At a February meeting of the RTM Appointments Committee, as I was being interviewed to be re-appointed to the Labor Contracts Committee, I was asked whether my religious activity was a conflict of interest.
Let me say that again: An elected member of the Town government asked if I should be denied re-appointment to my position because of my religion.
I was asked whether my religious activity was a conflict of interest.
If I hadn’t been so shocked at the question – which is a blatant violation of Town policy, not to mention the First Amendment – I would have asked the questioner what she thought the conflict of interest might be.
Let’s think about that for a minute.
I am a Christian. I served as pastor of First Church of Round Hill for five years, and since then I have continued with ministry from the pews at First United Methodist Church of Greenwich. My Christian beliefs include taking to heart Jesus’ teachings, as well as commands from the Old Testament, such as:
Love one another.
Care for the poor, the sick, the widow and the orphan.
Blessed are the meek.
Blessed are the merciful.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness.
Do not worship idols.
Walk humbly with your God.
My questioner (whom I had never met before) seemed to believe that these values would conflict with her conception of the Town’s interests. Do the citizens of Greenwich believe that these values conflict with the Town’s? If she believes that to be true, is it possible that her values are in conflict with the Town’s?
Imagine if my encounter with the Appointments Committee had been reversed and I, a registered Democrat, had asked an interviewee if his or her Christian beliefs or practices constituted a conflict of interest for appointment to a Town committee. It does not take much imagination to predict the response:
“Our nation was founded on Judeo-Christian values!”
“Christianity is under attack!”
“Take our country back from the [atheists/secularists/Muslims/liberals]!”
“Bring a lawsuit!”
I do not intend to sue the Town over this incident.
I do want people to understand what is going on in our Town government. There is so much anger at the various women who, in 2017, decided to participate in their local government that the RTM has devolved into ugly tribalism.
The Town’s largest elected body is not serving the noble purpose that the RTM is intended to serve: working together in a non-partisan way to envision what kind of community we want to live in and how best we might move toward that end. That is what I hoped to participate in when I ran for office.
My heart breaks for this town and the vibrant community that helped raise my children. I thought it was better than this.
If you’re inspired to take action, write to your RTM members and let them know how you feel.
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