Press Releases

Interfaith Alliance, Interfaith Alliance Iowa Condemn Rep. Steve King's Remarks About American Muslims

WASHINGTON – Rev. Dr. C. Welton Gaddy, president of Interfaith Alliance, was joined by Connie Ryan Terrell, executive director of Interfaith Alliance of Iowa, in condemning offensive remarks by U.S. Rep. Steve King of Iowa. Yesterday Rep. King claimed on the Deace Show that American mosques are communication centers for ISIS and terrorist organizations and argued “we ought to have people in those mosques watching to see what’s going on.” Interfaith Alliance has been a leading voice against anti-Muslim bigotry and misguided approaches to surveillance of the Muslim community.  

“Working to counter terrorism at home and abroad is a necessary goal and critical for American national security, but targeting and denigrating American Muslims will not help accomplish it,” said Rev. Dr. C. Welton Gaddy, president of Interfaith Alliance. “Without a specific and credible threat, the type of surveillance that Congressman King advocates would represent a serious breach of the First Amendment rights every American is entitled to – including Muslims. Worse yet, using precious resources to surveil mosques will only serve as a distraction from real opportunities to root out extremists. The accusations that Rep. King makes only serve to alienate the majority of American Muslims who are a bulwark against extremism.”

Added Connie Ryan Terrell, executive director of Interfaith Alliance of Iowa, “The First Amendment protects the rights of all Americans, regardless of faith. The same religious freedom that prevents a minister from being prosecuted for what he or she says from the pulpit prevents the infiltration of mosques by law enforcement without cause. Congressman King owes an apology to the Muslim communities in Iowa – and Iowans of all faiths. He should not take our country’s religious freedom so lightly.”

Interfaith Alliance has long worked for an end to discrimination motivated by religion and to safeguard the Constitution’s promise of religious freedom. Interfaith Alliance co-authored the resource “What is the Truth About American Muslims: Questions and Answers,” with the Religious Freedom Education Project in order to counter misinformation about and misunderstandings of Islam and of the American Muslim community. More recently, Interfaith Alliance drafted an amicus brief in the case Hassan v. City of New York condemning the NYPD’s surveillance of mosques and Muslim community centers as a violation of the First Amendment.

Interfaith Alliance President, Louisianan Minister Calls Marriage Equality Decision Deeply Disappointing

Washington D.C. – Following today’s decision by a federal judge in Louisiana upholding the state’s ban on same-sex marriage, Rev. Dr. C. Welton Gaddy, president of Interfaith Alliance and Pastor for Preaching and Worship at Northminster Church in Monroe, LA, released the following statement:

“Today’s decision by a federal judge upholding the ban on same sex marriage in my home state of Louisiana is deeply disappointing and disturbing, even if not surprising. The national trend has been moving quickly towards a legal consensus for full equality for all people, yet Louisiana once again finds itself standing in the way of fairness and equality.

By continuing to defend and advocate for discriminatory laws, despite the wealth of legal opinions issued on marriage equality over the last year, our state’s leadership remains not only out of sync the rest of the nation, but in contradiction to the Constitution of the United States. Louisianans will not know true religious freedom until every marriage – whether performed in a house of worship or in a secular space – is given full legal recognition.  In our nation, by law, marriage is a civil right, not a religious doctrine.  Houses of worship are free to deny or accept their blessings and affirmations of any marriage, but religious ideology cannot be used to deny any civil right to other people.

This ruling in Louisiana emphasizes the fact that it is time for the Supreme Court to once and for all provide clarity and certainty on the status of same gender marriage. Members of the LGBT community deserve to have their right to marry affirmed according to the U.S. Constitution regardless of the local opinion of the state in which they happen to live. Having served as a pastor in my community here in Louisiana for 22 years, I have seen the hurt inflicted on families in our state who are denied the right to marry because of their sexual orientation. To delay recognition of this right to all people any longer is to withhold from these families our Constitution’s promise of equal rights and religious freedom.

In my own church in Monroe, Louisiana, we will continue to welcome members of the LGBT community and I will continue to celebrate the reality of their marriages in the eyes of God, even if governmental leaders in our state look away.“

Interfaith Alliance Calls Obama Administration’s New Rules on Contraception the ‘Least Bad’ Outcome in Light of Hobby Lobby Decision

Washington, D.C. – Interfaith Alliance President Rev. Dr. C. Welton Gaddy released the following statement in response to new rules issued by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services related to the Affordable Care Act’s contraception mandate:

“The regulations proposed by the Obama Administration are likely the least bad outcome that could be achieved following the mess made by the Supreme Court’s recent decisions on the contraception mandate. The accommodation the administration initially put forward – though already a departure from the more narrowly tailored exemption we urged – was an acceptable measure when it was limited to religious institutions. Broadening it now to include for-profit corporations sets a dangerous precedent by allowing an ever-expanding group of businesses to wrap themselves in the cloak of religion in order to opt out of the rule of law.”

“While the administration’s action takes a significant step toward protecting the health care of women across the country, let’s be clear that this latest action in no way undoes the broader damage to religious freedom inflicted by the Court’s majority decision in Hobby Lobby. The religious right’s attempt to redefine religious freedom and impose its own point of view on the rest of us, cannot be allowed to continue unopposed.”

Interfaith Alliance Raises Concerns About Potential First Amendment Violation in Reported Ferguson Church Raid

WASHINGTON – Following reports yesterday afternoon that police officers raided the Greater St. Mark Family Church under the pretense that they had been providing support and shelter to protestors in St. Louis County, Missouri, Interfaith Alliance president, Rev. Dr. C. Welton Gaddy sent the following letter to the St. Louis County Police Chief:

Chief John Belmar
St. Louis County Police Department
7900 Forsyth Boulevard
St. Louis, MO 63105

August 21, 2014

Dear Chief Belmar,

On behalf of Interfaith Alliance, an organization committed to the separation of church and state representing Americans from over 75 faith traditions, I would like to register my concern regarding recent reports about St. Louis County Police treatment of houses of worship and religious communities. I find profoundly disturbing and constitutionally unsettling the reports coming out of St. Louis County, Missouri, that police officers have ‘raided’ a local church that opened its doors to aid protestors and provide a place of refuge for fatigued supporters of justice. Religious institutions hold a special status in our nation protected by the First Amendment. No religious body is above the law, but, without question, any government agency that enters a house of worship unwelcomed must be able to demonstrate a greater than usual reason for intrusion.

In looking carefully at what happened in Ferguson, what is ethical must be considered every bit as important as what is legal. The police action in question here was allegedly justified as dealing with a zoning violation or some other minor infraction by the church – a rationale for intrusion into a house of worship that is simply absurd. There is reasonable suspicion that the true intention of the law officers’ intrusion was to intimidate a religious community, which is deeply troubling regardless of the community’s participation in these protests. The greatest American religious leaders– from the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. to Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel – have taught us that social protest is a profound form of religious practice. To harass religious communities that engage in such protest violates the fundamental promise of religious freedom.

Interfaith Alliance remains concerned by the situation in Ferguson. The tragedy of Michael Brown’s death, the ensuing protests and the police’s startling response reaffirms the necessity of our recommitment to building communities that treat each other with civility, and working to ensure that our government respects the inherent dignity of every human being. The police action about which I write did exactly the opposite; it demonstrated an eagerness to silence the outcry of people of faith regarding injustice that perhaps some see as an embarrassment. So many people of different faith traditions and no faith tradition in Ferguson have proven the great power of communal action and responsibility. However, the police must do more to demonstrate the legitimacy of their legal rationale before engaging in behavior like raiding a church. Otherwise, officers of the law risk losing the public’s confidence and trust as public servants who safeguard the First Amendment and assure the civil rights of all those in Ferguson. I urge you to examine the incident in question and to ensure that your police department’s practices respect the rights of religious communities and the constitutional rights of all protestors.

Sincerely,

Rev. Dr. C. Welton Gaddy

President,
Interfaith Alliance

Interfaith Alliance Releases Election Year Guides as Religion Continues to Play a Disproportionate Role in Political Campaigns

 

Guides offer practical advice for houses of worship, candidates and voters seeking to navigate the legal and ethical boundaries between religion and politics

 

WASHINGTON – During a campaign season in which houses of worship are facing increased scrutiny from the IRS over political entanglements, Interfaith Alliance has released a set of election year guides for houses of worship and candidates. The guide for congregations offers legal and ethical counsel on how religious leaders, houses of worship and religious institutions may appropriately participate in the electoral process without violating the law or compromising their moral standing. The guide for candidates describes proper and improper ways to speak about one’s own religious background and to speak to religious voters in a campaign. Interfaith Alliance also created a pamphlet with five questions on faith and politics that voters can ask candidates for public office.

 

“Each election cycle seems to see an ever increasing amount of religion forced into the political process by candidates anxious to wrap themselves in the mantle of faith,” said the Rev. Dr. C. Welton Gaddy. “Unfortunately the cynical use of religion as a political tactic is made easier by houses of worship that are all too ready to gain favor with the political elite at the expense of their own moral standing. Interfaith Alliance has long been committed to providing resources to houses of worship and candidates in an effort to educate them on the appropriate legal and ethical boundaries.”

 

Interfaith Alliance’s guides, “A Campaign Season Guide for Houses of Worship” and “Running for Office in a Multi-Faith Nation,” serve as valuable resources that will help religious leaders, candidates and voters navigate the complex relationship between politics and religion. The guides offer practical advice for candidates speaking in houses of worship and talking about faith on the campaign trail, as well as explanations of encouraged and prohibited election season activities for congregations.

 

“During a hard-fought campaign, it is important that political candidates not use religion to divide Americans or to marginalize an opponent whose faith may differ from their own,” said Rev. Gaddy. “Faith leaders should encourage civic participation without crossing the line by making inappropriate partisan endorsements. These guides will help religious communities and political candidates engage in our great exercise of democracy with strengthened respect for religious diversity and religious freedom.”

 

The guides are available online at www.interfaithalliance.org/elections and from Interfaith Alliance’s state-based affiliates.

 

As part of its effort, Interfaith Alliance has also developed a resource for voters seeking to better understand the perspectives of candidates. Its “Five Questions for Candidates on the Role of Religion in American Public Life” provides voters with questions to ask candidates who are running for office this fall. The recommended questions are:

 

  1. What role will your faith or values play in creating public policy or making appointments?
  2. What are your views on the boundaries between religion and government?
  3. What steps will you take to protect the rights of your constituents regardless of their faith or beliefs?
  4. How will you speak about your beliefs without making them just another political tool?
  5. How will you balance the principles of your faith and your obligation to defend the Constitution, particularly if the two come into conflict?