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.
Interfaith Alliance Mourns the Passing of Nelson Mandela
Interfaith Alliance president Rev. Dr. C. Welton Gaddy issued the following statement on the passing of Nelson Mandela.
"Nelson Mandela was a citizen of the world and a hero to all who cherish freedom. For people who care about social change, racial justice and equal rights, and for all those who hope for a better future, Mandela embodied the quiet courage, the confident patience, and the passionate persistence needed for such work. This remarkable leader humbly projected a seldom seen propensity for being able to alter ugly reality through the simple, though never easy, practice of forgiveness."
"As someone who committed my life to the struggle for justice her in America, I watched while Nelson Mandela was fighting for his people’s rights and freedom in South Africa, and I took great inspiration from him."
"Nelson Mandela has been unique among humankind. Indisputably, he was the kind of individual who comes along maybe once in a century. With profound compassion and a soft voice of comfort, Mandela informed us, challenged us, inspired us, and demonstrated for us how best to change the world. It is an honor and a source of gratitude simply to have been able to live as a contemporary of this moral giant and learn the ways of wisdom."
"He continues to inspire me as he does countless others around the world. His legacy will not only be remembered for generations to come, it will be a call to action for all that share his commitment to justice and freedom."
Interfaith Alliance Responds to SCOTUS Cert in Contraception Challenges
WASHINGTON – In response to the Supreme Court of the United States granting writs of certiorari in cases challenging the contraceptive coverage requirement of the Affordable Care Act on religious liberty grounds, Interfaith Alliance President Rev. Dr. C. Welton Gaddy issued the following statement. Interfaith Alliance has joined friend-of-the-court briefs in these cases at the lower levels of court proceedings.
The issues at stake in the Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood cases strike at the core of our national debate over the meaning of religious liberty today. The private, for-profit companies that are challenging the contraception benefit of the Affordable Care Act claim to do so on religious liberty grounds. To be certain, there are times when religious organizations and individuals should receive exemptions and accommodations from certain laws—but that’s not the case here. These exemptions must be appropriately tailored for the sake of lifting an actual substantial burden on religious exercise, not for the sake of denying services and rights to others.
These cases are part of a growing and dangerous trend in our nation in which the meaning of religious freedom is being co-opted, turned into the freedom to use religion to discriminate and deny the rights of our fellow citizens. This could not be further from the true meaning of the religious liberty upon which our nation was founded. The religious liberty that is the foundation of our nation does not mean bosses have the right to impose their religious beliefs on their employees. Nor does this freedom mean that bosses have the right to use their personal religious beliefs to deny their employees necessary medical services.
Those who support or are still on the fence about these exemptions from women's health care coverage, I hope you will ask yourself this: if a religious liberty based justification was being requested by another religion, one with which you disagree, on a different issue, one which you adamantly oppose, would you still favor the exemption?
Interfaith Alliance Celebrates Marriage Equality in Hawaii and Illinois
WASHINGTON – Interfaith Alliance President Rev. Dr. C. Welton Gaddy issued the following statement celebrating the growing trend of same-gender marriage legalization:
"It is thrilling to watch the wave of states enacting marriage equality laws continue to move across the nation, with Hawaii and Illinois being the latest states to do so. Hawaii and Illinois join fourteen other states and the District of Columbia 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."
"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 that are supported only by some groups’ religious convictions."