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1999 NCC News Archives

Jewish and Christian Clergy Send Letter to Senate Urging Censure
Religious Leaders Call for Swift Process that Leaves President in Office

NEW YORK, January 6, 1999 -- A group of American religious leaders representing a range of Jewish and Christian clergy have jointly signed and delivered a letter to the U.S. Senate urging it to censure President Clinton but not to embark on a trial that could result in his removal from office.

Leaders of the Central Conference of American Rabbis, which represents the nation’s Reform Jewish rabbis, and the Rabbinical Assembly, the major Conservative Jewish rabbinical organization, signed the one-page letter. They were joined by the President and General Secretary of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the U.S.A., the nation’s leading ecumenical organization with 35 Protestant and Orthodox member denominations.

The letter implored the Senate to "…act for the good of the nation as a whole [and]….not embark upon an exhausting, debilitating trial that could….have deleterious international consequences and further add to the divisiveness in our country."

The letter explained, "Our shared religious traditions require us all to be mindful of punishment with penitence, and healing with compassion. In this spirit, we ask that the Senate not thwart the indicated will of a great majority of American citizens who understand the wrongs of the President’s actions, but do not believe there has been a subversion of our government."

Rabbi Richard N. Levy, President of the Central Conference of American Rabbis, who helped draft the letter, said: "Issues of wrongdoing such as President Clinton's clearly have religious implications, as does the nature of leadership. It is imperative that religious figures be heard in these discussions. Based on our understandings of the diverse traditions of the various movements of Judaism and Christianity, we together urge the senate to censure the President so that the people are not punished for his wrong."

The letter from the religious leaders was sent to the Senate Rules Committee, as well as to each U.S. Senator. The full text of the letter is attached to this document.

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January 6, 1999

A Plea to the Senate of the United States by National Religious Leaders
on the President’s Impeachment Trial

As the United States Senate considers how to act on the articles of impeachment of the President received from the House of Representatives, we, leaders of national Jewish and Protestant religious organizations, urge the Senate to act for the good of the nation as a whole. While affirming the obligation to uphold the rule of law, we urge you to find a way to censure the President for his wrongdoing but not to embark upon an exhausting, debilitating trial that could drive him from office, have deleterious international consequences and further add to the divisiveness in our country.

We can learn from biblical precedent that when biblical figures failed, they were punished for their wrong doings, but the people were not deprived of their leadership. President Clinton has sinned by his own admission. Our shared religious traditions require us all to be mindful of punishment with penitence, and healing with compassion. In this spirit, we ask that the Senate not thwart the indicated will of a great majority of American citizens who understand the wrongs of the President’s actions, but do not believe there has been a subversion of our government. To involve both Houses of Congress and the Chief Justice in a prolonged trial will punish all Americans who depend on Government to better their lot in life and ensure their access to justice and equity.

With God’s help, may you who are our elected representatives overcome anger and partisanship, and lead us with wisdom and perspective. Censure the President, yes, and lift us to a higher way, so that as a united people, we may pursue a path of justice, compassion and healing.

Sincerely,

Bishop Craig B. Anderson
President, National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA

Reverend Dr. Joan Brown Campbell
General Secretary, National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA

Rabbi Seymour L. Essrog
President, The Rabbinical Assembly

Rabbi Charles A. Kroloff
Vice President, Central Conference of American Rabbis

Rabbi Vernon H. Kurtz
Vice President, The Rabbinical Assembly

Rabbi Richard N. Levy
President, Central Conference of American Rabbis

Rabbi Paul J. Menitoff
Executive Vice President, Central Conference of American Rabbis

Rabbi Joel H. Meyers
Executive Vice President, The Rabbinical Assembly

-end-

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