WASHINGTON — Yesterday, following a tragic shooting outside of Roanoke, VA, Roanoke Mayor David Bowers called for prayer and a return to church. Following this call, Rabbi Jack Moline, Interfaith Alliance Executive Director and longtime Virginia faith leader, wrote this letter:
Mayor David A. Bowers
215 Church Ave, S.W.
Roanoke, VA 24011
August 28, 2015
Dear Mayor Bowers,
Roanoke was the epicenter of a shock that reverberated throughout the Commonwealth, the nation and the world. Please accept my condolences to the city, as I have already extended to WDBJ7, both as Executive Director of Interfaith Alliance and as a long-time rabbi from Alexandria, Virginia.
In response to a question from CNN reporter Carol Costello, you called for prayer as a response to the murders. I join you in the call for people to seek solace in their faith or philosophy in moments of trauma like these tragic deaths. Indeed, my experience as a member of the clergy is that there are few better places to find the courage to persevere than in the company of like-minded people gathered for worship, reflection or meditation.
However, prayer addresses only part of the problem – which you, as an elected official, certainly know. Public policy plays a principal role in addressing the scourge of gun violence. I hope that you recognize the wisdom expressed by Governor McAuliffe when he called for meaningful reform to regulate access to firearms. As you well know, in Virginia, a licensed gun owner like Vester Lee Flanagan II could bring his weapon into the church where the prayers you recommend are being offered. Imagine if his rage had boiled over on Sunday morning instead of Wednesday.
As such, I hope you will encourage clergy and other moral leaders to speak to the process of reflection and discernment on ways to preserve Constitutional guarantees while protecting life and liberty for all. When prayer leads us through personal solace toward communal action it is most effective, and it is more likely to show us the answers we seek to the real social problems that were highlighted by this tragedy.
Rabbi Jack Moline
Interfaith Alliance is a network of people of diverse faiths and beliefs from across the country working together to build a resilient democracy and fulfill America’s promise of religious freedom and civil rights not just for some, but for all. We mobilize powerful coalitions to challenge Christian nationalism and religious extremism, while fostering a better understanding of the healthy boundaries between religion and government. We advocate at all levels of government for an equitable and just America where the freedoms of belief and religious practice are protected, and where all persons are treated with dignity and have the opportunity to thrive. For more information visit interfaithalliance.org.