An effort to promote a more civil society amid increasingly uncivil clashes has been launched by the head of a prominent faith-based PR firm.
The Civility Project, launched on the eve of the inauguration of President Barack Obama, is a call to people from all races, walks of life, and religious and political persuasions to civility, explained DeMoss Group founder Mark DeMoss in a joint column with Washington lawyer Lanny Davis.
"In addition to our desire to promote a more civil society, we also share disgust for the incivility we see every day in this country, on the radio and TV, and around the world," the two stated.
DeMoss, an evangelical conservative, and Davis, a Jewish liberal, developed the idea behind The Civility Project during a meeting in Washington six months after Sen. Hillary Clinton ended her campaign for the presidency.
"As dissimilar as our religious and political beliefs and opinions are, we found ourselves drawn to each other's love for this country," recalled the two, "and a conviction about the importance to its future of trying to change the polarizing, attack-oriented political culture that has become all too common in recent years and, instead, to bring civility back as the staple of American politics and life."
As an example, DeMoss and Davis referred to the uncivil events that erupted amid and after the campaigns for and against California's Proposition 8, which defined marriage as between a man and a woman.
After California voters passed the measure, effectively banning gay marriage, demonstrators targeted faiths that supported the ban, particularly Mormons, leading protests that were sometimes angry and even violent. Churches were spray painted, cars were vandalized, and at least two Christians were assaulted. Protesters even hurled racial epithets at African-Americans because African-Americans voted overwhelmingly in favor of Prop. 8.
"[W]e both condemn the vandalism by some who opposed the proposition directed at those such as Mormon Church members who supported the measure," DeMoss and Davis stated despite their different stances on Prop. 8.
"We also oppose the often blind hatred, violence and discrimination against gay people by certain individuals, who claim they act in the name of religious beliefs while violating other religious tenets," they added.
Similar calls have been made by some members of the gay community who are increasingly becoming wary of the "reverse smear-the-queer" efforts incited by the media.
Last month, openly gay singer Melissa Etheridge and her partner, Tammy Lynn Michaels, came to the defense of Obama and evangelical pastor Rick Warren amid protests over the then-president-elect's selection of Warren as his inauguration's invocation deliverer.
"Sure, there are plenty of hateful people who will always hold on to their bigotry like a child to a blanket. But there are also good people out there, Christian and otherwise that are beginning to listen," Michaels wrote in her personal blog.
"Maybe in our (the gay community's) anger, as we consider marches and boycotts, perhaps we can consider stretching out our hands. Maybe instead of marching on his church, we can show up en mass and volunteer for one of the many organizations affiliated with his church that work for HIV/AIDS causes all around the world," she added.
With the launch of The Civility Project, DeMoss and Davis are hoping that Americans everywhere will embrace the three commitments found in the project's Civility Pledge: (1) I will be civil in public discourse and behavior; (2) I will be respectful of others, whether or not I agree with them; and (3) I will stand up and call out incivility whenever I see it.
"We are not calling for an end to partisan politics, for there is nothing wrong with partisan politics," the two clarified.
"[V]igorous debate between Democrats and Republicans, liberals and conservatives, on the issues … informs and breathes life into our republic," they affirmed. "The opposite – personal attack, the politics of hate and sanctimony – not only undermines our ability to solve our problems, but also corrodes the soul of the country as much as cancer destroys the human body."
DeMoss and Davis are hoping for a new era of civility in America to be inaugurated with the project's launch just as Obama was inaugurated Tuesday.
"We hope others will join us in making the Civility Project both an individual and a national success," they concluded.
On the Web:
The Civility Project website at civilityproject.org