Summer Newsletter 2012

A Note from Welton

Welton GaddyMy wife, Judy, and I just returned from a short vacation on the Gulf Coast. But of course, we can never take a break from protecting religious freedom.

While we were there, a plethora of political developments with relevance to the integrity of the Constitutional guarantee of religious freedom grabbed not only my attention, but public attention as well. Requests for media interviews came, and debates needing Interfaith Alliance’s perspective arose. And, on top of all of that, Hurricane Isaac forced Judy and me to evacuate.
It is true that much of our work over the next few months will continue to focus on the elections and ensuring that candidates don’t manipulate religion for partisan political purposes. But we must not forget the continued work that lies ahead after the votes are counted in November…indeed, threats to faith and freedom exist far beyond the campaign trail.

First, recent public polling data reveals a shocking lack of understanding into the meaning of religious freedom and a growing lack of interest in religious freedom issues. Equally troublesome, the Catholic bishops and evangelical Protestant leaders have joined together to launch an initiative to redefine the meaning of religious freedom, advocating a definition that allows freedom for only their own religious practices.

Also, the U.S. military continues to demonstrate evidence of infringements on the religious freedom of its personnel, while the White House continues to publicize “the faith-based office” and its facilitation of securing government money for religious institutions without requiring guarantees for civil-rights compliant employment practices. And we have seen an escalation of religion-based violence wreaking havoc in communities across our nation.  

You are reading these words because you have been involved in the work of Interfaith Alliance and contributed valuable support, both through your activism and financial support. For certain, our recent accomplishments – some of which are highlighted in this e-newsletter – would not be possible without the ongoing commitment of members and activists like you.

As you read our e-newsletter, I hope you are as encouraged by our accomplishments as I am and that you will be motivated to continue to join us as we strive to overcome the many challenges to faith and freedom that I just mentioned. Together, we can accomplish what none of us can do alone.

Venturing off the trail to protect religious freedom

2012Interfaith Alliance President sends letter calling Louisiana school voucher program bad for religious freedom

Our work defending religious liberty off the campaign trail is just as important as our work on the trail.

This summer, Louisiana implemented a new school voucher program that is bad for religious freedom and bad for public education as well as a blatant attack on the First Amendment of the United States Constitution. Louisiana’s voucher program will use tax dollars to fund private and parochial schools and religiously-based curricula.

Read more: Venturing off the trail to protect religious freedom

Reason vs. Rhetoric: Understanding American Muslims

NewseumEarlier this summer, Interfaith Alliance co-sponsored a daylong symposium, Reason vs. Rhetoric: Understanding American Muslims. Held at the Newseum in Washington, D.C., in partnership with the British Council, the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding, and the Religious Freedom Education Project at the Newseum, the symposium explored issues facing the American Muslim community, their place in the broader national landscape, and how the American religious freedom framework compares and contrasts with the European framework. For those who missed it, full video of the day’s conversations is available on our website.

With combating anti-Muslim bigotry increasingly becoming a major focus of Interfaith Alliance’s work protecting faith and freedom  – and one of the biggest religious freedom issues facing our nation today – it was exciting to spend the day exploring these fascinating, important issues with experts whose credentials are truly impressive.

Read more: Reason vs. Rhetoric: Understanding American Muslims

Inside Interfaith Alliance: Welcome, Sana!

Sana SaeedInterfaith Alliance is pleased to welcome our newest staff member: Sana Saeed.

We welcomed Sana Saeed as our LEADD Coordinator in May, and she has hit the ground running!

In 2008, Sana completed a master’s degree in conflict analysis and resolution at George Mason University’s Institute for Conflict Analysis and Resolution in Virginia. Previously, Sana worked as the Director of Youth Programs at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Arlington (UUCA), Va., managing social justice, spiritual and service programs for 200 high-school and middle-school youth. While working at the UUCA, Sana was also the consulting Program Manager for the Interfaith Youth Action Group (IYAG), an initiative of the non-profit 9/11 Unity Walk and ML Resources Social Vision. Sana is currently a board member of the Interfaith Conference of Metropolitan Washington.

Read more: Inside Interfaith Alliance: Welcome, Sana!

Highlights from this year’s LEADD trainings

LEADD 2012Thanks to everyone at Interfaith Alliance for giving me a warm welcome as the new LEADD Coordinator for the organization’s youth program! I’m excited to report that I’ve already enjoyed the chance to organize a Leadership Education Advancing Democracy and Diversity (LEADD) event.

As you probably know, LEADD is Interfaith Alliance’s innovative program that immerses high school students in the history of the First Amendment, particularly its Establishment and Free Exercise Clauses. During the trainings, which are either weekend or daylong, students learn about current policy, legislative and legal issues regarding religious freedom.

Read more: Highlights from this year’s LEADD trainings

FAQ From You: How can I honor this year’s Faith & Freedom Award recipients if I can’t attend the event?

FAQAs you’ve probably heard, Interfaith Alliance recently announced the recipient of our 2012 Walter Cronkite Faith & Freedom Award. Our own Rev. Welton Gaddy will receive the award in honor of his 15th year as president of Interfaith Alliance.

Mitchell Gold also will be honored that evening with the Interfaith Alliance President’s Award for Defending Faith & Freedom. Mitchell has been a longtime advocate for religious freedom and is also a founder of Faith in America, an organization dedicated to combating religion-based bigotry aimed at the LGBT community.

The awards will be presented in New York City at the 15th Annual Walter Cronkite Faith & Freedom Award Gala on Sunday, November 11. To purchase tickets or to learn more about the recipients and the history of the awards, please visit the gala’s web page.

While we wish that all of our supporters could celebrate with us, we understand that getting to New York City may not be possible…especially when juggling school and work schedules, holiday preparations and the cost of planes, trains and automobiles.

So, if you can't be with us in New York City, please consider making a special donation to Interfaith Alliance in honor of this year’s award recipients. We will let Rev. Gaddy and Mitchell know the names of those gracious donors who made a gift in their honor.