October-November 2020

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Interfaith Council Board Member Writes about Civility
David Williamson​David Williamson, co-founder of the Central Florida Freethought Community and a board member of the Interfaith Council of Central Florida, had a guest column published in the Orlando Sentinel on September 25, 2020 titled, “When society is polarized, Golden Rule matters more than ever.” (The article can also be accessed at the Interfaith Council website.) Williamson’s article begins by quoting Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel: Speech has power. Words do not fade. What starts out as a sound, ends in a deed.” He then goes on to say that Heschel highlights “a reality too often overlooked: Words matter. Immensely.” Williamson concludes his article with this observation: “Regardless of our religious perspective, our political affiliation, our culture or any other identity or allegiance, when others are being maligned and demeaned, we have an obligation to respond in the way we would want others to respond if we were the target of such words of hate and derision. . . . Some refer to this as reciprocity. Others call it the Golden Rule. But whatever we call it, it’s a human value that should be honored universally.”

Religious Freedom Group Considers Johnson AmendmentCFCRF
The Central Florida Commission on Religious Freedom hosted a webinar on October 20 about the Johnson Amendment—the IRS rule voted in 1954 that says that 501(c)(3) nonprofits can’t endorse or oppose political candidates, or they jeopardize their tax-exempt status. Churches and other houses of worship fall under that rule. President Trump and many of the Christian leaders to whom he turns for advice about religion feel the Johnson Amendment deprives religious entities of free speech. Many others, religious and secular, disagree and defend the law. Since it’s currently a hot topic in the realm of religious freedom, the CFCRF hosted a dialogue between representatives of the opposing viewpoints, titled “Bringing Politics to the Pulpit—Why the Intersection of Faith and Politics Matters to Everyone.” Supporting the Johnson Amendment was: Andrew Seidel, a constitutional and civil-rights attorney and author based at the Freedom From Religion Foundation. Seidel works to ensure that the government obeys the First Amendment and that the wall of separation between state and church remains tall and impregnable. Opposing the Johnson Amendment as currently written and applied was: Mike Batts, an author and the managing partner of the accounting firm BMWL. Batts served as chairman of the Commission on Accountability and Policy for Religious Organizations, a national non-governmental commission that has made recommendations to various government entities and the nonprofit sector concerning federal tax policy affecting religious and other nonprofit organizations. This event was moderated by Pastor Danny de Armas, senior associate pastor at First Baptist Orlando. Click here to listen to the one-hour exchange.

BJC Team Analyzes SCOTUS Nominee Amy Coney Barrett
With members of the U.S. Senate considering Judge Amy Coney Barrett to replace the U.S. Supreme Court seat left by the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty executive director Amanda Tyler shared an important reminder about the “no religious test” clause of the U.S. Constitution, noting: “The founding framers decided that a person’s religious identity – or lack thereof – is completely irrelevant to whether that person is qualified to hold an official position in our government. … Judge Barrett’s religion should neither help nor hinder her in the confirmation process. The fact that she is a committed Catholic does not make her a better or worse Supreme Court nominee than someone from a different faith tradition or a person who is not religious.” Read Amanda’s entire column, published by Good Faith Media. You can also read the letter sent from the BJC to the Chairman and Ranking Member of the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee. The BJC is one of the oldest religious-liberty advocacy organizations in the United States and is committed to religious liberty for all denominations of Christianity, for all faith traditions and for all with no connection to religion.

DemingsOrange County Mayor Honored Virtually, Given Award
Each year, the Holocaust Center honors someone who upholds and embodies the Center’s values and its mission to create a more just and caring community. The honoree receives the Tess Wise White Rose Award, initiated by local Holocaust Survivor Tess Wise. This year, Orange County Mayor Jerry L. Demings was selected to be the award’s recipient. And the presentation was scheduled to take place at the Annual Dinner of Tribute this past April. Then the pandemic hit. The Dinner was called off. Yet the Holocaust Center staff and board wanted to make sure that this longtime supporter and treasured ally receive the honor they felt so strongly he deserved. He has been an unwavering supporter of the Center’s UpStanders: Stand Up to Bullying Initiative and has greatly contributed to the program’s success and continued growth in our region’s schools. Mayor Demings has dedicated more than 38 years of service to our community. So adapting to the circumstances as people throughout the nation have had to do during much of this year, the presentation of the Tess Wise White Rose Award was done virtually on October 22. It wasn’t the crowd of 700 or so that had been planned for April, but it still let Mayor Demings know how much the Center appreciates the contribution he makes to the community in general and the Holocaust Center in particular. You can view the 20-minute virtual event by clicking here.

City of Orlando Creates Pledge Re Racism and DiscriminationCity of Orlando 3
A recently formulated “Orlando Community Pledge” provides an opportunity for every individual and organization in the city to stand with Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer, his MLK Commission and other Orlando residents to denounce racism and discrimination. Standing (virtually) shoulder to shoulder, and united in core beliefs, makes a powerful statement. And an even more powerful message comes from answering the call to action. In addition to presenting several traditional events and programs that celebrate the life and legacy of Dr. King as well as other local social justice champions, during the balance of this year and in 2021 the MLK Commission, along with other community partners, will present several new programs. The “Dream Series,” produced in conjunction with Valencia College’s Peace and Justice Institute, will create a community dialogue, offer a safe space to have courageous conversations around race and provide a forum for planning action steps together. Mayor Dyer and an array of other community leaders invite you to sign the pledge to denounce racism and discrimination, as well as to attend the upcoming programs of community engagement—to learn and to share your ideas for a stronger, more united Orlando. By signing the Orlando Community Pledge, you will demonstrate your support, and you will be notified of upcoming community engagement opportunities. Most events will be virtual for the safety and wellbeing of attendees.

Death Row Chaplain to Present at Virtual Conference
Dale Recinella, Catholic Chaplain on Florida’s Death Row, will present at the Annual Florida Culture of Life Conference Saturday, October 24. Find out more about this virtual online event here. Also, you might be interested in ”Cruel Justice,” a Facebook Live interview show hosted by Herman Lindsey, Florida’s 23rd exonerated Death Row survivor. The show is insightful, and the guests are intriguing. Watch it on Thursdays at 3:00 pm, on the Witness to Innocence Facebook Page. While Florida leads the nation both in new death sentences and the number of innocent people sent to Death Row, the European Union opposes the death penalty in all cases. See Why and How the EU Opposes the Death Penalty .Note: For every three people executed in Florida, one innocent person on Death Row has been exonerated and released. And here’s a chilling bit of news: The federal government has scheduled the execution of a woman, the first in 67 years.​

Orlando Youth Empowerment Summit to Host Part 3
OYESOn Saturday, October 24, from 10:00 am to 1:00 pm, the Orlando Youth Empowerment Summit will host the final of its three-part Zoom series for 2020. For the Zoom link and to register, click here. The Orlando Youth Empowerment Summit (OYES) is an annual free event presented by the City of Orlando in collaboration with local government, LGBTQ+ and community organizations to empower Central Florida LGBTQ+ youth, community members and allies with the resources and education to bring about understanding, acceptance and inclusion. Since its inception in 2014, OYES has been supported by Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer, District 4 City Commissioner Patty Sheehan and LGBTQ+ community organizations to ensure that all communities feel welcomed, respected and valued regardless of disability, race, cultural background, place of origin, sexual orientation or gender identity and expression.

Bach Festival Society to Host ‘Bach off the Avenue,’ Oct 25Bach
On Sunday, October 25, at 2:00 and 5:00 pm, the Bach Festival Society of Winter Park will present “Bach off the Avenue: Silver Screen Symphonic Classics,” an outdoor performance designed to celebrate the great music of cinema while bringing friends and families together in a safe, socially distanced environment in Central Park’s West Meadow. Bach off the Avenue will present two performances of movie classics you know and love, including music from Harry PotterStar WarsWizard of Oz, and many more, performed by the Bach Festival Orchestra under the direction of Conductor Dr. John V. Sinclair. To raise funds for the Bach Festival Society and to create a more inviting listening atmosphere, tables for two and four will be spread throughout the meadow, allowing for social distancing in this outdoor venue. Tables with two seats are available for $110, and tables with four seats are $175. In addition, at the time they reserve their tables, guests can purchase drinks, including beer and wine, and a cheese-and-fruit platter to pair with the performance. Click here for table reservations or to purchase tickets. Or phone 407-646-2182.

Lake County Unitarian Universalists to Host Justice Lecture
Lauren RitchieThe Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Lake County invites the public to a free online lecture on Sunday, October 25, at 7:00 pm. The featured speaker will be Lauren Ritchie, former Orlando Sentinel columnist and, from 2002 until her retirement a few months ago, the Lake Sentinel’s columnist. Her topic will be: “How Do We Keep Lake County Government Accountable?” The event is part of the church’s social-justice online lecture series. Click here to register. Once you register, Zoom will send you a confirmation email with a link to use to join the meeting on October 25.

‘I Fit the Description’: A Black First-Person Experience
For those of us who are white, it’s often not easy to relate when we hear stories about the fear of the police—and other authority figures—that many Blacks say they experience at a deep-seated and visceral level. Thus, too many of us assume that their fear is overstated or unreasonable. After all, people of all descriptions can occasionally be misunderstood and/or mistreated by the law-enforcement officers and other people in power. And if everyone would just do—or not do—this, that or the other thing, wouldn’t most such issues just disappear? But one thing that’s too seldom done is to actually listen to the story of people who’ve taken time to describe their experience and try to understand why they feel as they do. The blog post “I Fit the Description” provides insights into why fear exists even among highly educated, high-achieving, law-abiding, peace-loving, exemplary citizens of African descent. As you read it, try to walk in the other person’s shoes and look through the other person’s lenses rather than to immediately array your list of arguments about why this man’s reactions are all wrong. Then think about what might need to change to ensure that such fears cease to exist.

Project Opioid to Present Webinar about Overdose Crisisopioid
The COVID-19 pandemic is driving the greatest mental health crisis in U.S. history, resulting in an unprecedented rise in opioid-related overdose and death across Florida and nationwide. Thus business, faith, government and philanthropic leaders are invited to a free virtual webinar on Thursday, October 29, from 10:30 to 11:30. The webinar is titled “Confronting the Overdose Crisis: Is COVID-19 Fueling an Unprecedented Opioid Epidemic?” During the presentation, the latest data and research will be shared about how the societal conditions of COVID-19 have impacted mental health, substance use and opioid-related overdose and fatality rates statewide and nationally. The webinar will explain how leaders can take action now to save the lives of those at greatest risk of overdose in our community amid the ongoing pandemic. Click here to register.

Clerk of the Courts to Educate about Domestic Violence
In an effort to raise awareness on domestic violence prevention and share resources, Orange County Clerk of Courts Tiffany Moore Russell will commemorate October’s Domestic Violence Awareness month in Orange County with a special Legal Matters Workshop: “Clerks Against Domestic Violence During Covid-19.” The Clerk of Courts, in conjunction with Harbor House of Central Florida, Victim Service Center of Central Florida and law enforcement will promote awareness through education related to domestic violence prevention. The workshop will consist of:

  • Clerk’s Office: How to File a Restraining Order
  • Guidance from Harbor House of Central Florida
  • Victim Service Center of Central Florida: Conversation Around Stalking/Cyberstalking Awareness
  • Self-Defense Class conducted by the Orlando Police Department.

This webinar will be conducted Thursday, October 29, from 6:00 pm to 8:00 pm. Click here to register. The webinar will be recorded and subsequently posted on the Clerk of Courts website and on the department’s other social media platforms.

Domestic Abuse Panel: ‘What Faith Has to Do with It’
Although most clergy would probably argue that faith is an antidote to domestic abuse, some domestic abusers actually turn to their faith’s sacred writings to find justification for their abusive actions. Texts of scripture misapplied can become destructive weapons. Join three faith leaders as they discuss the harm that can be done by misapplying texts from the Hebrew Scriptures, the Christian scriptures, and the Muslim scriptures. Join virtually as Dr. Zdravko Stefanovic, a biblical biblical-languages scholar; Rev. Erika Rembert, a highly community-engaged Presbyterian pastor; and Imam Abdurrahman Sykes, a Muslim cleric and mental health counselor, each speak and then answer questions posed by Evelyn Herrera-Jackson of Help Now and Lisa Alexander of Stand UP Survivor. This free virtual event will be held on Friday evening, October 30, from 6:00 to 7:00 pm, and all are welcome. Click here to register.

PPRI Survey Shows Both Religious Difference and Similarity
The recently released results of the 11th annual American Values Survey by the Public Policy Research Institute has revealed a lot of common ground between the various religious categories used in conducting the survey. The groupings are: White Evangelical Protestant; White Mainline Protestant; Black Protestant; Hispanic Protestant; White Catholic; Hispanic Catholic; Other Christian; Non-Christian Religion; and Unaffiliated. Survey participants in all categories were asked to list their top three concerns as they head to the polls for the 2020 election. Generally, their answers were quite similar. For example, eight of the nine religious categories listed the coronavirus pandemic as one of their top three concerns, and six of those said it was their top concern. Seven of the nine listed fairness in presidential elections in their top three, with four of them saying it was their second-highest concern, though none listed it as their top concern. Health care garnered four votes top-three votes, and was the top choice for one religious grouping.PPRI 3

Week of the Family Scheduled from November 7 to 14
If you’re not familiar with the Week of the Family, then there’s no time like the present to provide an introduction. The Week of the Family is that one time each year when an array of faith-based, civic, business, educational and just about every other kind of organization in Central Florida come together to inspire families to be the best family they’re capable of. And not just for that week. The week is just a boost to help them get on a better path. In fact, The Week of the Family’s mission is to “strengthen family relationships through education, wholesome activities, fitness and community service.” There’s a lot more going on that week than there is space here to tell you. So go to the WOTF website to check the calendar and see all that’s planned and how you can become involved. The week’s planners have worked hard to come up with fun, safe things to capture the imagination of both children and adults. Share with all in your house of worship and community of faith the things that are going on November 7-14 that could be a blessing to families and the community as a whole.

Strategies for Action Series to Feature Richard LapchickHolocaust
The Holocaust Center is inviting the public to join them on Tuesday, November 10, from 12:00 noon to 1:00 pm as Richard Lapchick, human-rights activist, pioneer for racial equality, internationally recognized expert on sports and social issues, scholar and author discusses the racial conscience of sport in a presentation and discussion titled “Facing Uncomfortable Truths.” In this live virtual event, Lapchick will lead participants through a discussion of the uncomfortable truths reopened during our nation’s recent racial reckoning. He will draw a line from modern-day racism directly back to the origins of slavery. In addition, he will highlight how the Me Too! movement opened up broader discussions on sexism and misogyny. He’ll consider how the Washington football team’s renaming has helped us look at the genocide of indigenous people as part of the founding of America. Closer to home, he will talk about the Pulse nightclub shooting and its illumination of how far we have to go to conquer homophobia. Finally he will talk about the pandemic violence in our nation. Click here to learn more about Richard Lapchick and to register for this free event.

Interfaith Discussion to Be Held via Zoom on November 11
On Wednesday, November 11, the monthly Interfaith Discussion sponsored by the Interfaith Council of Central Florida will be held on Zoom from 7:00 to 8:30 pm. Topic for the evening’s discussion is: “Gratitude: What does your faith tradition teach about it? And what does your faith say about the need for gratitude despite being ante by adversity? Those questions—and others generated by them—will be the focus of the evening’s discussion. Please log in a few minutes early. Here are the details of the Zoom Interfaith Discussion, which is being hosted by Baha’is of Orange County East on Wednesday, November 11, at 7:00 pm:
Join Zoom Meeting
Meeting ID: 834 6828 6041
Password: 537979
Dial by your location
+1 312 626 6799 US (Chicago)
+1 929 205 6099 US (New York)
The monthly discussions are respectful, open and candid, and the participants represent a variety of faith traditions as well as those who question the validity of faith altogether. For more information, phone 321-228-4599.

22nd Annual Jewish Film Festival Set for November 14-16Jewish Film
The Annual Central Florida Jewish Film Festival—a cinematic celebration of Jewish life, culture, and history—will run this year from November 14 to 16. Using the power of film to inform, educate and entertain, the festival challenges conventional perspectives on issues facing all of us. This program is part of Enzian’s cultural festival circuit and is co-presented with The Roth Family Jewish Community Center of Greater Orlando. This year’s festival is ALL virtual! Enjoy six features and two short films from the comfort of your home. Watch on your mobile device, tablet or computer. Click here for film details, cost and show times.

A Special New Place Needed for a Special Organization
There’s an organization in Orlando that goes by the initials OCA.Those letters stand for Opportunity – Community – Ability. Go to the organization’s website and you’ll see that OCA provides a special place for special needs. And as you scroll through the organization’s various departments, you’ll see photographs of how a wide variety of special needs are being met in a way that creates a lot of joy in the hearts of the children, youth and adults who have those special needs. But now the organization itself has a special need. In fact, that special need is for a new special place—because they’ve received notice that their current premises aren’t going to be available indefinitely. Needless to say, not just any place will fill the bill. But if the existence of the need is shared far and wide, someone may know of a suitable venue. Contact OCA Executive Director Silvia Haas by email to get a list of the requirements a facility would need to meet if OCA is to continue offering the services they do. Then, with that information in hand, become a scout on their behalf.

Doing Good Things to Combat Racism? Then Share Details!
In the wake of George Floyd’s death at the end of May, Dr. Joel Hunter, founder and chair of the Community Resource Network, has sought to encourage organizations large and small, religious and secular, to once and for all give our nation’s race issues the attention they deserve and demand. He also is seeking to provide a clearing house of information so every activity can have maximum participation and maximum impact. Thanks to Dr. Hunter for sharing the details of the following activities and resources, which can help us increase our understanding and equip us for greater justice:

  • Dr. David Swanson at First Presbyterian Church Orlando is hosting a number of discussions. Here are a couple examples you can watch on Vimeo;

Tim Johnson
Eddy Moratin

For more information, contact Christina McDaniel by email.

  • The City of Ocoee is hosting several events inearly  November commemorating the 1920 Ocoee Massacre. Click here for details.
  • Simon Bailey, a pillar of our community and an international trainer, will address difficult conversations and share the latest research on racism from Harvard. Click here for more detail and to register for this 7:00 pm, November 18 event.

If any of you know of other local events that will educate, empower or equip us to combat racism, please send the details to Dr Hunter via email.

FusionFest to Celebrate ‘Diversitastic’ Central Florida
fusionGot anything special planned for Saturday or Sunday, November 28 and 29? No? Then FusionFest may be the perfect top-off for your Thanksgiving celebrations. And just what is FusionFest? It’s a major two-day event “to celebrate the people and the many cultures that make Central Florida awesome.” And just in case you hadn’t noticed, Central Florida is like the United Nations—people from everywhere. Which is why FusionFest has been labelled “Diveritastic!” And such variety seems a good reason to celebrate—the culture, the music, the food, the dance, the . . . You get the idea. Needless to say, a lot of special days and special celebrations are part of all our cultures. So everyone will have a chance to experience holidays, traditions and viewpoints from around the world. This will be a new aspect of FusionFest, where every hour we’ll celebrate a different holiday from around the world and have short presentations, each about a major world religion or worldview. This feature will be under the overall Curatorship of Linda Hayes Gallegos. And Bob Ray, a board member of the Interfaith Council of Central Florida, is organizing brief presentations about the holidays/holy days of the various world religions represented in Central Florida. Learn about all that will be happening by checking out the FusionFest website.

Interfaith Council Asking for Your Help with Funding
If you appreciate what’s being achieved by the Interfaith Council of Central Florida, we would welcome your support. Please send your contribution to: Interfaith Council of Central Florida, PO Box 3310, Winter Park, FL 32790-3310. Thank you for your assistance.

Reflection on Stoicism
“Stoicism is too often misunderstood to mean surrendering to helplessness. . . . [T]he philosophy taught almost the polar opposite: a radical embrace of individual responsibility. Stoicism puts its students into a given circumstance and issues a challenge: Do the best you can. Here’s a billion dollars: What good can you do with it? Here’s cancer: What dignity can you mine from it? Here’s fame: What humility can you foster through it? Here’s grief: What compassion can you learn from it? . . . Here’s a pandemic: What strength can you draw from it?”—Washington Post columnist David Von Drehle

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  James Coffin, Executive Director
PO Box 3310, Winter Park, FL 32790-3310
|T  321-228-4599   | E  jim@interfaithfl.org
| W  https://interfaithfl.org/

Please forward this email to any you feel would be interested. To be placed on the Interfaith Council’s email newsletter list, send your request to contact@interfaithfl.org.