Interfaith Alliance brings together 42 groups to tell Rep. Bachmann and her colleagues that their actions have serious implications for religious freedom
Washington, D.C. – Interfaith Alliance today released a letter signed by a broad coalition of 42 groups and sent to Reps. Michele Bachmann, Trent Franks, Louie Gohmert, Thomas Rooney and Lynn Westmoreland to protest their recent letters regarding prominent American Muslim individuals and organizations.
The groups told the representatives that “These letters question the loyalty of faithful Americans based on nothing more than their religious affiliations and what is at best tenuous evidence of their associations. As such, your actions have serious implications for religious freedom and the health of our democracy.”
Interfaith Alliance has been a leader in the fight against anti-Muslim bigotry. The organization’s leaders have met with top government officials including Attorney General Eric Holder and Federal Bureau of Investigation Director Robert Mueller, asking them to combat anti-Muslim bigotry to the fullest extent possible. Last month, Interfaith Alliance sponsored a daylong symposium on American Muslims aimed at dispelling myths and stereotypes.
Rev. Dr. C. Welton Gaddy, president of Interfaith Alliance, said, “I hope that Rep. Bachmann and her colleagues take the time to look at the diverse coalition that has come together to challenge their actions. The groups signing this letter have very different ideas about faith and belief, but we are united in our commitment to religious freedom and will not stand by when anyone’s faith is unfairly demonized.”
July 26, 2012
The Honorable Michele Bachmann
103 Cannon House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515
The Honorable Trent Franks
2435 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515
The Honorable Louie Gohmert
2440 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515
The Honorable Thomas Rooney
1529 Longworth House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515
The Honorable Lynn Westmoreland
2433 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515
Dear Rep. Bachman, Rep. Franks, Rep. Gohmert, Rep. Rooney and Rep. Westmoreland:
The 42 undersigned religious, secular, interfaith, advocacy, legal and community organizations are united by our work to protect religious freedom for all. As such, we write to raise our voices in protest of your recent letters regarding prominent American Muslim individuals and organizations. These letters question the loyalty of faithful Americans based on nothing more than their religious affiliations and what is at best tenuous evidence of their associations. As such, your actions have serious implications for religious freedom and the health of our democracy.
In your open letters to the inspectors general of the Departments of State, Homeland Security, Defense, and Justice, and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, you call for an investigation into individuals and organizations that you claim may have ties to the Muslim Brotherhood. The basis for these claims comes primarily from reports by the Center for Security Policy, known for its consistently anti-Muslim agenda.
Those you accuse—including Ms. Huma Abedin and leaders of the Islamic Society of North America, the Muslim Public Affairs Council, and Muslim Advocates—have long-standing histories of positive and committed work to strengthen the United States of America. Furthermore, we take offense to the implications of your actions for the American Muslim community as a whole, as you give momentum to “guilt by association” accusations and betray our foundational religious freedoms.
Senator John McCain (R-AZ) spoke well of the vision of America jeopardized by your approach when he said: “When anyone, not least a member of Congress, launches specious and degrading attacks against fellow Americans on the basis of nothing more than fear of who they are and ignorance of what they stand for, it defames the spirit of our nation, and we all grow poorer because of it.” More recently, Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI) provided a much-needed reminder about what religious freedom means in the United States: “…the First Amendment prohibits the government from making a distinction between what is a ‘good religion’ and what is a ‘bad religion.’”
Far from supporting the safety of our country, these accusations distract us from examining legitimate threats using proven, evidence-based security strategies. Moreover, we know all too well the danger of casting suspicion on loyal and innocent Americans simply because they hold particular beliefs. We will not stand idly by and allow our country to revive federal investigations into innocent individuals based on their religious adherence. We will continue to speak out in support of people of all faiths and no faith, and the religious freedom of all Americans to practice—or choose not to practice—a religion without fear of criticism or suspicion.
African American Ministers in Action
American Baptist Churches USA
American Civil Liberties Union
American Humanist Association
Americans United for Separation of Church and State
Atheist Alliance of America
Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty
Catholics for Choice
Center for Inquiry
Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in the United States and Canada
Counselors Helping (South) Asians/Indians, Inc. (CHAI)
Disciples Justice Action Network
Equal Partners in Faith
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Ecumenical and Inter-Religious Relations
Faith in Public Life
Friends Committee on National Legislation
Hindu American Foundation
Military Association of Atheists & Freethinkers
National Council of Jewish Women
New Evangelical Partnership for the Common Good
People for the American Way
Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) Office Of Public Witness
Rabbis for Human Rights-North America
Reconstructionist Rabbinical College
Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice
Secular Coalition for America
Secular Student Alliance
Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund (SALDEF)
Society for Humanistic Judaism
South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT)
The Foundation for Ethnic Understanding
The Jewish Council for Public Affairs
Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations
United Church of Christ
United Methodist Church, General Board of Church and Society
United States Conference of Catholic Bishops
Women's Alliance for Theology, Ethics and Ritual (WATER)
Cc: Mr. Charles K. Edwards, Acting Inspector General, Department of Homeland Security;
Ambassador Harold W. Geisel, Deputy Inspector General, Department of State;
Ms. Lynne M. Halbrooks, Acting Inspector General, Department of Defense;
The Honorable Michael E. Horowitz, Inspector General, Department of Justice;
The Honorable I. Charles McCullough III, Inspector General, Office of the Director of National Intelligence
Interfaith Alliance Statement on the Tragic Shooting in Aurora, Colorado
Washington, D.C. – Interfaith Alliance President Rev. Dr. C. Welton Gaddy issued the following statement on behalf of the board of directors and staff of the organization following the tragic shooting in Aurora, Colorado:
We grieve for those who lost their lives in Aurora, Colorado, today, and our thoughts and prayers are with those who were injured along with the families and friends of all affected. One of the enduring strengths of our nation is our ability, regardless of faith or belief, to come together at times like this to offer comfort to those in need. As I have said after past incidents, we as a nation need to be done forever with the thought that killing settles anything. I pray, this will be the last time I need to offer such thoughts.
Interfaith Alliance expresses disappointment in Bachmann’s anti-Muslim bigotry
Washington, D.C. — Rep. Michele Bachmann recently led a group of Congressman in alleging that high-ranking American Muslim State Department official Huma Abedin, members of her family and several American Muslim organizations are connected with the Muslim Brotherhood and part of a Muslim terrorist conspiracy against the United States. Interfaith Alliance President Rev. Dr. C. Welton Gaddy issued the following statement condemning these claims:
As disheartened as I was to see the letter sent by Rep. Michele Bachmann and her colleagues insinuating that somehow the U.S. government is being infiltrated by Muslim terrorists, I have been pleased to see it resoundingly rejected by people from across the political and religious spectrum. Let's make no mistake, this was a cynical attempt to play to a certain segment of the population by demonizing another, and to me, that is the worst kind of patriotism.
Huma Abedin, by all accounts, has been a dedicated public servant whose commitment to the principles of this nation is beyond reproach. But let's also be clear that her story as an American Muslim is not unique. She is joined by countless others from her faith who work every day to keep us safe and make this a better country for everyone.
The same can be said of the important work being done by groups like the Islamic Society of North America, the Muslim Public Affairs Council, and Muslim Advocates who have been longtime allies of Interfaith Alliance in our efforts to protect religious freedom, and are led by individuals I am proud to call my friends.
We face serious threats from people who want to do our nation harm. Rep. Bachmann should spend her time engaging with people like Ms. Abedin and the groups that represent so many American Muslims rather than trying to score cheap political points by demonizing the Muslim community.
Interfaith Alliance celebrates Welton Gaddy’s 15th anniversary as president by presenting him with 2012 Walter Cronkite Faith & Freedom Award
Mitchell Gold also will be honored with the Interfaith Alliance President’s Award
Washington, D.C. – The chair of the Interfaith Alliance’s board of directors, Amber Khan, announced today that the board has unanimously voted to award the 2012 Walter Cronkite Faith & Freedom Award to Rev. Dr. C. Welton Gaddy in honor of his 15th anniversary as the organization’s leader. 2012 also marks the 15th year of the Cronkite award, named after the organization’s late honorary chairman and renowned CBS news anchor. Mr. Cronkite was an active part of the organization and personally presented the award until his death in 2009. The award ceremony will take place on November 11, 2012, in New York.
Rev. Gaddy is unique among organizational leaders in Washington, D.C. In addition to his full time job leading Interfaith Alliance, he travels back to his home in Monroe, La., every weekend to serve as Pastor for Preaching and Worship at Northminster (Baptist) Church. His experience as a pastor for more than 50 years has informed his understanding of faith in America and the positive role it can play in people’s lives. Rev. Gaddy has travelled across the country and around the world meeting with advocates of religious freedom, working for understanding among people of different faiths, and challenging extremism at home and abroad. Mr. Cronkite once said of Rev. Gaddy, “Personally, I appreciate Welton Gaddy’s courageous leadership of the Interfaith Alliance. He continues to … give people of faith a strong voice of reason in public discussions and media presentations on the issues of the day and the proper role of religion in the life of the nation.”
Khan added, “Welton is a man of deeply held faith and a passionate advocate for religious freedom for everyone. Over the last 15 years, he has established Interfaith Alliance as a strong voice for people of different faiths and beliefs who want to protect a principle at the very foundation of our democracy.”
Interfaith Alliance also announced that Mitchell Gold will receive the organization’s President’s Award. Gold, the chairman of Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams, has been a longtime advocate for religious freedom and a supporter of Interfaith Alliance. He is also a founder of Faith in America, an organization dedicated to combating religious-based bigotry aimed at the LGBT community.
“Mitchell’s commitment to equality for all has been an inspiration to everyone who shares his vision for a more accepting world,” said Khan.
This year’s dinner will be held on Sunday, November 11, in New York City. The chair of the event is Helio Fred Garcia, the president of the Logos Consulting Group, and the vice chair is Jacob Worenklein, a partner at Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld. Both are members of the Interfaith Alliance Board.
“It has been an honor to work at Welton’s side and see his unique ability to bring together people of different faiths and beliefs for the common purpose of protecting religious freedom,” said Garcia.
“The work being done by Interfaith Alliance is as critical today as it was when Rev. Gaddy first started,” said Worenklein.
The Walter Cronkite Faith & Freedom Award, established by Interfaith Alliance in 1998, recognizes individuals who courageously promote democratic values, defend religious freedom and reinvigorate informed civic participation. The award recognizes individuals whose actions have embodied the values of civility, tolerance, diversity and cooperation in the advancement of public dialogue and public policy on traditionally controversial and divisive issues.
Rev. Joan Brown Campbell, one of the founders of Interfaith Alliance and a 2010 Cronkite Award recipient, said, “Welton's gift to Interfaith Alliance is his commitment to interfaith harmony. His respect for every faith is rooted in his own deep faith. He has given of himself and his talents to bring about a world where peace and justice are the order of every day, in every heart. Welton Gaddy shares the values of truth and trust that were Walter Cronkite's signature.”
Interfaith Alliance Foundation Elects Amber Khan as the New Chair of Its Board of Directors
Interfaith Alliance Foundation Elects Amber Khan as
the New Chair of Its Board of Directors
Khan is the first Muslim-American to hold the position
Washington, D.C. – Interfaith Alliance Foundation announced today the election of Amber Khan as the new chair of its Board of Directors. Khan is the first Muslim to hold the post in the organization’s history. Chosen for her skill as a nonprofit leader, it does not go unrecognized that her unanimous election comes at a time when Muslim-Americans have seen their religious freedom and civil rights challenged by those seeking to marginalize them.
“Amber is a longtime friend and ally in our effort to protect faith and freedom for every American,” said the organization’s president, Rev. Dr. C. Welton Gaddy. “She brings important skills to the position, but I also am cognizant of the message our organization is sending by electing a Muslim-American to lead our board at this time. Her religious community is all too often marginalized or worse in communities across the country. Amber has been a strong advocate for interfaith work, a catalyst in her own community for civic engagement in government, a voice for justice in public media, and a committed activist working for a society that respects every individual’s religious freedom.”
Khan succeeds Rev. Galen Guengerich who has held the position of board chair since 2008. Khan has served on the board since 2004 and her engagement with Interfaith Alliance dates back to its earliest days and includes serving in the late 1990’s as the organization’s communications director.
“The vision and leaders of the Alliance sparked a vital movement to engage diverse people of faith in our nation to protect religious liberty and freedom and challenge the politics of division,” said Khan. “As we look ahead, my goal is to actively work with our diverse and capable board to grow, harnessing new resources to ensure that the Alliance will be positioned to lead the next generation of leaders and activists who will defend and uphold religious liberty and freedom for all.”
Stepping into a leadership role is a natural move for Khan, a 20-year veteran of social justice and interfaith advocacy work beginning during her college years in Memphis, Tenn. Khan knows the nonprofit world well and is a respected strategic communications advisor for nonprofits and foundations across the country. She is the former executive director of The Communications Network, a co-founder and corporate secretary of the civil rights organization Muslim Advocates, and a past field director for People for the American Way/Action Fund. Khan has served on boards including South Asian Americans Leading Together and Asian Americans/ Pacific Islanders in Philanthropy.
“During my time as chair of Interfaith Alliance, we weathered a tough economic storm and emerged a leaner, more focused organization,” said Rev. Guengerich. “I’m deeply grateful to hand over leadership to Amber, a gifted advocate whose energy and vision make her an ideal leader for these challenging times. The importance of the work Interfaith Alliance is doing cannot be understated. The challenges to religious freedom in this country remain significant, and for nearly two decades, this organization has been at the forefront of the fight to protect faith and freedom for every American.”
Former chairs of Interfaith Alliance Foundation and its partner organization Interfaith Alliance, Inc. include Denise Davidoff, Rabbi Jack Moline, Alex Forger, The Rt. Rev. Jane Holmes Dixon, Rev. Albert Pennybacker, The Rev. Dr. Gwynne Guibord, Rev. Philip Wogaman, Arun Gandhi, and its founding chair, Dr. Herbert Valentine.
Added Rabbi Moline, “Amber Khan has been my teacher and my ally in building common ground among faith communities. I am proud to call her my long-time friend and co-worker in challenging extremism from every quarter.”
Amber lives in the Maryland suburbs with her husband and children.