Diverse Organizations Urge Inclusion of Ban Against Religious Profiling in Immigration Reform Bill
As leaders of organizations that advocate for religious freedom for all, we urge the Senate to support the inclusion of religion and national origin in the immigration reform bill’s prohibition against profiling by law enforcement. As written, the bill omits these categories, prohibiting profiling based only on race and ethnicity. This glaring loophole must be closed.
By omitting religion and national origin in this manner, Congress would effectively give law enforcement the go-ahead to target Americans based on these defining characteristics. This is particularly true since other sections of this very bill prohibit discrimination based on religion, as do countless civil rights laws, always alongside race, ethnicity and national origin, leading to the inference that such an omission is intentional.
We appreciate that most law enforcement officials discharge their duties honorably. Yet, when law enforcement profiles individuals based solely on their real or perceived religion, it undermines our nation’s commitment to religious liberty and equal protection of the law—not to mention our security. Furthermore, such actions not only have the effect of discriminating against religion generally and religious minorities in particular, but also fuel divisiveness by casting suspicion over an entire religious community. We applaud Sen. Mazie Hirono’s proposed amendment to correct this egregious oversight and we urge her fellow senators to support this amendment.
Rev. Dr. C. Welton Gaddy
President, Interfaith Alliance
Nancy K. Kaufman
Chief Executive Officer, National Council of Jewish Women
Rabbi David Saperstein
Director and Counsel, Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism
Rev. J. Brent Walker
Executive Director, Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty
Interfaith Alliance Relieved by LA Supreme Court Decision on School Voucher Program
WASHINGTON — Having previously signed a joint amicus brief challenging the Louisiana school voucher program recently signed into law by Governor Bobby Jindal, Interfaith Alliance expressed relief at the state supreme court’s decision overturning the method of funding for the voucher program as unconstitutional. Rev. Dr. C. Welton Gaddy, who has been an outspoken critic of the voucher scheme both as president of Interfaith Alliance and in his capacity of Pastor for Preaching and Worship of Northminster (Baptist) Church in Monroe, La. Rev. Gaddy issued the following statement:
"I am relieved that the Louisiana Supreme Court overturned our state’s school voucher program which diverts taxpayer dollars from public schools to private schools—the vast majority of which are religious in nature."
"Most, if not all private religious schools are governed by theology both in the general operations of the school and the development of course curricula. Funding, participating in, and sending our children to religious education programs is the right and responsibility of faith communities, clergy, and parents as they see fit—not of our government. Every American also has an equal right to choose not to fund or participate in religious education."
"I have little doubt that our legislators and governor will attempt to circumvent this ruling and find new methods to keep the voucher program funded. But they should have little doubt that I—and other Louisianans who value religious liberty—will continue to fight these programs."
Interfaith Alliance Celebrates Marriage Equality in Rhode Island
WASHINGTON - Interfaith Alliance President Rev. Dr. C. Welton Gaddy issued the following statement celebrating the legalization of same-gender marriage in Rhode Island and now all of New England:
I congratulate Rhode Island on becoming the tenth state in our nation to grant marriage equality to all couples and to recognize that our civil laws on marriage cannot continue to be based on one theological perspective of who can or should be allowed to marry. Given our nation's constitutional commitment to religious freedom, nothing in Rhode Island’s enactment of marriage equality will deprive anyone of the right to practice the teachings of their respective religious institutions.
Though I am pleased legislators take protecting religious freedom seriously, the implicit message that continues to be sent by religious exemptions in such legislation is that the First Amendment does not already provide adequate protections for religious freedom – I believe that it does. Ensuring the civil rights of the LGBT community and respecting religious freedom for all persons are not mutually exclusive. It is a victory for equality and for religious liberty when our leaders act to correct public policies shaped by some groups’ religious convictions.
Interfaith Alliance Concerned by David Barton’s Invitation to Military Prayer Breakfast
May 1, 2013
The Honorable Chuck Hagel
Secretary of Defense
1000 Defense Pentagon
Washington, DC 20301-1000
Dear Secretary Hagel:
I write with great concern over the invitation of David Barton to speak at Fort Leonard Wood’s National Day of Prayer breakfast and to ask that he be disinvited from this event. I know that our colleagues at Military Religious Freedom Foundation and Americans United for Separation of Church and State have raised their concerns as well and we agree that Barton’s invitation should be rescinded. When government actors like military chaplains organize prayer events, it is imperative that they—and their guest speakers—be inclusive and non-sectarian. David Barton does not meet these criteria.
Inviting David Barton is a step backward in the process of creating a greater climate of religious respect in our military. He is a lightning rod, a leader of the movement of a vocal minority of Americans who have made it their life’s work to promulgate the (false) notion that ours is a “Christian nation.” Barton’s divisive message—that some American religious groups are entitled to more religious freedom than others—is the antithesis of what should be the message of such interfaith gatherings. His work and writings are prime examples of part of the stated theme of this year’s breakfast “why history matters,” but sadly, they are prime examples of why so much work must be done to dispel such faulty historical analysis.
For me, the issues at the center of this controversy are not so much what is legal, but what is wise. Generally speaking, government-sponsored prayer breakfasts (much like the National Day of Prayer itself) are rife for entanglement between the institutions of religion and government and of great concern to Interfaith Alliance. While I fervently believe that calls to prayer are best left to religious leaders and should not be facilitated in any way by government entities, if events such as these take place, it is paramount that they be inclusive of all religions and no specific religion. Even exceptional efforts should be made to ensure both the substance and appearance of inclusion. I wish that the chosen guest speaker had been someone who unites, instead of divides.
I am also concerned that even when attendance at events such as these is neither mandatory, nor necessarily even encouraged, a subtle and implicit coercion to attend and the stigma that accompanies not attending, are often abundantly clear to the would-be naysayer, thereby creating a de facto sense of forced attendance. It is crucial to ensure that service members are able to practice their faith—if they so choose—while serving our country and that no service member is pressured either to practice a particular faith in general, or to do so in a manner inconsistent with his or her beliefs. Our armed forces should reflect and respect the rich diversity of religious belief in America—not lift up the unfortunate divisiveness that can exist between religious perspectives.
Again, I urge that David Barton be disinvited from speaking at the Fort Leonard Wood National Day of Prayer breakfast. Thank you for consideration.
C. Welton Gaddy
Cc: Brigadier General Mark S. Inch
Interfaith Alliance President Welton Gaddy on the Passing of Rev. Bob Edgar
WASHINGTON, DC – On behalf of its members, board of directors and staff, Interfaith Alliance president Rev. Dr. C. Welton Gaddy released the following statement on the death of Rev. Bob Edgar, who was a strong ally in the organization's work to protect religious freedom.
It is with profound sadness and shock that I learned of the death of Rev. Bob Edgar, a dear friend of mine, an avid supporter of Interfaith Alliance, president of Common Cause, former General Secretary of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the USA, and a former member of Congress.
Bob has been one of most consistent and loudest cheerleaders for the work of Interfaith Alliance. And, he has been a close personal friend with whom private conversations were always valuable. Less than a week ago in a meeting at the Aspen Institute I teased Bob about his puns and jokes, but I admired the fact that I never once heard him stop hoping or saw him without a smile on his face. Standing on the sidewalk around Dupont Circle last week, Bob and I talked for a long time about our work and concerns. We spoke seriously about the personal cost involved in our commitment to the kind of unrelenting activity required in trying to make our country a better, more secure, and more caring place to live. We both agreed the toll it took was worth it because of the passion we had for our work
Bob Edgar will be missed by many of us who now, far too soon, grieve his death and who always will be grateful for his life.
Please enjoy this compelling interview Welton had with Bob in Vietnam in 2011.