Oct 02 2015
WASHINGTON – Following yesterday’s shooting at Umpqua Community College, which several reports suggest may have been motivated by an antagonism toward religion and targeted Christian students, Interfaith Alliance Executive Director Rabbi Jack Moline released the following statement:
“With yesterday’s shooting at Umpqua Community College, yet another community joins our nation’s constellation of violence and grief. Congregations will be filled with mourners this weekend, classrooms will stand empty, and people will be left to wonder how much more of this senseless loss of life we must endure before taking action. My prayers are with the families and loved ones of those lost yesterday, my thoughts are with all those struggling today to seek a nation free of violence. Sadly, these shootings that capture the national attention have become all too common, and yet even the ones that make national news represent only a small fraction of the incomprehensible number of gun related deaths in this country every year.
“I am particularly troubled by reports that the shooter explicitly targeted Christian students and may have been driven by hatred toward religion in general. It is profoundly unsettling that, in the wake of so much violence, neither our schools nor or our religious communities feel safe. We must do more to ensure that no one is the victim of violence for any reason and certainly not because of their religious beliefs. We cannot abide such violent religious animosity in our midst.
“Early reports suggest the perpetrator of this crime was a vocal critic of organized religion. We must be careful not to assign his actions to all who live a secular life or who voice their criticism of religion. There is a proud history of respectful dissent from religious belief in this country, yesterday’s actions are not part of it.
“We must dig deep with in ourselves and our communities to understand why this violence happened, and we must motivate ourselves and our political leaders to create real change in our laws and our culture to prevent these needless deaths.”
Rabbi Moline Submits Testimony About Syrian Refugees, Anti-Muslim Bigotry, and the Religious Case for Aid
Oct 01 2015
WASHINGTON - Today the Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing about U.S. efforts to address the ongoing Syrian refugee crisis. The following is a statement submitted for the hearing record from Rabbi Jack Moline, executive director of Interfaith Alliance, outlining the religious case for addressing the crisis and urging Congress to see past the religious prejudice and bigotry that might hamper our nations aid efforts.
Written Testimony of Rabbi Jack Moline, Executive Director of Interfaith Alliance
Submitted to the Senate Judiciary Committee for the Hearing Record on “Oversight of the Administration’s FY 2016 Refugee Resettlement Program: Fiscal and Security Implications
October 1, 2015
On behalf of Interfaith Alliance, whose membership represents individuals from seventy-five faith traditions committed to defending religious freedom, I would like to thank Chairman Grassley, Ranking Member Leahy, and the members of the Judiciary Committee for this opportunity to submit a statement about the plight of Syrian refugees. As an organization dedicated to the religious freedom here at home in the U.S., it is rare that we comment international crises, but we are moved to do so by the immediacy of this moment and the implications for religious communities that will certainly reverberate here at home.
When we look inside our religious traditions, many of us find the inspiration – if not the moral mandate – to address this humanitarian crisis. Whether from the biblical commandment to not stand idly by the blood of a neighbor, the spiritual understanding of our own oneness with all those who suffer, or a theological commitment to the sanctity of every human life – our faith cannot abide suffering on the magnitude we see among Syrian refugees today. No one could put it more eloquently or passionately than Pope Francis when he addressed a joint session of Congress last week:
“We must not be taken aback by their numbers, but rather view them as persons, seeing their faces and listening to their stories, trying to respond as best we can to their situation… To respond in a way which is always humane, just and fraternal. We need to avoid a common temptation nowadays: to discard whatever proves troublesome."
As Pope Francis described, theological and spiritual imperatives motivate many of us to address the current refugee crisis, it is also the history of our religious communities that drives our moral urgency. From the time the pilgrims landed in Plymouth to our work to provide safe harbor for Evangelical Christians persecuted in China, the United States has been built on a commitment to provide refuge for religious communities in need. Throughout our history they U.S. has opened its doors to Catholics, Jews, Muslims, Evangelical Christians, Buddhists, Sikhs and countless others who faced religious persecution at home. There is, in fact, no better antidote to religious tyranny, extremism and the targeting of religious minorities, then a healthy and welcoming approach to refugees.
My own community’s memory of the refugee experience is still fresh and, for many, brutally painful. We remember our grandparents, our siblings, and loved ones who were denied entry to the United States despite the atrocities they faced in the Holocaust. In that time, the suffering of too many was ignored and too many people died.
World War II drove our nation and the world to rethink the way we address refugees. The legacy of that suffering was a commitment to never close our doors to so many in need again. Since then we have made room on our shores for people escaping political repression in Latin America, fleeing the aftermath of the war in Vietnam, searching for freedom from the Soviet Union’s restrictions on religious practice, and many, many more. But that is a legacy we are failing today.
While religion may inspire us to act in the face of this crisis, while religion may be at the center of our historical experience as refugees, religion and religious prejudice should never stop us from helping those most in need. Too many people – and far too many politicians - have raised the specter terrorism, fed on fears of Islamic fundamentalism, as an excuse for inaction in helping refugees from Syria. The anti-Muslim bigotry that has fueled hate crimes across the nation, demonstrations at mosques and community centers, and unjust surveillance of religious communities, now threatens to stay our hands from reaching out to those crying for help.
Faith may be the basis of our call to action, but it must not be the barrier. We may be moved by the faith of those suffering, but we cannot let it stand in the way of our aid. Neither the Constitution nor our moral conscience can allow a person’s religion to condemn a person to be ignored and invisible to our efforts to help.
As the situation in Syria deteriorates, and the plight of refugees endures, the U.S. government is compelled to act. As your committee examines how best to address this situation, I hope you draw inspiration from your faith tradition, I hope you remember the plight of religious refugees throughout our nation’s history and, most importantly, I hope you can see past the bigotry and prejudice that too often clouds our conversations about Syria and the Muslim community.
Sep 21 2015
WASHINGTON -- Following an interview in which Dr. Ben Carson, candidate for the Republican nomination for President, said that he believed Islam is inconsisent with the Constitution and that he could not support a Muslim candidate for president, Rabbi Jack Moline, exeutive director of Interfaith Alliance, released this statement:
"Dr. Ben Carson’s belief that a Muslim should not be President of the United States is another example of a candidate who claims to cherish the First Amendment trying to rewrite the Constitution and what it means for people of all faiths in America. His willingness to denigrate and disenfranchise millions of American citizens not only jeopardizes full equality under the law, but delivers a message that his brand of religious freedom is not meant to truly protect the rights of all. Our country’s motto “E Pluribus Unum” means we have to become one nation "out of the many", not out of the few who worship and believe like we do."
Sep 17 2015
WASHINGTON -- In advance of Pope Francis' speech to a joint session of Congress, the first such speech from a religious leader, Interfaith Alliance Executive Director Rabbi Jack Moline sent the following letter to members of Congress. In this letter, Rabbi Moline raises several concerns about how religious freedom wil be respected during this historic event, and calls on members of Congress to remember that their first duty is to their constituents and to the Constitution, not to their private religious beliefs.
This month, you will witness a rare and historic occasion when Pope Francis addresses a joint session of the U.S. Congress. Pope Francis will be not just the first Pope, but the first religious leader to address a joint session of Congress. Pope Francis is a compelling and compassionate religious leader who has already had a major impact on world events during his short tenure.
On behalf of Interfaith Alliance, which represents individuals committed to faith and freedom representing seventy-five faith traditions and those of no particular faith tradition, I would like to take this opportunity to offer a recommendation on the context in which you listen to the Pope’s remarks. I ask you to be acutely aware that you are an elected representative of a secular democracy, one that guarantees the religious freedom of all, but shows no favor to any particular faith.
Congress is entitled to invite whomever it likes. Pope Francis, like other world leaders, can give you a greater understanding of the world we live in. I expect Pope Francis will speak freely on political issues of the day, and to speak from a place of religious motivation and doctrine.
While this occasion may not violate the legal strictures of the First Amendment, it is incumbent upon you and your colleagues to ensure that it respects the spirit of America’s mandate of religious freedom. While he is a religious leader, this is not a religious event. While his positions may be driven by his faith, what you do with the information he provides must be motivated by secular purpose. Faith can inform our values, but it cannot be the goal of our public policy. Regardless of your personal religious commitment – whether your theological inclination is to agree with Pope Francis or to oppose him – your primary commitment must remain to your constituents and to the Constitution.
When Pope Francis speaks about specific policies in his address, place his recommendations against the backdrop of areligious interests and the necessary boundaries between religion and government. When Pope Francis makes a moral call to action and leadership, hear his voice as one among many. Take inspiration but not instruction from the Holy Father’s words. The government cannot act on the orders of religious leaders; we cannot make laws based on religious motivations alone.
It is a great honor to have Pope Francis directly address you in a joint session of Congress. But it is an even greater honor to serve your constituents, the Constitution and the country. If the Pope’s speech puts your duty to your faith and your duty to the nation in tension with one another, I hope we can count on you to navigate that conflict with an understanding of the religious diversity of your constituents, a devotion to the First Amendment, and your oath to protect and defend the Constitution of the Untied States… not Scripture.
Rabbi Jack Moline