Angus King, an independant, according to information posted on the group’s website.

The covenant is not just aimed at politicians, Barter said Thursday in an email.

“All members of the Maine Council of Churches sign the covenant, and it is a guiding document for your own deliberations about tough issues, even when our denominations do not agree on all things,” he said. “We encourage all voters to sign the covenant in a spirit of civil discourse. We also encourage churches in our nine member denominations to sign on.”

The MCC will host a panel discussion at 7 p.m. Sept. 18 on civil discourse at Colby College. It also will sponsor multi-faith prayer events Oct. 26 throughout the state.

The following denominations are members of the MCC: Church of the New Jerusalem (Swedenborgian); Episcopal Church USA; Evangelical Lutheran Church in America; Presbyterian Church USA; Religious Society of Friends (Quakers); Roman Catholic Church; Unitarian Universalist Association; United Church of Christ; and United Methodist Church.

For more information on the Maine Council of Churches, call 772-1918 or visit http://www.mainecouncilofchurches.org.

 

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