“I think a lot of people are afraid to speak from the pulpits passionately about this issue because it becomes divisive and it becomes partisan in a way that it shouldn’t be partisan”
Twenty congregations from Jewish, Muslim, Sufi, Catholic, Christian & other faith traditions in Boulder County have organized a multi-faith gathering including worship and an educational program on the causes and prevention of gun violence at the Unitarian Universalist Church in Boulder on Sunday, February 28th.
A panel discussion will follow a multi-denominational worship and will be moderated by Rabbi Marc Soloway of Congregation Bonai Shalom. Rabbi Soloway says faith communities and faith leaders have not spoken out enough against gun violence in the United States. “In the case of advocating against gun violence, I don’t think those voices have been strong enough. I think there are groups within the denominations, like there is a very, very strong group of rabbis against gun violence that has formed nationally that is beginning to partner with national organizations and is really speaking out. The level of political discourse has become so difficult and especially in an election year in this country, and I think a lot of people are afraid to speak from the pulpits passionately about this issue because it becomes divisive and it becomes partisan in a way that it shouldn’t be partisan. We’re talking about the sanctity of human life which is a value that every religion embraces.”
Rev. Alan Johnson, National Chair of the Mental Health Network of the United Church of Christ will be speaking on the panel. He says the discourse around mental illness and its connection to gun violence has been distorted in society. ”
There are ways in which we can really get involved on a political level. There are multiple attempts to bring sensible gun legislation and we’re not talking…I think people get so paranoid and confused that we’re so-called trying to take away people’s second amendment rights. No one in this movement is suggesting that we criminalize guns. We’re trying to create a system where the guns we already have are safe.
“I get very defensive when I see in one sentence the words Mental Health and Gun Violence. Even though the public believes that 60% of the people think that people who have schizophrenia are causing these gun deaths, that’s absolutely in error. That is a myth that needs to be debunked. If you really look at the situation of persons living with mental health issues and concerns, of those that have any kind of violent behavior, it’s only 4%. And if you remove such conditions as disadvantaged communities, drug and alcohol abuse, it’s down to about 2%, so we really have to understand that we have to challenge the stigma that people are carrying.” Johnson says that people who suffer from mental illness are 14 times more likely to be the victims of violence rather than the perpetrator, this is true particularly in the area of suicide “suicides are the leading cause of gun deaths in America. And those persons who are ending their lives, at least 87-90% of those persons do have some kind of a mental health disorder themselves, so the violence is towards oneself, it’s not towards others.”
On Sunday February 28th, a multi-faith worship service happens at 2pm at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Boulder, 5001 Pennsylvania Ave., Boulder. It will be followed at 2.50pm by an expert panel addressing the connections between guns and suicide, domestic violence, and mental health. Speakers include Jarrod Hindman, MS of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, Jenn Doe, MPA: of Safe Shelter of St. Vrain Valley, and Rev. Alan Johnson, National Chair of the Mental Health Network of the United Church of Christ.
After the panel there will be opportunities to share ideas and learn about resources available for taking action.
The event is being co-hosted by Together Colorado’s Boulder County Interfaith Leaders Caucus and Congregation Bonai Shalom’s Working Group on Gun Violence Prevention. Together Colorado is a multi-faith, multi-racial community organization comprised of 150 congregations, schools and faith leaders throughout the state of Colorado working together to put human dignity at the center of public life in Colorado.