By Francesca Norsen Tate
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
As Governor Cuomo’s decision approaches on opening New York to hydrofracking, 300 faith leaders from the Jewish, Christian, Buddhist and Hindu traditions have signed a letter calling for a ban on the controversial practice.
Dozens of regional faith leaders gathered on Wednesday, Feb. 6 outside Governor Cuomo’s NYC office to lead a multidenominational pray-in against Cuomo’s plan to allow fracking, the controversial natural gas drilling method, in the state. They also presented a list of about 300 faith leaders and institutions across the state that have joined in the call for a ban on fracking.
The faith leaders used prayer to draw attention to the serious environmental and public health dangers that fracking would bring to New York if allowed to begin. Gov. Cuomo has a Feb. 27 deadline for deciding on the issue before a regulatory review process would have to restart.
“The Jewish tradition teaches that when God created Adam and Eve, God led them by the hand around the Garden of Eden. I am here today with my fellow clergy to demand that we end fracking practices that destroy our garden and endanger our health,” said Rabbi Marc Katz of Congregation Beth Elohim. “Every generation we stand again in Eden faced with a choice. Do we create a world of life and blessing or one of curse and death?”
Similarly, Rabbi Michael Feinberg, Executive Director of the Greater New York Labor-Religion Coalition, said, “Judaism has a clear environmental ethic, a mandate to humanity to be responsible stewards to the Earth and its resources – a recognition that we live on this planet in a sacred trust. For this reason, we call on Governor Cuomo to protect our state from fracking.”
“We are here today to tell one thing: people of faith are now coming to care about the environment from a Biblical perspective and we are gathered to affirm that truth,” said Rev. Clyde Kuemmerle, Executive Director of Ecclesia Ministries of New York.
“Our faith requires us to preserve creation, not exploit it. Fracking is an invidious exploitation of creation with damaging being done to both ground water and the air through the release of methane gas,” said Rev. Dr. Keith A. Russell of the New York Theological Seminary.
Many of the same clergy also held “Spiritual Calls to Ban Fracking” last November. During the past three months, the number of clergy, religious leaders and organizations that have signed onto the coalition has increased from 280 to more than 300.
Clergy and religious organizations participating in the Pray-In, listed on a document that is now more than 25 pages long, have increased to include: Debbie Almontaser, board chairperson of the Muslim Consultative Network; Geoffrey Arnold of the Zen Center of New York City, Dennis Bohn of the Rock Blossom Sangha; Rachel Brook, student cantor at the Academy for Jewish Religion; Rev. Robert Emerick of the Bay Ridge United Methodist Church; Rabbi Jeni S. Friedman; Rabbi David L. Kline of the Union for Reform Judaism; Rabbi Marc Katz, Assistant Rabbi at Congregation Beth Elohim; Rabbi Valerie Lieber, Director of Education/Social Justice at the Kane Street Synagogue; Rabbi Ellen Lippmann, spiritual leader of Congregation Kolot Chayeinu/Voices of Our Lives in Park Slope; the Rev. Mason-Browne, Interim Pastor of the Lafayette Avenue Presbyterian Church; the Rev. Herbert Miller, pastor of the Park Slope United Methodist Church and his congregation’s Social Action Committee; James Morgan, Clerk of the Brooklyn Monthly Meeting of Friends (Quakers); Father Michael Perry, pastor of Our Lady of Refuge Roman Catholic Church; Pastor David Rommereim of Good Shepherd Lutheran Church (ELCA) in Bay Ridge; Rabbi David Siff of the Flatbush Jewish Center; Joyce Tate, Minister and Coordinator of Events of PRTC-People Recovering Through Christ; and Rabbi Simkha Y. Weintraub.
Several members of religious orders and national organizations also joined the Pray-In coalition: Jesuits, Religious Sisters of Mercy and Franciscans region-wide signed on, as have Rabbi Lisa Goldstein of the Institute for Jewish Spirituality; Dr. Anne Klaeysen, Leader of the New York Society for Ethical Culture and, for many years, Leader of the Brooklyn Society for Ethical Culture; Rosemarie Pace, director of Pax Christi/Metro NY; the Rev. Stephen H. Phelps, a past senior interim minister at First Presbyterian Church of Brooklyn who is now serving in that role at the Riverside Church; the Rev. Stephanie Stovall, chaplain at the Union Theological Seminary, several of whose seminarians are serving Brooklyn churches; and the Rev. Mieke Vandersall, executive director of Presbyterian Welcome, an organization that has included Brooklyn congregations.