Interfaith Alliance denounces the tragic shooting in Overland Park, Kansas
Washington, DC – Interfaith Alliance president Rev. Dr. C. Welton Gaddy issued the following statement today after the tragic shootings at the Jewish Community Center of Greater Kansas City and the Village Shalom assisted living community.
“Murder has no place on the American landscape. However, murders perpetrated on a religious community preparing for a celebration of deliverance and life is especially repulsive. With the details of the shooting Sunday at a Jewish Community Center and assisted living community in Overland Park, Kansas are starting to become tragically clear, we know immediately that such shootings cannot continue at regular intervals in the neighborhoods on our land. Schools, movie theaters, public gathering places, houses of worship, and now two local Jewish community institutions – these should be safe havens where people can gather without fear, and certainly without fear of being shot. Tragically, we also know that this is just the latest of what will be thousands of gun deaths that take place in the United States this year. I borrow words and emotions from the Hebrew prophet who cried, ‘How long?’ How long, America, will we let such killings happen? The insensitive, careless, and cowardly failure of Congress to deal with this issue cannot continue.”
“Evidence points to the sad likelihood that the murders that occurred yesterday in Kansas may have been an act of anti-Semitism, reminding us once more that despite the progress we made passing anti-hate crime legislation, there is still much work to be done to eliminate the culture of hate that is far to often at the root of such tragedy.”
Interfaith Alliance Deeply Concerned By Mississippi Religious Freedom Bill
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Following Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant’s decision to sign the Mississippi Religious Freedom Restoration Act, Interfaith Alliance president Rev. Dr. C. Welton Gaddy released the following statement:
Governor Phil Bryant’s decision to sign the so-called Mississippi Religious Freedom Restoration Act is extremely troubling and dangerous for religious communities and religious freedom in the United States. While I commend his desire to take decisive action to protect the First Amendment rights of Mississippians, this bill – a gross distortion of the American promise of religious freedom – will do far more to hurt that cause in the long run.
Sadly, I fear that the Mississippi Religious Freedom Restoration Act is an attempt to codify discrimination. Even with the improvements made to the bill during the debate in the state legislature, it remains a dangerous conflation of legitimate religious liberty concerns with a radical attempt to legitimize discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Mississippians and many others. This law will do more to separate and isolate Mississippi’s religious communities than it will to bring all Mississippians together. I hope that the people of Mississippi quickly realize the error their leaders have made and work swiftly to repeal this law.
Yet another state’s decision reminds us of the lack of comprehensive understanding of religious freedom as defined by the Constitution. Religious freedom and equality for the LGBT community need not jeopardize each other, and religious freedom claims should never negate the Constitution’s guarantee of civil rights. Not only Mississippi, but clearly our entire nation, needs a new education of the constitutional meaning of this first freedom.
Interfaith Alliance Calls on Supreme Court to Uphold Contraception Mandate and Traditional View of Religious Freedom
WASHINGTON – In response to today’s Supreme Court arguments in Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Woods cases, Interfaith Alliance president, Rev. Dr. C. Welton Gaddy, expressed hope for a court ruling for what he considers “the more traditional” view of religious liberty, saying:
“Unfortunately, some people in the faith community have taken a shortsighted approach to religious freedom over the last few years in an attempt to turn the first amendment into a free pass to opt-out from any public policy with which they do not agree. This misguided approach has been used as a battering ram against marriage equality, tax law and – in this case – the Affordable Care Act’s contraception mandate."
"Hopefully, the Court will rule for what I consider the more traditional, and dare I say more conservative, view of religious liberty. That decision could prompt a return to a saner debate on these issues. The First Amendment should be understood as it always has been: a guaranteed protection for the rights of religious minorities and unshakable assurance that one’s religion does not define one’s relationship to the government. Gone, I pray, would be attempts to use religion to create a private right to discriminate or the ability to opt out of laws that one finds unsavory. The age of so-called ‘conscience clauses’ and the over-broad religious exemption would finally begin to wane.”
Interfaith Alliance Calls on Governor Brewer to Veto Anti-Gay Bill
WASHINGTON, D.C. – In response to the passage of SB 1062 in the Arizona State Legislature, Interfaith Alliance president, Rev. Dr. C. Welton Gaddy, released the following statement urging Governor Brewer to veto the bill:
"As an American citizen, a Christian pastor, an interfaith leader and a devoted supporter of civil rights for all people, I am deeply pained by the recent passage of Senate Bill 1062 in the Arizona State Legislature. I am offended that this piece of legislation – which gives broad license to individuals and private businesses to deny services and discriminate against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals – has been peddled as an act of religious freedom. In truth, it is a gross distortion of the principles of religious freedom that have made our nation great.
The Interfaith Alliance has long championed the promise of the First Amendment: that the religious rights of individuals will always be protected and that no religious doctrine shall ever be established as law. Though supporters of SB 1062 seek to camouflage this act as a means of supporting religious freedom, responsible citizens must see it for the dangerous development that it is. The provisions of this bill have no basis in the long history of the First Amendment and its passage would only serve as a regressive decision, endangering the constitutional rights of Arizona’s LGBT residents. I hope that religious leaders across the nation will make it clear that legislation like this has no place in the religious traditions it purports to protect. The fact that its supporters are using faith to justify discrimination is antithetical to any religious tradition of which I am aware.
Sadly, similar developments in state legislatures from Ohio to South Dakota, as well as a recent speech on religious liberty by Republican presidential hopeful Governor Bobby Jindal, demonstrate that this abuse of religious freedom extends far beyond Arizona. Such state actions threaten the integrity of our nation’s constitutional guarantee of civil rights for all people, not to mention the constitution’s protection of religious liberty from prostitution by people seeking to use legislation to establish their particular sectarian views. I call on Governor Jan Brewer to veto this hateful bill in order to protect the rights of LGBT Arizonans and to restore a measure of sanity to the religious freedom debate in America."
Interfaith Alliance Installs Helio Fred Garcia as New Chair of Board Of Directors
WASHINGTON – Interfaith Alliance announced today that Helio Fred Garcia was installed as the new chair of its board of directors at a board meeting earlier this month. Garcia, who has been a member of the board for 7 years, is a highly respected communications consultant and author, most recently of The Power of Communication: Skills to Build Trust, Inspire Loyalty, and Lead Effectively. An active member of All Souls Unitarian Universalist Church in New York City, Garcia has been a passionate advocate for religious freedom, interfaith understanding and protecting the boundaries between religion and government.
Interfaith Alliance President Rev. Dr. C. Welton Gaddy praised the selection of Garcia, saying, “Fred has been a friend and an ally in our work protecting religious freedom for many years. His longtime involvement in interfaith dialogue will be an immeasurable asset to Interfaith Alliance, as will his deep understanding of organizational communication and governance.”
In addition to his role at Interfaith Alliance, Garcia is president of the crisis management firm Logos Consulting Group and executive director of the Logos Institute for Crisis Management & Executive Leadership. He also serves as chair of the board of trustees of the Starr King School for the Ministry, in Berkeley, Calif., and he is an international trustee of the World Conference of Religions for Peace. Garcia has been an adjunct professor at New York University for the last 26 years and also frequently serves as a guest lecturer at the Wharton School of Business of the University of Pennsylvania.
Garcia said, “It is an honor to take on a leadership role at Interfaith Alliance and to work with my friend Rev. Welton Gaddy as we continue our critical work protecting religious freedom for all Americans regardless of their faith or beliefs. It has become increasingly clear that some in this country are seeking to change the definition of religious freedom to protect only a narrow sectarian view. My goal is to help Interfaith Alliance to hold the line against those efforts, and to help further fulfill its mission of promoting policies that protect both religion and democracy, and uniting diverse voices to challenge extremism..”
Garcia succeeds Amber Khan who has been the chair of Interfaith Alliance’s board since 2012. A former member of the Interfaith Alliance staff, Khan was the first Muslim-American to lead the board. In stepping down, she said, “Interfaith Alliance is a movement to engage diverse people of faith in our nation to protect religious liberty and freedom and challenge the politics of division. That work is no less important today than it was when I first joined the organization nearly 18 years ago. Fred Garcia is a great leader who well help position this organization for success in the years to come.”
Past chairs of Interfaith Alliance Foundation and its partner organization Interfaith Alliance, Inc., include Denise Davidoff, Rabbi Jack Moline, Rev. Dr. Galen Guengerich, Alex Forger, The Rt. Rev. Jane Holmes Dixon, Rev. Albert Pennybacker, The Rev. Dr. Gwynne Guibord, Rev. Philip Wogaman, Arun Gandhi, and founding chair, Dr. Herbert Valentine.
Garcia lives in New York with his wife, Laurel Garcia Colvin. They have two daughters.