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'We Must Be Loud In Our Intolerance Of Intolerance': Local Faith Leaders Speak Up

San Diego faith leaders gather for a press conference denouncing racism following violent protests in Charlottesville, Virginia, Aug. 18, 2017.
Erik Anderson
San Diego faith leaders gather for a press conference denouncing racism following violent protests in Charlottesville, Virginia, Aug. 18, 2017.
San Diego Faith Leaders To Take Stand Against Racism
San Diego Faith Leaders To Take Stand Against Racism GUEST: Bishop Robert McElroy, The Roman Catholic Diocese of San Diego

This is KPBS Midday Edition . I am Maureen Cavanaugh. It is August 15. The top story, on the heels of the domestic terror attack in Charlottesville, the Barcelona is mourning the dead and injured in another act of fate. It seems as if stories of racism and religious intolerance have been in the news for days. At the end of this deeply troubling we, a group of faith leaders have gathered to stand against the violence. They say the event is aimed at rallying the community to reject intolerance and oppressive systems of racism. I spoke with one of those faith leaders, the head of the diocese of San Diego before the gathering.Bishop mackerel, welcome to the show. The event is described as a news conference. What is the message you want to get out to the public ?What we want to say is, United people in Sandy go, in this community, we wish to stay -- say emphatically that the statements, the beliefs and the actions of groups like the neo-Nazis, Ku Klux Klan, white supremacist malicious are blasphemous to the God who was father of us all. And who sees in all human beings sons and daughters, equal in dignity and worth. Last week, we saw in Charlottesville the face of evil walking in our midst. We need to move quickly and deeply and broadly to fight this resurgence of poison of racism and division within our society. We have to take major steps to do so. That is the message that we are trying to emphasize as we gather this morning.What kind of ways can San Diego address this problem ?One important way is that we reach out in a penetrating and powerful way to young people. One of the most distressing elements of what occurred in Charlottesville was to look at the youth that were marching. They were neo-Nazis and members of the clan. That signals very strongly that in our society that the poison of hatred and racial division and religious division is not healthy but it is in fact perhaps growing and is as strong as it has been. Unfortunately in our world, there are new organs propagating this viciousness. We need to reach out to the young people what I have done here, I have asked our superintendent of schools and the director to work to place in the module of the coming semester, specifically designed around this experience in Charlottesville and there are appropriate ways to bring to the students with the elementary school and the high school levels and in the youth programs how poisonous the reality of these things are and how much they are opposed to the fundamental teachings of Jesus Christ and really of every great faith. I would urge parents to talk with their children about these questions. They hear things and they see things in social media. It is really important. Parents can make a real contribution here to bring the most positive messages possible to their children about the unity and the dignity of all and the fact that these divisions are simply unacceptable.Bishop mackerel, the organizer of the conference is saying that faith leaders who attend the conference will be calling on law-enforcement to develop public safety plans in case of attacks by hate groups here in San Diego. Do you think that kind of preparation is necessary here?Sadly, I think we find ourselves in a world and the Barcelona incident in case theIndicates that contingency plans have to be made. That is a sad commentary on the state of our world and our local society also. I think it is important for law enforcement to develop those plans because one of the problems is that many of these groups who seek to divide our country, who seek to stir up racial and religious hatreds, provoke and find ways of creating incidents to bring brutality come to bring violence into the heart of our society and we have to prepare for that. There is a strategy of provocation going on in our society from the neo-Nazi groups and from the clan and the malicious. We need to be prepared and so does the responsibility of the law enforcement perspective.Do you think we have a serious problem in San Diego with intolerance?I think San Diego is a city which is blessed in many ways with the diversity and much acceptance about that diversity. At the same time, it is sadly true here as in every place in the country, there are pockets of racism which are profound and deep and vicious. Then, there is the question of racism in all our hearts. We have to be vigorous in addressing both of those.I have been speaking with Robert McElroy. Thank you very much.Thank you.

Updated: 5 p.m. Aug. 18, 2017

San Diego's faith community stood together Friday to denounce racism highlighted by the tragic events in Charlottesville, Virginia, this past week.

The spiritual leaders stood side-by-side with about 50 denominations gathered in the courtyard of a Hillcrest church. They were sending a clear message: "Hate does not have a home in San Diego."

Bishop Robert McElroy's Catholic diocese represents nearly one in three San Diegans.

"Last weekend in Charlottesville, we saw the face of evil walking in our midst. With such utter clarity that that day must become a marker for all of us to take new dedication to removing the poison of religious and ethnic and racial bigotry from our midst, and to make white supremacy a thing of the past," said McElroy.

San Diego's Faith Community Stands Up Against Hate

The nation was taken aback by the anger and violence. Right-wing extremists filled the streets of the college town chanting racist slogans and scuffling with counter protesters.

President Donald Trump was roundly criticized for not denouncing Nazi and white supremacist protesters until Monday. He returned to a position of shared blame at an impromptu press event on Tuesday.

"I watched those video's closely. Much more closely than you people watched it. And you had a group on one side that was bad and you had a group on the other side that was also very violent. And nobody wants to say that. But I'll say it right now. You had a group on the other side that came charging in, without a permit, and they were very violent," Trump said.

The president went on to suggest the situation could be fixed if he continues creating jobs.

"I say to our president, creating jobs will not fix our race problem," said Bishop Cornelius Bowser of the Charity Apostolic Church. "To fix our race problem, President Trump must pay attention to and speak up for people of color, which are more likely to live in poverty, drop out of high school, be unemployed, see their fathers sent to prison and be unable to rebuild their lives when they get out."

The nation must hold Trump to a higher standard, Bowser said.

The events in Charlottesville were reminders that a long-fought struggle against racism is not yet won.

"We're saddened by what is happening across the nation, but our coming here today is indicative that there is light still shining in the darkness and the darkness can not put it out," said Bishop George McKinney of the Church of God in Christ.

All in attendance agreed that denouncing the hate, by name, is an important step forward. Rabbi Devorah Marcus urged people to do more than just agree that the incidents in Charlottesville were an outrage. She called on people to stand up and let their voice be heard.

"They want us to be silent, hoping that the problem will go away. Silence breeds space. It conveys acceptance. And it makes it seem that no one stands in opposition to these vile ideas. We must show up en mass. We must be loud and unceasing in our intolerance of intolerance," Marcus said.

There was a call for this issue to be the topic of sermons this Sunday, all around San Diego County.

'We Must Be Loud In Our Intolerance Of Intolerance': Local Faith Leaders Speak Up
Local faith leaders held a press conference Friday to take a stand against racism in the wake of the violent protests in Charlottesville, Virginia.