Interfaith Alliance Calls For Inclusive Day of Prayer In Letter to All Fifty Governors, President Obama
Washignton, DC - In advance of the National Day of Prayer, celebrated this year on Thursday May 1, Rev. Dr. C. Welton Gaddy, the president Interfaith Alliance, sent the following letter to President Obama and the governors of every state. In this letter, Rev. Gaddy called on each of the governors and the President to respect Americans of all faiths, and those of no faith tradition, in their National Day of Prayer celebrations. Interfaith Alliance also cautioned against partnering with the so-called National Day of Prayer Task Force whose events systematically exclude Jews, Muslims, Catholics, Buddhists, Hindus and even some mainline Protestant Christians.
President Barack Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500
April 24, 2014
Dear President Obama,
On behalf of the Interfaith Alliance, an organization committed to defending religious freedom whose members represent more than 75 faith traditions, I am writing to request that you ensure that your observance of the National Day of Prayer is welcoming to clergy and believers of all religions, as well as to those who profess no religion. This celebration, mandated by an act of Congress, has too often been dominated by religious extremists who define religion by exclusion. In a nation already deeply divided, we should work together to make this year's National Day of Prayer, held on May 1, a reflection of both our nation's diversity of religious belief and its commitment to religious freedom. This day presents a great opportunity for us to demonstrate that religion can be a healing and reconciling force in our nation, but I fear that opportunity will be lost if the message of the day is defined by leaders from the religious right working for a Christian Nation. I commend you for the intentional and inclusive way that you have marked this day in the past, and I urge you to do the same this year.
I am compelled to make this request because, several years ago, the National Day of Prayer was taken over by a group of religious exclusivists led by Shirley Dobson of Focus on the Family. Dobson's group calls itself the "official" National Day of Prayer Task Force yet it has no official relationship with the government and it systematically excludes Jews, Muslims, Catholics, Buddhists, Hindus and even some mainline Protestant Christians from National Prayer Day events it conducts around the United States.
Moreover, The National Day of Prayer Task Force requires volunteer coordinators to sign a statement of faith which includes the following language: " I believe that the Holy Bible is the inspired, only, infallible, authoritative Word of The Living God. That there is one God, eternally existent in three persons: Father, Son and Holy Spirit... That for salvation of lost and sinful men and women, regeneration by the Holy Spirit is absolutely essential." Government sanction of the Task Force's work clearly aligns a government-sponsored event with a particular Christian denomination, in violation of the basic provisions of the First Amendment to the Constitution, establishing the separation of church and state.
I respectfully ask that you decline to participate in events sponsored by, or issue a separate proclamation to, the National Day of Prayer Task Force. This group has a record of using proclamations from and the participation of elected officials to raise the status of events in which they discriminate against and exclude clergy who represent faith traditions other than fundamentalist evangelical Christianity.
Indeed, I implore you to use your power of proclamation on this National Day of Prayer to restore it to what President Harry Truman intended when he signed it into law in 1952. Use your proclamation to bring together Americans of every religion and no religion, to express their faith in whatever way is appropriate for them. I urge you to issue a single proclamation for the day that calls for an inclusive National Day of Prayer that reflects our nation's rich tradition of religious pluralism by explicitly inviting clergy from diverse faith traditions to participate equally and fully -- especially in events held on government property.
Rev. Dr. C. Welton Gaddy
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."