Statement of the Rev. Dr. C. Welton Gaddy On the Saddleback Civil Forum with Senators McCain and Obama
"Tonight's Saddleback Civil Forum provided a great opportunity to ask some important questions about the role of faith in politics. Pastor Warren deserves a great deal of credit for discussing some difficult social and political issues in a respectful and civil manner. However, as was the case with prior faith forums conducted during this campaign, some of the questions Pastor Warren posed crossed the line and promoted the fiction that the American people are electing a pastor-in-chief, rather than a commander-in-chief.
"Questions like 'What does it mean to trust in Christ?' create a religious test for public office and should have no place in the political discourse for a secular office. America is the most religiously diverse country in the world, and Christianity is only one of those faith traditions. Millions of voters who tuned in tonight will feel disenfranchised by some of the questions posed in this forum.
"And both the candidates deserve criticism for engaging in a competition to be 'holier than thou.' The American people want real solutions for real issues. Discussing the personal theology of the candidates does little to elucidate those solutions."
Interfaith Alliance: Obama’s Faith-Based Plan an Improvement
Further Safeguards are Needed to Protect Constitutional Boundaries
Washington, DC – Today the Interfaith Alliance praised Senator Barack Obama for his plan to scrap the Bush Administration’s faith-based initiative, but urged the presumptive Democratic candidate for the presidency to include stronger constitutional safeguards in his new faith-based plan.
“I agree with Senator Obama that the Bush Administration’s faith-based initiative has been a colossal failure. I hope President Bush’s executive orders related to the faith-based initiative are repealed on the next president’s first day in office,” said Rev. Gaddy.
Unlike President Bush’s faith-based program, Senator Obama’s plan would require that religious charities obey Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which prohibits discrimination in hiring charity staff. However, Senator Obama’s plan would still allow direct government funding of religious institutions, while the Interfaith Alliance would prefer religious institutions establish separate 501(c)(3) organizations to handle government grants. Our proposal keeps the government out of the business of investigating the internal affairs of houses of worship.
“To uphold the Constitution’s boundaries between religion and government, faith-based charities must obey much stronger safeguards. Senator Obama’s plan is a step in the right direction, though I would like him to go further,” said Rev. Gaddy.
In 2006 former White House Faith-Based Office staffer David Kuo wrote a tell-all book, which documented how the Bush Administration would funnel money to fly-by-night charities on the Religious Right, while more established, secular charities were left out. That policy, Kuo admits, was designed to win votes for President Bush and other Republican candidates.
“It is time to close the Pandora’s Box opened by the Clinton Administration and exploited by the Bush Administration. No future president should turn religious groups into political pawns in order to advance their own partisan ambitions,” said Rev. Gaddy.
Interfaith Alliance Condemns Cronyism in Faith-Based Initiative
According to the June 24 story, the Justice Department
awarded a $1.2 million grant jointly to an evangelical youth charity called Victory Outreach and a consulting
firm run by a former Faith-Based Office staffer. Several career DOJ employees objected to the
grant because one-third of the money will line the coffers of the consulting
firm and not be used to help children. The DOJ employees also noted that Victory Outreach had mismanaged a
prior grant made by the state of
incident of cronyism removes all doubts that the real mission of the
faith-based initiative is to aid the Religious Right,” said Rev. Dr. C.
Accusations of manipulation in the Faith-Based Office first surfaced in 2006 when former White House staffer David Kuo wrote a tell-all book. In it, he documented how federal funds were funneled to fly-by-night evangelical Christian charities without any congressional approval.
The Interfaith Alliance is also concerned about how Victory Outreach would have used its grant. On its website, Victory Outreach describes itself as a “church-oriented Christian ministry called to the task of evangelizing and disciplining the hurting people of the world, with the message of hope and plan of Jesus Christ.”
“The Constitution makes it clear that taxpayer dollars should not be used to fund sectarian proselytizing,” said Rev. Gaddy. “Children who need social services should not be forced to submit to a religious agenda as a condition of receiving help.”
Interfaith Alliance to Candidates: Respect All Americans Equally
Rev. Dr. Gaddy’s Letter follows:
24 June 2008
TO: Presidential Campaigns of Sen. John McCain and Sen. Barack Obama
FROM: The Rev. Dr. C. Welton Gaddy
President, Interfaith Alliance
Religion has carried a high profile in the 2008 campaign season so far, but not all faith groups are feeling welcomed into the political process. A recent New York Times article in which Muslim leaders complain of exclusion from the campaign process highlights the challenge: Selecting the leader of all Americans must involve the participation of all Americans. This year’s presidential candidates have an historic opportunity to make that happen.
There are 2.35 million Muslims in America, living in cities and suburbs and rural areas in every region of the country. The nation’s largest communities make their homes in big cities in New York and Michigan, but the country’s first mosque still stands in Cedar Rapids, Iowa (pop. 125,000). Though they fall across the spectrum demographically, America’s Muslims share one thing: marginalization because of a false association of their religion with violence and extremism.
John McCain and Barack Obama have the chance to help make 2008 the year that stops.
To the Obama campaign, we issue this challenge: The next time someone asks if you are Muslim, don’t just say no and recite your Christian bona fides. Ask them why it matters. We’ve seen already that some of your opponents will try to use your family religious history against you. Rise above that, and use the moment to teach someone why calling you a Muslim isn’t correct, but it certainly isn’t a slur.
To the McCain campaign, a slightly different but no less important challenge: Don’t ignore the Muslim community because you assume they’ll vote the other way. Every citizen should hear clear, strong messages from all political parties in order to make an educated decision in the voting booth.
Both campaigns bear responsibility for making sure that Muslim Americans are fully included in the political process. To be clear, we are not asking for politically orchestrated photo-ops in front of mosques (or any other houses of worship, for that matter). We want to see real engagement of the Muslim community on substantive issues affecting their lives.
If the electoral process is not truly open to all Muslims who are American citizens, religious freedom in this nation is in serious jeopardy for people of all religions and people of no religion. We call on Sen. Obama and Sen. McCain to lead the nation away from ugly stereotyping and toward a process of civic involvement for all America’s citizens that strengthens the nation’s commitment to freedom and justice for all.
President, Interfaith Alliance
5 Ways to Protect Marriage & Religious Freedom
The proposed Constitutional Amendment would have imposed one religious definition of marriage over other religious views. This would take the debate and power away from houses of worship to decide who they will or will not marry and put it squarely in the hands of the federal government.
“For those people who want to protect marriage, let me offer a few suggestions,” said the Rev. Welton Gaddy, President of The Interfaith Alliance. “Raise the public’s consciousness of the dignity and importance of women in our still deeply patriarchal society; increase the minimum wage and offer tax breaks to the working poor so that spouses can see each other for quality lengths of time, rather than briefly passing on their way to two jobs; encourage family planning; start a plan to deal with domestic violence; and work to cover mental health care in medical insurance policies so serious emotional difficulties can be prevented from tearing marriages apart.”
Gaddy stressed these are real world solutions for dealing with the real world problem of protecting marriage and thanked members of The Interfaith Alliance for lending the support and time to fight the amendment.
“Our grassroots activists helped stop this amendment,” said Gaddy. “More than 5,000 members of The Interfaith Alliance contacted their Senators by email, phone call, fax or letter telling them to stay out of the houses of worship for the sake of religion and the institution of marriage.”
The U.S. House is looking to introduce similar legislation as early as this summer and The Interfaith Alliance will continue its work to ensure religious liberty for all Americans.