Public Comment

Religious Leaders Speak Out Against Berkeley’s Measure S

By Sally Hindman and 52 Signers
Friday October 19, 2012 - 04:03:00 PM

As religious leaders of diverse faith traditions, we stand united in opposition to the November 2012 ballot initiative in Berkeley, “Measure S,” making it illegal to sit on sidewalks in commercial areas.

Measure S violates deeply held religious convictions that call us to seek justice and compassion for all living beings. We must respect the humanity of our brothers and sisters and honor their dignity. Thus, we oppose the criminalization of homeless people.

Measure S will increase the persecution, ticketing and arresting of homeless people. If this inhumane law is passed, homeless people will be forcibly driven from one street corner to another by cruel threats and citations, when their urgent needs for shelter, housing, jobs and other resources go unmet. 

This heartless clampdown on the rights of poor people comes during the worst economic recession in 80 years. This harsh approach to dealing with the extreme difficulties people face during this painful economic period is ill-timed and punitive. As religious leaders, we cannot condone this approach to “kicking someone when they are down.” 

All the great religions of the world call on believers to seek justice and mercy. Measure S violates our spiritual call to seek justice for the poor and dispossessed. 

Berkeley has an alarming shortage of shelter beds and permanent affordable housing, endless waiting lists for housing programs, and no in-patient detox programs for people struggling with addiction. This makes it difficult to justify punishing anyone who has failed to get off the streets. 

Berkeley has no drop-in program for homeless youth during the day, a long waiting list for homeless youth case management, and an inexcusable shortage of shelter beds and housing for homeless young people. Rather than punishing youth who are homeless, we must create a real safety net for these vulnerable young people. 

As religious leaders, we support the creation of desperately needed housing, shelter and supportive programs to help homeless people. Yet Measure S, if passed, will misuse taxpayer dollars, police resources, and the legal system in a futile effort to make sitting a criminal act. And it does so at a time when law enforcement is already stretched thin dealing with homicides, domestic violence and other truly urgent matters. We believe it is poor stewardship to divert police attention from these areas of need. 

“No sitting” laws in San Francisco have already been found by researchers to be ineffective in meeting the goals of creating more civil sidewalks. Since Measure S will likely also prove to be ineffective, its passage is an appalling waste of tax dollars that could better be spent on real solutions to homelessness. 

For all of these reasons, we strongly oppose Measure S. With the enormous needs of poor and homeless people in Berkeley, let us pursue the real solutions that have been found to work in solving the problems of homelessness: permanent affordable housing, adequate emergency shelter, jobs and jobs training, drug and alcohol treatment programs and case management support.  

List of Signer/Endorsers of Clergy Letter Opposing Measure S* 


Rev. Dr. Israel Alvaran 

National Organizer for Economic Justice 

General Board of Church and Society 

The United Methodist Church 


Dr. Hatem Bazian 

Co-Founder, Zaytuna College 

UC Berkeley Faculty, Near Eastern and Ethnic Studies 


Rev. Dr. Dorsey O. Blake 

Presiding Minister 

The Church of the Fellowship of all People’s 


Fr. Rigoberto Calocarivas, OFM, Ph.D. 

Executive Director, Multicultural Institute 


Rev. Alexandra Childs 

United Church of Christ Traveling Minister of the Arts 


Rev. Susan P. Conrad, MA, M.Div. 

Chaplain and ACPE Associate Supervisor 

Chaplaincy Services 

Alta Bates Summit Medical Center 


Rabbi David J. Cooper 

Kehilla Community Synagogue 


Rev. Mark C. Cordes 

Trinity United Methodist Church 


Rev. Kevin Craddock 

Ebenezer Baptist Church 


Patricia de Jong 

Senior Minister, First Congregational Church of Berkeley 


Denisha Delane 

Founder, Faith in the Bay 

Deacon, McGee Avenue Baptist Church 


Father John Dineen, Pastor 

St. Joseph the Worker Church 


Rev. Gayle Dickson 

United Church of Christ, Art Ambassadors 

Chaplain Rachel Findley 


The Rev. Mary Louise Hintz 

Parish Deacon, All Soul’s Episcopal Church 


Rev. Bill Hamilton-Holway 

Rev. Barbara Hamilton-Holway 

Unitarian Universalist Church of Berkeley 


Sally Hindman, MA, M.Div. 

Executive Director 

Youth Spirit Artworks 


Rev. Brian Hunter 

Berkeley Mt. Zion Missionary Baptist Church 


Pastor Sarah Isakson 

Lutheran Church of the Cross 


The Reverend Jeff R. Johnson 

University Lutheran Chapel of Berkeley 


Rev. Kurt A. Kuhwald 

Assistant Professor, Core Faculty 

Starr King School for the Ministry 


Bob Lassalle-Klein 

Associate Professor of Religious Studies and Philosophy 

Coordinator, Religious Studies 

Holy Names University 


The Rev. Theolinda Knight 

Deacon, Episcopal Diocese of California 

Good Shepherd Episcopal Church 


Rabbi Michael Lerner 

Spiritual Leader, Beyt Tikkun Synagogue Without Walls 

Editor, Tikkun Magazine 


Laura Magnani 

Assistant Regional Director of the West Region 

American Friends Service Committee 


Father Aidan McAleenan 

Pastor, St. Columba Catholic Church 


Carl Magruder 

Quaker Chaplain 

Thomas Massaro, SJ 

Dean and Professor of Moral Theology 

Jesuit School of Theology-Berkeley of 

Santa Clara University 


Rev. Bob Matthews 

United Church of Christ 


Rev. Kenneth Melton 

Pastor, South Berkeley Community Church 


Terry Messman 

Street Spirit, Editor 


Rev. Ben Meyers 

Minister, Berkeley Fellowship of Unitarian Universalists 


Rev. Sarah Moldenhauer-Salazar 

President, Pacific District Unitarian Universalists Association 


Rev. Christy Newton, Ph.D. 

Interim Senior Pastor, Northbrae Community Church 


William O’Neill, SJ 

Associate Professor of Social Ethics 

Jesuit School of Theology 

Graduate Theological Union 


JC Orton 

Director, Night on the Streets Catholic Worker 


Rev. Ron Parker 

Interim Pastor, Epworth United Methodist Church 


Peace and Social Action Committee 

Berkeley Friends Meeting (Quakers) 


Riess Potterveld 

President, Pacific School of Religion 


Donald Rothberg 

Spirit Rock Meditation Center 


Carolyn S. Scarr 

Program Coordinator 

Ecumenical Peace Institute/Clergy and Laity Concerned 


Rev. Hozan Alan Senauke 

Berkeley Zen Center 


Rev. Michael A. Smith, Pastor 

McGee Avenue Baptist Church 

Dr. Laura Stivers 

Director, Graduate Humanities Program 

Dominican University of California 

Author of Disrupting Homelessness-Alternative Christian Approaches 


Rabbi Andrew Straus 

Temple Sinai Oakland 


Rev. Roland Stringfellow 

Co-Pastor, First Congregational Church of Oakland 

Director of Ministerial Outreach, Pacific School of Religion 


Rev. Frederick Taylor, Pastor 

Phillips Temple CME Church 


Frances H. Townes 

Founder, Berkeley Ecumenical Chaplaincy to the Homeless 


Rhonda White-Warner, M.Div. 

African American Faith Mental Health Anti-Stigma Campaign/Healthy Communities 


Kelly Woods 

Lead Pastor, Covenant Worship Center 


Brian Young, Pastor 

Berkeley Friends Church 


*Persons listed are representing themselves as individuals, not necessarily the institutions with which they are affiliated