Press Releases

Rev. Gaddy's Letter to Gov. Jindal on the use of taxpayer funds to travel to church services

The following is Rev. Gaddy's letter to Governor Jindal regarding the use of taxpayer funds to travel to church services.

September 1, 2009

Governor Bobby Jindal
State Capitol
P.O. Box 94004
Baton Rouge, LA 70804-9004

Dear Governor Jindal,

I write to you as both the pastor of Northminster Baptist Church in Monroe, LA and as the president of Interfaith Alliance, a national organization dedicated to protecting the boundaries between religion and government for the good of both institutions. The Baton Rouge Advocate's recent report on your official travel to church services around the state funded by taxpayer money is of great concern to me for several reasons.

If you were traveling to these churches to worship with the various congregations, you should have paid your own expenses to get there as did the other worshippers. If you were traveling to these churches for the purpose of sharing your personal faith and encouraging faith in others, state funds absolutely should not have been used to pay your expenses. Indeed, in that instance, your state-funded actions were a violation of the United States Constitution's promise of religious freedom which has been a critical contributor to the vitality of religion in our nation. If you were traveling to these churches for political purposes, you should not have been there in the first place, regardless of who funded the travel.

I know that you told the Advocate these trips were about providing you the opportunity to talk to citizens. Why during a service of sacred worship? And, why only in churches? I believe you can find venues other than houses of worship to have official meetings, so that all citizens have an opportunity to hear from you - and for you to hear from them.

Governor Jindal, it appears that you owe the people of Louisiana an apology and the treasurer of the state a reimbursement of at least $45,000 in addition to whatever money was spent in the period not covered by the Advocate's investigation. No taxpayer money should have been used for your travel.

I am well aware of how elected officials welcome opportunities to make public appearances at houses of worship. However, as I am sure you know, an invitation to a public official - sought or offered - to speak at a house of worship raises questions for both the official and, ultimately, for the house of worship. Indeed, your use of a house of

worship for political purposes can jeopardize its legal identity. Federal tax laws place restrictions on what houses of worship can and cannot do in relation to politics.

As a person who cares deeply about the integrity of houses of worship and the influence of the Louisiana state government, I urge you to be careful about using your elected office as cover for an event that has more to do with politics than it has to do with governing.

For the sake of religion, please do not politicize houses of worship in Louisiana and rob those of us who minister there of the credibility that allows our faith to be a healing force in our state and across our land.

Sincerely,
Rev. Dr. C. Welton Gaddy
President, Interfaith Alliance
Pastor for Preaching & Worship, Northminster Church

Interfaith Alliance Statement On the Passing of Senator Edward M. Kennedy

For Immediate Release
August 26, 2009

Interfaith Alliance Statement
On the Passing of Senator Edward M. Kennedy

Washington, DC – Interfaith Alliance President, Rev. Dr. C. Welton Gaddy, issued the following statement today following the passing of Senator Edward M. Kennedy (D-MA).

Our nation has lost a visionary patriot, Interfaith Alliance has lost a courageous colleague, and the poorest and weakest people in this land have lost a vigorous advocate.

Senator Kennedy has been a true leader and passionate advocate for legislation aimed at strengthening individual rights and assuring individual freedom. It has been a pleasure to work with him on a wide range of issues including the passage of comprehensive hate crimes legislation.

My first association with Senator Kennedy came in the early 1970’s when I worked with him on early initiatives to secure national health care.  At the time he was a young, well-prepared, eloquently articulate and influentially activist Senator.  As his tenure in the U.S. Senate increased, his work was marked by even greater passion, wisdom and sound strategic initiatives. 

Ted Kennedy will be missed by all who long for our nation to more fully live up to the promise of the United States Constitution and maximize the wisdom of “We the people.”  I grieve his death and give thanks for his life.

Interfaith Alliance celebrates religious freedom by championing individual rights, promoting policies that protect both religion and democracy, and uniting diverse voices to challenge extremism. Founded in 1994, Interfaith Alliance has 185,000 members across the country from 75 faith traditions as well as those without a faith tradition. For more information visit www.interfaithalliance.org.

Interfaith Alliance and Interfaith Alliance Of Iowa Criticize DART For Pulling an Ad Placed by an Atheist Group and Calls on Governor Culver to Clarify His Response

Washington, DC - Interfaith Alliance President, Rev. Dr. C. Welton Gaddy, and Interfaith Alliance of Iowa Executive Director, Connie Ryan Terrell, issued the following statement today in response to the decision of the Des Moines Area Regional Transit Authority (DART) to pull an ad placed on buses by the Iowa Atheists and Freethinkers.
DART's decision to pull an ad placed by an atheist group should be disturbing to anyone who cares about free speech and religious freedom. We live in a nation where people are free to express themselves, regardless of whether or not they are religious. People of faith put their own religious freedom at risk when they trample on the right of others to believe differently.

Gaddy and Ryan Terrell also raised concerns about Governor Chet Culver's inappropriate response to the controversy.

The Governor's need for guidance from the Iowa Attorney General to determine if the atheist group deserves the same free speech rights as Christian groups is troubling. Governor Culver should rethink his statement and make clear his commitment to the First Amendment's guarantees of freedom of religion and freedom of speech for religious people and non-religious people alike.

Interfaith Alliance Releases Paper On Same-Gender Marriage & Religious Freedom

Washington, DC - Interfaith Alliance has released Same-Gender Marriage & Religious Freedom: A Call to Quiet Conversations and Public Debates, a paper authored by its president, Rev. Dr. C. Welton Gaddy. In the paper, Rev. Gaddy calls for a new national discussion on marriage based on the premise that "law, not scripture, is the foundation of government regulations related to marriage in our nation."

Rev. Gaddy's paper can be read at: http://www.interfaithalliance.org/equality

"My purpose in writing this paper is as simple as the subject of the paper is complex," said Rev. Gaddy. "I want to find a way for people with contradictory beliefs, religions, values and opinions to live together without violating the basic nature of our democracy. I am motivated by confidence in the power of religion to affect reconciliation, and I am also a patriot who embodies the unwavering commitment to freedom and justice integral to the American experience."

The paper, in which Rev. Gaddy expresses support for same-gender marriage, seeks to shift the perspective on LGBT equality from problem to solution. To do so, Rev. Gaddy advocates for moving from scriptural argument to religious freedom agreement, and to address the issue of equality as informed by the U.S. Constitution.

Gaddy's hope is that this change will allow same-gender couples to receive basic civil rights benefits without impacting a religious organization's right to marry only people it judges worthy of its blessing.

"The First Amendment's religious liberty provisions ensure that government cannot impose a particular view of marriage on religious institutions, or limit their speech as it relates to marriage," added Rev. Gaddy. "But marriage in this country is a civil issue, and all citizens deserve the same constitutional rights. The U.S. Constitution's religious freedom clauses actually emerged from devotion to the very principles that I seek to preserve and strengthen in the outcome of the public debate of same-gender marriage."

Remaining true to Interfaith Alliance's broader goals, the paper encourages citizens of diverse backgrounds to find areas of commonality, and to practice civility when engaging in conversations with people who hold different opinions.

"We must move forward in this conversation with appreciation for all Americans and the importance of religious freedom in this country," Gaddy said. "By making this the starting point for the conversation we can begin to have real dialogue and look for resolutions."

Interfaith Alliance Statement On the Senate Passage of the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Prevention Act

Washington, DC - Interfaith Alliance President, Rev. Dr. C. Welton Gaddy, issued the following statement today praising the Senate for passing the Matthew Shepard Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act as an amendment to the Department of Defense Authorization Bill:
Hate is neither a religious nor an American value, and that is why Interfaith Alliance praises the Senate for passing this hate crimes prevention bill. The sacred scriptures of many different faith traditions speak with dramatic unanimity in vehemently condemning hate. If we aspire to be true to the prophetic core of our religions and our American values, we cannot condemn hate and then sit idly by while it destroys the lives of a group of our fellow citizens.

Although they made a lot of noise, only a handful of religious right extremists have opposed this bill. Their strategic attempt to use religion as a scare tactic is deplorable. This legislation in no way will impinge on the rights of clergy to speak freely from the pulpit. Indeed, the legislation specifically states that "nothing in this act shall be construed to prohibit any constitutionally protected speech."

I must point out that our more-than-a-decade-long effort to secure meaningful hate crimes prevention legislation has reached this point before only to be stopped short of enactment for want of the signature of the President of the United States. Even as we applaud the Senate, we urge them to get this legislation to President Obama, and we appeal to him to sign it into law without delay. It is long past due, but this can be the moment for a ringing pronouncement of our democracy's intolerance of hate and the crime it foments.