Statement of Rev. Dr. C. Welton Gaddy on the Death of Rev. Jerry Falwell
On behalf of The Interfaith Alliance, I want to extend our condolences to Rev. Jerry Falwell’s family, congregation, and university community. I had the opportunity to debate Rev. Falwell many times. Although we did not see eye to eye, he was a formidable spokesman for his point of view. We shared a fierce patriotism and strong beliefs about the importance of religion in politics, which took different paths. In life we all have allies and opponents, and we can learn from both. Rev. Falwell challenged my beliefs and forced me to reevaluate and reaffirm them. Though we often disagreed, I never wished to silence his voice. The debate about the role of religion in government is one that our nation should always have.
Rev. Gaddy is in
Jehovah’s Witnesses: Unlikely Ally of Religious Liberty
Jehovah’s Witnesses consider themselves Christians and hold conservative positions on social issues like abortion and gay marriage, but they are not like most members of the Religious Right. Although they spread their message door-to-door, Witnesses do not believe in using the coercive power of government to impose their beliefs on the rest of society.
“It is an interesting way how a group can exercise the First Amendment, and free speech and say a message on your doorstep. But if you don't agree with that, it ends there,” says Engardio. “They don't go behind your back and amend the Constitution or legislate their beliefs and force you to live a certain way, which some other religions try to do. To me it is an interesting way in how personal freedom and religious liberty can peacefully coexist.”
Although they are apolitical, Jehovah’s Witnesses often initiate litigation to protect free speech and the separation of church and state. They base this activism on the precedent set by
For example, Jehovah’s Witnesses brought a case before the Supreme Court protesting a
Engardio tells Rev. Gaddy that people do not need to feel afraid of Jehovah’s Witnesses. “If you are a gay man or a woman seeking the right to choose your reproductive freedom, the Witnesses may not agree with you, but they are not a threat,” he says. “They're only speaking a message on your doorstep. But they have fought for the right for all of us to speak a message on any doorstep.”
Also on the show: Professor Susan Friend Harding, author of The Book of Jerry Falwell: Fundamentalist Language and Politics; Journalist Jeff Sharlett.
State of Belief Radio Program Expands Reach
Washington, D.C. –State of Belief, The Interfaith Alliance Foundation's show on Air America Radio, is adding new affiliates, changing its time to appeal to a wider audience and adding a rebroadcast. The show will now be on the air from 10:00 to 11:00 AM EST on Saturday with a rebroadcast on Sunday at 7:00 to 8:00 PM EST on Sunday.
State of Belief is also adding several new affiliates, which will stretch the broadcast from coast to coast. The new affiliates include WWRC 1260 AM in Washington, D.C. and KTLK 1150 AM in Los Angeles.
"I can't tell you how excited I am that State of Belief is expanding its reach," said host and Interfaith Alliance President Rev. Welton Gaddy. "Our new time and new affiliates provide a great opportunity to reach many more listeners. I know that once more people have the chance to hear our show, they will become devoted listeners."
Preserving the Sanctity of Religion and the Autonomy of Houses of Worship
Washington, D.C. –Today the Interfaith Alliance sent an open letter to all 18 presidential candidates urging them to respect the proper relationship between political campaigns and houses of worship. Rev. Dr. C. Welton Gaddy, President of the Interfaith Alliance, wrote the letter in response to two candidates, Senators Obama and Clinton, launching sections of their campaign websites designed to recruit people of faith.
While there is an important and appropriate role for faith to play in public life, outreach to faith communities presents a unique set of challenges for both candidates and religious leaders. For example, many religious leaders have endorsed Senators Clinton and Obama on their websites. However, IRS tax law prevents them from making endorsements from the pulpit. Candidates are allowed to speak at religious services, but candidates should not distribute partisan literature at a house of worship.
The Interfaith Alliance believes that playing a proactive role in educating the candidates will keep both candidates and houses of worship from encountering problems as the 2008 race for the White House develops. The open letter reads as follows:
TO: Campaign Managers
RE: Partisan Politics and Preserving the Sanctity of Religion and the Autonomy of Houses of Worship
The recent rush of candidates and their often aggressive tactics to reach out to "people of faith" lures religious organizations and religious leaders into dangerous legal territory.
I write you today out of concern for religion and what the manipulation of religion for political gain is doing to Americans of all faith traditions.
The Interfaith Alliance believes it is important that religious leaders encourage their worshippers to cast informed votes in every election, including the 2008 presidential primaries which are well underway at this early date. Houses of worship are permitted by the IRS – and encouraged by The Interfaith Alliance –to provide nonpartisan information to worshippers on a broad range of issues and to encourage civic participation and hold non-partisan voter registrations.
But when candidates and their supporters use the language of faith to advance partisan political interests, or when they seek to emphasize their beliefs as the only truth, Americans and our houses of worship become deeply divided.
For the sake of religion's prophetic voice, The Interfaith Alliance urges you to carefully consider the following recommendations about candidates' interaction with houses of worship and faith groups:
1. A candidate should refrain from speaking from the pulpit, bema or lectern;
2. A candidate should refrain from using sanctuaries or houses of worship as backdrops for campaign ads;
3. A candidate should refrain from collecting and/or using congregational membership directories;
4. A candidate should refrain from organizing congregants or distributing partisan material inside a house of worship.
People of faith are more than just a special-interest group. Campaign efforts that treat them as just another constituency to be organized and managed, to be checked off a staffer's list, ignore the important and powerful role that religion plays in American life. Show respect for religion – and for its leaders and practitioners – by keeping politics out of the pulpit and the pulpit out of politics.
I am happy to make myself or any member of The Interfaith Alliance available to you for further discussion on these important matters.
Rev. Dr. C. Welton Gaddy
President, The Interfaith Alliance
Pastor for Preaching and Worship, Northminster (Baptist) Church (Monroe, LA)
Rev. Welton Gaddy Scolds President on Dobson Visit on Iraq
Addressing Bush directly, Rev. Gaddy says, “Frankly, the whole thing reminds me of your meeting with Pat Robertson back in early 2003 where you reportedly got Pat to jump on board with your plans to invade Iraq by suggesting …the whole thing would qualify as one of American’s finest moral hours,” said Rev. Gaddy.
This combination of religion and politics is especially dangerous because many Religious Right leaders hold a literal interpretation of the Apocalypse: that a conflict in the
Rev. Gaddy tells the president needs to face the facts: “With only a year and a half left in your term, the days of drumming up support for a gay marriage amendment and right-wing judges on our courts are over. Your priority for the final 19 months is one that the American people overwhelmingly oppose. Your decision to continue along this course is your own. But your attempt to create an army of supporters by turning this into a religious message is a decision that smacks of desperation… and reeks of dishonesty.”
Also on the show: Rev. Susan Russell, president of Integrity, a coalition of gay and lesbian Episcopalians; Joe Mackall, author of Plain Secrets: An Outsider Among the Amish; Rev. Jim Burklo of the Center for Progressive Christianity and national coordinator of Pluralism Sunday.