Minister tells Morristown MLK breakfast: ‘Trump does not espouse Christian values’

, who is running for election as leader of her national church organization.
Featured speakers: The Rev. Alison Miller and seminarian Matthew Quainno. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
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The Rev. Alison Miller: 'Trump does not espouse Christian values.' Photo by Kevin Coughlin
The Rev. Alison Miller: ‘Trump does not espouse Christian values.’ Photo by Kevin Coughlin

By Kevin Coughlin

What a difference eight years makes.

Morristown’s 2009 Martin Luther King Day breakfast, held one day before the inauguration of the nation’s first black president, Barack Obama, was a joyful celebration.

On Monday, with Donald Trump’s presidency only days away, the affair had a more urgent tone. Speakers implored more than 400 listeners to remain true to King’s ideals, and to demand the same from their leaders–even if that feels uncomfortable.

ALL YOU NEED IS LOVE? Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-11th Dist.) says it would help. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
ALL YOU NEED IS LOVE? Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-11th Dist.) says it would help. Photo by Kevin Coughlin

“Trump does not espouse Christian values, no matter how many people say he does,” the Rev. Alison Miller of the Morristown Unitarian Fellowship told a crowd at the Hyatt Regency Morristown.

Many stood and applauded. One who remained seated, directly in front of Miller, was Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-11th Dist.), who supports Trump and has been named chairman of the powerful House Appropriations Committee.

During brief remarks that preceded Miller’s keynote, the 12-term congressman from Harding wondered aloud what King would think of modern public discourse, “a world dominated by social media, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and fake news.” 

Disagreements escalate into dehumanization, he said, straining “bonds of understanding and common purpose.”

“What we need is more love, more education, more understanding and more kindness,” Frelinghuysen said.

RELATED: Rep. Frelinghuysen on Trump, Obamacare and the Wall

‘WHAT ARE WE DOING?’

Felicia Jamison, who co-founded Morristown’s Martin Luther King Observance Committee 47 years ago, said the slain civil rights leader’s messages of tolerance and equality are more relevant than ever before. On the eve of a Trump administration and Republican Congress bent on repealing Obamacare and dismantling Obama’s legacy, Jamison is trying to remain optimistic.

“I think God is going to speak and change some hearts… I have to be hopeful,” she said. “We have to recognize the dignity and worth of all persons. We must see the humanity in each of us.”

Morristown High School’s string ensemble played soothing notes, scholarships were announced, and invocations were delivered at Monday’s event, officially know as the 32nd annual Morris Interfaith Breakfast.

But the theme on the podium was The Dream at the Crossroads, Empowering  Love to Overcome– with the emphasis on crossroads.

Matthew Quainno, a 21-year-old a preacher-in-training at the Princeton Theological Seminary, cited perceptions of police brutality in the wake of shootings of blacks across the country, disproportionately high incarceration rates of black and Hispanic men, and the widening gulf between haves and have-nots.

'WHAT ARE WE DOING?' asked seminarian Matthew Quainno. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
‘WHAT ARE WE DOING?’ asked seminarian Matthew Quainno. Photo by Kevin Coughlin

“What are we doing when it’s easier to buy a gun than to get a job?…What are we doing when healthcare is an accessory for the poor and a necessity for the rich?…What are we doing when politicians fill their cabinets not with prophets, but with people who seek profits?  What are we doing?”

Quainno warned against complacency.

“We run the risk of only being activists on Facebook, but not showing up at protests.”

 

 

Slideshow photos by Kevin Coughlin. For captions, hover over image.

MLK 2017 breakfast in Morristown, Jan. 16, 2017. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
, who is running for election as leader of her national church organization.
The Rev. Alison Miller: 'Trump does not espouse Christian values.' Photo by Kevin Coughlin
'WHAT ARE WE DOING?' asked seminarian Matthew Quainno. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
ALL YOU NEED IS LOVE? Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-11th Dist.) says it would help. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-11th Dist) with civil rights activist Felicia Jamison at 2017 MLK breakfast in Morristown. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Matthew Quainno, Brian Lozano, the Rev. Alison Miller, Councilwoman Michelle Dupree Harris, Esperanza Porras- Field, Keith and Yvette Bodden, at MLK 2017 breakfast in Morristown, Jan. 16, 2017. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Alpha Kappa Alpha sisters at MLK 2017 breakfast in Morristown, Jan. 16, 2017. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Delta Sigma Theta sisters at MLK 2017 breakfast in Morristown, Jan. 16, 2017. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Mayor Tim Dougherty welcomes guests to MLK breakfast in Morristown, Jan. 16, 2017. The Rev. Susanna Cates listens.Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Esperanza Porras-Field and Councilwoman Michelle Dupree Harris, at MLK 2017 breakfast in Morristown, Jan. 16, 2017. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Gubernatorial candidate Jim Johnson and the Rev. Alison Miller at MLK 2017 breakfast in Morristown, Jan. 16, 2017. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Samaria Tillman, left, and friends at MLK 2017 breakfast in Morristown, Jan. 16, 2017. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Charles Craig and Kisha Frazier at MLK 2017 breakfast in Morristown, Jan. 16, 2017. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Retired Army Lt. Col. Robert Goldsboro and Helen Arnold at MLK 2017 breakfast in Morristown, Jan. 16, 2017. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Vernette Dawkins of Morris Plains and her granddaughter, Aaliyah Dawkins, 9 at MLK breakfast in Morristown, Jan. 16, 2017. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Rector Janet Broderick of St. Peter's at MLK 2017 breakfast in Morristown, Jan. 16, 2017. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Council President Stefan Armington, second from left, and former Council President Rebecca Feldman, right, at MLK 2017 breakfast in Morristown, Jan. 16, 2017. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
The Rev. Alison Miller and Charles Lamb of the County College of Morris, MLK 2017 breakfast in Morristown, Jan. 16, 2017. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Gubernatorial candidate Jim Johnson of Montclair at MLK 2017 breakfast in Morristown, Jan. 16, 2017. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Sisters Nichole, Hannah Rose and Sarah Williams at MLK 2017 breakfast in Morristown, Jan. 16, 2017. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Carol Patterson, Brenda Dortch, Kathy Peterson and Barbara Prater at MLK 2017 breakfast in Morristown, Jan. 16, 2017. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Morris Twp. Committeeman Peter Mancuso, Twp. Administrator Tim Quinn and Rob Walden of JCP&L at MLK 2017 breakfast in Morristown, Jan. 16, 2017. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Guests bow their heads during blessing at 2017 MLK Day breakfast in Morristown. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Alpha Kappa Alpha sisters at MLK Breakfast in Morristown, Jan. 16, 2017. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Young pianist performs at MLK 2017 breakfast in Morristown, Jan. 16, 2017. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
The Delta Sigma Theta table at MLK breakfast in Morristown, Jan. 16, 2017. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Morris NAACP President Vanessa Brown, Rev. Robert Rogers, Sonia Brown of Jamaica NJ, and former Morris NAACP President Keith Bodden at MLK breakfast in Morristown, Jan. 16, 2017. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
A young guest listens to speech at MLK breakfast in Morristown, Jan. 16, 2017. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Scholarship winners at MLK breakfast in Morristown, Jan. 16, 2017. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen and Rector Janet Broderick of St. Peter's at MLK 2017 breakfast in Morristown, Jan. 16, 2017. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Morristown Town Clerk Kevin Harris at MLK breakfast in Morristown, Jan. 16, 2017. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
MHS string ensemble at MLK breakfast in Morristown, Jan. 16, 2017. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Morris Prosecutor Fredric Knapp is flanked by Chief Investigator Jim Speirs and Detective Patrick LeGuerre at MLK breakfast in Morristown, Jan. 16, 2017. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Paul Boudreau of the Morris Chamber of Commerce at MLK breakfast in Morristown, Jan. 16, 2017. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Father Hernan Arias of St. Margaret's and parishioner Jean Perez at MLK breakfast in Morristown, Jan. 16, 2017. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Diana Mejia of Wind of the Spirit and her husband, Stuart Sydenstricker, at MLK breakfast in Morristown, Jan. 16, 2017. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Councilwoman Toshiba Foster, Morris School Board President Leonard Posey and a sleepy friend at MLK breakfast in Morristown, Jan. 16, 2017. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Councilman Robert Iannaccone and Dorothy Holman at MLK breakfast in Morristown, Jan. 16, 2017. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Helen Arnold at MLK breakfast in Morristown, Jan. 16, 2017. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Morris School Districy Supt. Mackey Pendergrast at MLK breakfast in Morristown, Jan. 16, 2017. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Rev. Robert Rogers of the Church of God in Christ with Rector Janet Broderick and the Rev. Susanna Cates of St. Peter's, at MLK breakfast in Morristown, Jan. 16, 2017. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
The Rev. David Hollowell, chairman of the Martin Luther King Observance Committee, at MLK breakfast in Morristown, Jan. 16, 2017. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Pastor Sidney Williams Jr. of Bethel AME Church at MLK breakfast in Morristown, Jan. 16, 2017. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Tom Zelante of the Morris Prosecutor's Office and David Scott of the Market Street Mission at MLK breakfast in Morristown, Jan. 16, 2017. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Felicia Jamison and the Rev. Jerry Carter of Calvary Baptist Church, at MLK breakfast in Morristown, Jan. 16, 2017. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
The Rev. Alison Miller of the Morristown Unitarian Fellowship at MLK 2017 breakfast in Morristown, Jan. 16, 2017. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Dignitaries from St. Peter's, the town of Morristown and Calvary Baptist Church at MLK breakfast in Morristown, Jan. 16, 2017. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Felicia Jamison and Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen at MLK breakfast in Morristown, Jan. 16, 2017. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
The Rev. Susanna Cates of St. Peter's at MLK breakfast in Morristown, Jan. 16, 2017. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Felicia Jamison records a speech at MLK 2017 breakfast in Morristown. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
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‘THEY WILL COME FOR ALL OF US, EVENTUALLY’

Miller said shootings, the Standing Rock showdown over the Dakota Access Pipeline, and the presidential election, among other issues, amount to a wake-up call for a country “at a crossroads between a revolution of love and a backlash of fear.”

“Are you awake? It is a vital question,” said Miller. “If you think that Black Lives Matter is only about black people, then you may be asleep. If you think that marching for women’s rights is only for women to do, then you may be asleep.”

Watch videos of these speeches; see former MLK associate sound off on Trump

As the mother of a 5-year-old, she said, she is troubled to read of swastikas on playgrounds.

Felicia Jamison records a speech at MLK 2017 breakfast in Morristown. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Felicia Jamison records a speech at MLK 2017 breakfast in Morristown. Photo by Kevin Coughlin

“I know our freedom is interwoven. They will come for all of us, eventually, if we do not unite in a spirit of love that is not complacent. It is a spirit of love that will not let you down, and will not let you off the hook,” said Miller, 42.

She challenged churches and law enforcement to listen to, and get behind, movements like Black Lives Matter.

“Something we all need to get used to is being a little bit uncomfortable,” said Miller, who is running for election as leader of her national church organization.

The minister said she was heartened by the turnout at a march in memory of patrons massacred at an Orlando gay bar last year. 

People put aside their differences, and their discomfort, to come together, she said.  It gave her hope for a dream of her own:

“I want to live in a world where people are more comfortable seeing two men holding hands than holding a gun,” Miller said.

MORE COVERAGE OF 2017 MLK DAY IN MORRISTOWN

Guests bow their heads during blessing at 2017 MLK Day breakfast in Morristown. Photo by Kevin Coughlin

Guests bow their heads during blessing at 2017 MLK Day breakfast in Morristown. Photo by Kevin Coughlin

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3 COMMENTS

  1. @ Jeff
    What does “go Trump” mean when posted on an article about the celebration of MLK day in our community? Care to elaborate?

  2. Congressmen Frelinghuysen is s hypocrite. His words over the last 8 years have been inflammatory and divisive when it came to issues. Instead of seeking common ground with Democrats in Congress, he chose to join his party in obstructionism leading to government gridlock and all the whilst blaming President Obama. Congressman Frelinghuysen put petty party politics first over the national interest. Congressman Frelinghuysen is part of the problem in Congress. It is way time for change in NJ CD11 district.

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