Interfaith Alliance, Sikh Coalition File Brief Arguing NYPD Surveillance Jeopardizes Religious Freedom
WASHINGTON – Today Interfaith Alliance and Sikh Coalition filed an amicus brief in the case Hassan v. City of New York, which is before the Third Circuit Court of Appeals. The case concerns the New York Police Department’s program of targeted surveillance against Muslims, Muslim community centers and houses of worship in New Jersey. The Sikh Coalition and Interfaith Alliance assert that this program raises serious First Amendment concerns and jeopardizes America’s promise of religious freedom. Interfaith Alliance and Sikh Coalition were joined in filing the brief by more than 20 other organizations representing America’s wide spectrum of religious backgrounds.
“The targeting and surveillance of the American Muslim community should be deeply disturbing for all those who cherish religious liberty.” Said Rev. Dr. C. Welton Gaddy, president of Interfaith Alliance. “Our religious exercise cannot truly be free if we are concerned that our choices are being carefully monitored. Our houses of worship cannot be places of learning and spiritual growth when there is a credible fear that they may be infiltrated by law enforcement. Our religious leaders cannot serve as the prophetic voices that have shaped America for generations when they are punished or intimidated because of their beliefs.”
“Imagine worshipping while wondering if law enforcement is peering over your shoulder,” said, Amardeep Singh, Program Director of the Sikh Coalition. “The surveillance of a whole community without regard for individual culpability is the definition of ‘collective punishment.’ If it can happen to the American Muslim community it can happen to any faith community. We hope the courts will agree that our values and freedoms as a nation are irretrievably compromised by the overbroad surveillance in this case.”
Interfaith Alliance, a national organization whose membership makes up over 75 different faith traditions, works to combat religious discrimination and to defend the religious freedom of all Americans. The Sikh Coalition is the nation’s largest Sikh civil rights organization.
The full brief can be found here: http://www.muslimadvocates.org/files/Hassan-_-Religious-Liberty-Brief.pdf
Interfaith Alliance Says the Supreme Court Made a Grave Error in Hobby Lobby Decision
WASHINGTON -- Interfaith Alliance president Rev. Dr. C. Welton Gaddy called today’s U.S. Supreme Court decision in Hobby Lobby Stores and Conestoga Wood Specialties Corp v. Sebelius a “grave error” and raised serious concerns about its impact on our understanding of religious freedom. Interfaith Alliance has been a longtime advocate for religious freedom and joined with other religious groups in filing a friend of the court brief asking the court to rule against the owners of for-profit private corporations that want to deny their employees access to birth control:
"The Supreme Court made a grave error today. The balance between religious freedom and other compelling interests has always been tenuous, but we may very well remember today’s decision as the moment that balance was radically recalibrated. Not only has the Court, for the first time in history, expanded the definition of religious freedom to include for-profit corporate entities, it has determined that the free exercise of those employers outweighs that of their employees. The First Amendment is at its best when it is used to protect the rights of minorities from the whims of the powerful. Today’s decision, which gives the powerful the right to force their religious beliefs on those around them, is a far cry from the best traditions of religious freedom."
"There are many questions that have been left unanswered in this decision that will further imperil our historic understanding of religious freedom. Chief among them is the Court determining that all corporations are covered under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which indicates that this decision could eventually move beyond closely held corporations. Additionally, the Court may have only ruled on the contraception mandate today, but there is no reason to believe the implications of this decision will be limited to that issue."
"I find strength in knowing that we have lost at the Court before and that religious freedom has not been so easily shaken. We will find a way, through legal action and through legislation, to repair the damage that was done to our democracy today."
Interfaith Alliance Celebrates Marriage Equality Victory in 10th Circuit Court
WASHINGTON - In response to today’s ruling from the 10th Circuit Court in Kitchen v. Herbert – the first federal circuit court decision striking down a same-sex marriage ban since last year’s victory in United States v. Windsor -- Rev. Dr. C. Welton Gaddy, president of Interfaith Alliance, released the following statement:
"The 10th Circuit’s decision in Kitchen v. Herbert is a critical milestone in the growing chain of victories that marriage equality and religious freedom have seen in federal courts over the past year. Interfaith Alliance has argued for many years that marriage equality, and full equality for the LGBT community, is the only just course that our nation can take. Today’s decision affirms that this should not be merely our moral conviction, but our legal consensus as well. As we argued in an amicus brief before the 10th Circuit in this case, full marriage equality is the only way to safeguard the rights of the LGBT community and the free exercise and equal protection of all religious denominations in America. It is my deepest prayer that today’s decision hastens action from every branch of our government to bring marriage equality to every part of this nation."
Interfaith Alliance Applauds Executive Order to Curtail LGBT Discrimination, Urges Against Religious Exemption
WASHINGTON – Interfaith Alliance president Rev. Dr. C. Welton Gaddy issued the following statement today in response to President Obama’s announcement of plans to sign an Executive Order barring discrimination by federal contractors on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity:
"I am deeply grateful that President Obama has decided, today, to move forward with plans to enact an Executive Order protecting the freedom of our LGBT brothers and sisters to work for federal contractors. This policy is long overdue. For years Interfaith Alliance has urged the president to protect LGBT workers through executive action, just as we have tirelessly urged Congress to enact non-discrimination legislation. While Congress continues to neglect its duty, I am overjoyed to witness this decisive action toward ensuring all Americans the God-given right to be treated with dignity and respect in workplace."
"We look forward to working with the president to see that this Executive Order is the most comprehensive policy possible. The tenet that religion should never be legitimated as a license to discriminate remains our core belief; that federal money must never be used to fund such discrimination must remain the bedrock of religious freedom in America. It is my sincerest hope that the president will heed this principle as he considers the contours of his forthcoming executive action."
Interfaith Alliance President Rev. Dr. C. Welton Gaddy Announces his Retirement
After 16 years, Rev. Gaddy will step down at the end of 2014
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Rev. Dr. C. Welton Gaddy announced today that he will step down as president of Interfaith Alliance at the end of 2014. Rev. Gaddy, who has led the organization since 1998, transformed Interfaith Alliance into a respected voice on religious freedom, and a leading advocate for protecting the boundaries between religion and government. His leadership of Interfaith Alliance is the culmination of a career in ministry that stretches back more than five decades. Interfaith Alliance’s Board of Directors has already launched the search for Rev. Gaddy’s successor who will inherit an organization strongly positioned to take on challenges to the historic understanding of religious freedom.
“It has been an honor and a privilege to lead Interfaith Alliance over the last 16 years as we have fought back against efforts to redefine religious freedom based on a narrow sectarian view,” said Rev. Gaddy. “Our work is not done – my work is not done – but it is time for a new leader to take up the mantel and continue to represent the millions of Americans who understand that religious freedom – our first freedom – is a foundation of our democracy that needs protection, but also understand that it is not meant to be an opt-out for any public policy with which one might disagree.”
In addition to his work at Interfaith Alliance, Rev. Gaddy is the Senior Pastor of Northminster Baptist Church in Monroe, Louisiana, and the host of State of Belief Radio. He currently serves on the Religious Advisory Committee of the Council on Foreign Relations and is a past member of President Barrack Obama’s Task Force on Reform of the Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, as well as the World Economic Forum’s Council of 100 leaders.
“Welton is a powerful and compassionate voice for all of us who care about the role of faith in America,” said Helio Fred Garcia, chair of the Interfaith Alliance Board of Directors. “We are so grateful for the many years of service Welton has given this organization, and with his help during this transition, Interfaith Alliance will continue protecting religious freedom. Working with the rest of the board, we are in the process of identifying candidates to lead Interfaith Alliance into the future.”
Born in Paris, Tennessee, Rev. Gaddy received his Bachelor of Arts from Union University in Jackson, Tennessee, before going on to the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky, where he received his master’s in theology in 1968 and his Ph.D. in 1970. Rev. Gaddy held pulpits and teaching positions across the southern United States before becoming a member of the Executive Committee of the Southern Baptist Convention. He left the SBC in the early 1980’s as it took a drastic turn to the right. Going forward, he aligned himself with the Alliance of Baptists, which he helped found, and eventually serving as the president of its board. Rev. Gaddy increasingly focused his ministry on the relationship between faith and public life. He joined the board of Americans United for Separation of Church and State and served as its president before leaving to lead Interfaith Alliance.
Since taking over Interfaith Alliance, Rev. Gaddy enabled the organization to become the leading non-partisan advocacy organization aimed at protecting religious freedom. During his sixteen-year tenure, Rev. Gaddy helped shape the way government and faith work with each other, and helped advance public policies that protect religious freedom for all Americans regardless of their faith or religious tradition. The highlights of his tenure include:
- Exposing the errors and dangers of the Christian Coalition and local houses of worship distributing candidate scorecards on the Sunday prior to national elections. Ultimately, Interfaith Alliance introduced Election Guides for candidates and houses of worship in order to educate them on what they can and cannot do during election seasons.
- Strongly opposing efforts to change the IRS regulation that prohibits houses of worship from endorsing political candidates. Rev. Gaddy highlighted the fact that when candidates seek endorsements from faith leaders, it serves only to help the candidate and does nothing to strengthen faith, and in reality, often causes harm.
- Projecting a representation of faith in the media that differs from the divisive and sectarian views of the “religious right.” In addition to hosting State of Belief Radio, Rev. Gaddy has been a regular source and commentator in the national media.
- Opposing from the start the establishment of a “faith-based office” in the White House and ultimately working to reform the office to bring it more in line with the Constitution.
- Advocating in support of meaningful anti-hate crimes legislation for more than a decade. Rev. Gaddy led Interfaith Alliance’s grassroots efforts to build support for the legislation by holding vigils across the country that drew local and national attention.
- Early and vocal supporter of LGBT rights including marriage equality and employment non-discrimination. Rev. Gaddy authored the defining work: “Same-Gender Marriage and Religious Freedom.”
- Steadfast supporter for the rights of Muslim minorities as anti-Muslim bigotry became a growing problem. Interfaith Alliance co-authored the FAQ guide “What is the Truth about American Muslims?” – a resource aimed at dispelling myths and misconceptions about the Muslim community, a publication endorsed by nearly two dozen faith-based institutions.