From the Worldwide Faith News archives

Ministers deplore 'callousness' in treatment of Clinton

From NewsDesk <NewsDesk@UMCOM.UMC.ORG>
Date 02 Oct 1998 12:30:15


Oct. 2, 1998        Contact: Tim Tanton*(615)742-5470*Nashville, Tenn.

By Jane Dennis*

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (UMNS) - Describing the public treatment of President
Clinton, Monica Lewinsky and their families as "cruel, vicious and
wicked," a coalition of Little Rock clergy called for Whitewater
independent counsel Kenneth Starr, the news media and Congress to
apologize for "torturing the wounded."

The Central City Coalition of Congregations said Starr, the media and
Congress had dealt with the "public pain and humiliation" of the
president, Lewinsky and their families with "callousness." The
ministers, representing a variety of faiths, made their announcement on
Sept. 29 at a press conference at First United Methodist Church, the
home church of first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton and Chelsea Clinton. 

While condemning the behavior of the president and Lewinsky as improper,
the ministers also strongly condemned the House Judiciary Committee's
release of the complete text of  Starr's accusations against the
president. The committee will vote soon on whether to open an
impeachment inquiry related to Clinton's admitted relationship with the
former White House intern and Starr's allegations that the president
lied to cover it up.

United Methodists attending as part of the coalition were Bishop Janice
Riggle Huie, Arkansas Area; the Rev. Jeanie Burton, senior pastor, First
United  Methodist Church; the Rev. John Fleming, associate pastor, First
Church, Little Rock; and the Rev. Vic Nixon, senior pastor, Pulaski
Heights United Methodist Church, Little Rock.

"We deplore the calculated actions by the Office of Independent Counsel,
the  House of Representatives and media to publish sexually explicit and
graphic details regarding the relationship between President Clinton and
Ms. Lewinsky," Burton said, reading from the coalition's prepared
statement. "That conduct was unnecessary, harmful and hypocritical.

"The public had already been informed that an improper relationship had
occurred. The wounds were already exposed. There was no need to expose
details about how and when they occurred," the statement continued.

"It was a sham to claim that the details were exposed in the interest of
informing the public. The sexually explicit details were exposed to
torture the president and Ms. Lewinsky, torment their families, and
titillate the public for personal, political and financial profit,"
according to the 
ministers. "That hypocritical cruelty must be condemned and confessed."

Burton warned that the coalition's statement must not be interpreted as
condoning the president's behavior. "We say his behavior was clearly
wrong and unfair," she told the Arkansas United Methodist newspaper.
"What he did hurt a lot of people, and in fact, has hurt the whole

The main purpose of the statement was to call for forgiveness and
compassion, she said.

"Our Christian faith recognizes that there are paradoxes in life and in
faith, and those are real hard to deal with. They often feel
contradictory," Burton said. "It's hard to embrace two things that are
so different. We stand for justice, but on the other side, we stand for
compassion, understanding and mercy. There's tension in that, and it
leads to people feeling uncomfortable. 
We thought it was important to speak out."

The religious leaders called for healing and compassion. They said they
issued the statement as a reminder to the public that the president,
Lewinsky and others implicated in the investigation "are children of God
... not pawns in a game."

The statement concluded, "In the name of justice and for the love of
God, we call upon our national leaders, the media and our people to
pursue repentance, forgiveness and reconciliation. ... Only then can our
people, hopes and relationships begin to heal."

The coalition consists of about 30 clergy serving downtown Little Rock
churches, including Catholic, Episcopal, Jewish, Islamic, Presbyterian,
Baptist and United Methodist congregations.

The president's home church is Immanuel Baptist in Little Rock. Its
pastor has resisted calls from the Southern Baptist Convention to
discipline Clinton for his behavior.

In Washington, the first family attends Foundry United Methodist Church.
# # # 
*Dennis is director of communications for the United Methodist Church's
Arkansas Area and editor of the Arkansas United Methodist newspaper in
Little Rock.

United Methodist News Service
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