May 1 — The Baltimore Ethical Society (BES), American Ethical Union (AEU), and American Humanist Association (AHA) offer sincere condolences to the family of Freddie Gray, and to all suffering from the events in Baltimore this past week. Gray’s death is a tragedy for his family, a wound in Baltimore’s social fabric, and a reminder of the systemic racism and disempowerment that have long scarred communities of color.
The personal and civic wounds will take a long time to heal. A week ago, then-BES President Emil Volcheck wrote to Baltimore Mayor Rawlings-Blake offering the assistance of the Society and urging transparency and independent validation of the results of internal investigations. Now that Baltimore chief prosecutor Marilyn Mosby has charged six police officers with crimes including second-degree murder and involuntary manslaughter, we hope that due process and transparency will lead to justice.
The crisis in Baltimore will continue long after the news media has moved on to other tragedies. The Baltimore Ethical Society, American Ethical Union, and American Humanist Association are committed to improving criminal justice and strengthening our economy so that everyone is treated with inherent worth. Rather than using dismissive and dehumanizing words that range from “thugs” to “pigs”, our leaders must encourage respectful dialogue with all people whether they are black, white or dressed in blue. We are committed to putting our values of reason, compassion, and hope into action to work toward lasting solutions, regardless of the outcome of the criminal proceedings.
The Baltimore Ethical Society has long battled racism. In 1951 it offered the first integrated Sunday School in Baltimore, and members were active in the civil rights movement. Recently BES hosted forums searching for solutions to racism, poverty, and a punitive criminal justice system. Speakers such as Farajii Muhammad, a peace activist from the American Friends Service Committee and Program Director of Peace by Piece, and Diamonte Brown, Director of Out For Justice, led discussions with the public at the Baltimore Ethical Society. Some of our members have tried to help by going to clean up sites, only to be turned away due to safety concerns. AEU and BES Ethical Action chair Kate LaClair emphasized our commitment to continue Ethical Action work regarding youth opportunities, ethical policing, and our Ethical Culture foundations of honoring worth, building justice, and growing relationships.
There are signs that activists, ministers, and political leaders are working together towards constructive solutions. We applaud those courageous leaders who have taken to the streets to encourage calm. However this situation gets resolved, let’s remember the bigger picture. Ethical Societies will continue learning and teaching about systemic racism. The system in Baltimore, in Maryland, and across the nation needs to be fixed. Our retributive and racially biased criminal justice system is an insult to the ideal of equal justice under law and stands in the way of creating an ethical culture.
Hugh Taft-Morales, Leader, Baltimore Ethical Society
Bart Worden, Executive Director, American Ethical Union
Dr. Paul Furth, President, Baltimore Ethical Society
Richard Koral, President, American Ethical Union
Kate LaClair, Chair, AEU and BES Ethical Action Committee
Jone Johnson Lewis, President, National Leaders Council
Roy Speckhardt, Executive Director, American Humanist Association
Baltimore Ethical Society
Hugh Taft-Morales, (301) 580-1481, email@example.com
American Ethical Union
Bart Worden, firstname.lastname@example.org