Thursday, May 3, 2012

A Milford resident's concerns over a religious conference


Earlier this week Register reporter Phyllis Swebilius wrote an article detailing one resident's concerns about a religious group renting out Milford City Hall for the weekend to hold a conference. Included below is the resident's full letter. 

This weekend, the Milford Christian Academy and Milford Christian Church, doing business as “realMilford”, will host a two-day event at City Hall that features a speaker known for his hatred of groups such as pro-choice activists, gays, and Muslims, claiming that 9/11 was God’s righteous judgment against such sinners. I’m writing to you, as my Mayor and representative City officials, to share my concern that this event is happening at City Hall.

William Federer, realMilford’s speaker, warns that the State is trying to take away religious freedom from the Church. What is religious freedom? According to realMilford’s core values, “To be taught and governed by Christ, our only Prophet, Teacher, King and Lawgiver.” Perhaps Mr. Federer’s series of speeches from within City Hall will show everyone that here in Milford religious freedom is safe and sound. So much for public education, democracy, and the rule of law.

Like every individual and group in our community, realMilford and Mr. Federer have a right to free speech. The going gets tricky when free speech takes on the accent of hate speech, and it gets even trickier when that mixed message comes from our community’s symbolic center of government.

Neither of these issues—church v. state or free speech—would concern me as much if they were not dressed up as “realMilford” and brought to our community from City Hall.

Who has a claim on being the real Milford? The Milford Christian Academy and the Milford Christian Church identify themselves with a special label for this event that makes their purposes seem representative and civic. On their website, instead of listing the names of their principals, they list “Affiliates.” These are about 100 legitimate local businesses and churches, with dubious levels of “affiliation.” Some, upon discovering the listing, said they never authorized it, and asked to be removed; undoubtedly some others have no idea they are listed. Nonetheless, if the public reads on a flyer or a website that a group called “realMilford” and affiliated with Milford businesses is hosting an event at the Milford City Hall, won’t everyone think it’s sponsored by or at least has the tacit approval of the City?

The “real” Milford comprises a wide diversity of people, groups, and purposes. Call me naïve, but my notion is that the “real” Milford is represented by its elected City officials—you—who do the “real” Milford’s business at City Hall. When I see a counterfeit “realMilford” taking center stage at City Hall, I say, “Something is wrong with this picture.”

Barbara Currier Bell
Milford

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