MTA should not profit from hate speech, say New York bishops

January 17, 2013

[Episcopal Diocese of New York -- Press Release] Bishops Mark Sisk, Andrew Dietsche and Andrew Smith wrote MTA Chairman Fernando Ferrer Jan 14 commending the MTA’s decision “to continue to display non-commercial speech,” but calling on the agency to use the revenues from the latest series of hate-filled anti-Muslim ads, which have been displayed in 240 subway stations, ” …to fund the display of ads such as the NYC Commission on Human Rights ‘From Many Countries, One City’.”

“MTA should not impede the exercise of free speech, but neither should they profit…when that speech is repugnant,” the Bishops wrote. “The strength of our city derives from the people of many cultures, colors and creeds who call it home.”

The full text of the bishops’ letter to Chairman Ferrer is appended below.

The Episcopal Diocese of New York has been consistent in its condemnation of anti-Muslim prejudice. In the aftermath of the initial stages of the war in Afghanistan, it raised funds to restore a mosque in that country that had been destroyed by American bombing. More recently Bishop Sisk spoke out forthrightly in August, 2010 in support of the proposed Islamic Center in downtown Manhattan, and joined with other faith leaders in September of that year to denounce anti-Moslem bigotry.

About the Episcopal Diocese of New York

The Episcopal Diocese of New York includes 199 local congregations (parishes) with about 66,000 members, 72 deacons, 600 priests and three bishops*. Extending from Tottenville, Staten Island, in the south, well over 100 miles to rural Callicoon, Sullivan County, in the northwest, the diocese covers 4,739 urban, suburban and rural square miles in ten of the state’s southeastern counties: New York City’s boroughs of Manhattan, the Bronx and Staten Island; and Westchester, Rockland, Putnam, Dutchess, Orange, Ulster and Sullivan Counties. 

*Bishop Mark Sisk, the current and 15th Bishop of New York, will step down on Feb 2, 2013 and be replaced by Bishop Andrew Dietsche, who was elected to succeed him in November 2011 and currently serves the diocese as Bishop Coadjutor. Assistant Bishop Andrew Smith was formerly Bishop of Connecticut. More information on this and all other aspects of the Episcopal Diocese of New York is available at http://dioceseny.org

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TEXT OF LETTER FROM THE EPISCOPAL BISHOPS OF NEW YORK TO MR. FERNANDO FERRER

January 14, 2013

Mr. Fernando Ferrer, Acting Chairman

Metropolitan Transportation Authority

347 Madison Avenue

New York, NY 10017-3739

Dear Chairman Ferrer,

Once again, the citizens of New York City and visitors to our city are subjected to hate-filled ads in our subway stations.  Last September, the American Freedom Defense Initiative placed ads labeling Muslims as “savages.”  Now a new series of ads posted next to 240 subway station clocks depicts the fall of the Twin Towers alongside a verse from the Quran which speaks of casting “terror into… hearts.”  While we commend the MTA’s decision to continue to display non-commercial speech, we also recognize that the best response to speech that vilifies is speech that builds up the community.  We are pleased to see that the current ad campaign carries a disclaimer that their display does not imply the MTA’s endorsement of the views expressed in them.

We call on the MTA to do more.  We request that all revenues received from these and similar hate-filled ads be used to fund the display of ads such as the NYC Commission on Human Rights “From Many Countries, One City” campaign.

Following last September’s ads, the Episcopal Diocese of New York publicly condemned “any speech or action which denigrates or desecrates any religion or its symbols and sacraments” and proclaimed that “all human beings are holy symbols and creations of God.”  The community of our city, which is enhanced by its many cultures, colors and creeds, depends on our public transportation system.   MTA should not impede the exercise of free speech, but neither should they profit from it when that speech is repugnant.  The strength of our city derives from the people of many cultures, colors and creeds who call it home.  MTA would serve us well to counter this hate speech with the message that we are One City.

Sincerely,

+Mark
The Right Reverend Mark S. Sisk
Bishop of New York

+Andrew
The Right Reverend Andrew M. L. Dietsche
Bishop Coadjutor of New York

+Andrew
The Right Reverend Andrew D. Smith
Assistant Bishop of New York

 

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