Press Releases

State of Belief Counts Down Top Ten Abuses of Religion in Politics

(Washington, D.C.) – On this Sunday’s "State of Belief," The Interfaith Alliance Foundation’s show on Air America Radio, Reverend Welton Gaddy plays highlights of the 9th Annual Walter Cronkite Faith and Freedom Awards Gala, which honored actor George Clooney.  Also Rev. Gaddy lists the top ten worst abuses of religion in politics from the 2006 campaign season.

Mr. Clooney accepted The Interfaith Alliance’s annual award at a sold-out gala organized to celebrate Walter Cronkite’s 90th birthday.  Mr. Cronkite, a vocal supporter of The Interfaith Alliance for over a decade, is a long-time friend of George Clooney’s family.  The Interfaith Alliance honored George Clooney for his work to advance the cause of liberty through film and his commitment to a compassionate political agenda.

In his acceptance speech, Mr. Clooney said he supports the mission of religious diversity that The Interfaith Alliance advances.  “I don’t live in a Christian, Jewish, or Muslim nation,” he said.  “I am proud to live in a country of Christians, Jews, and Muslims.” Mr. Clooney also called Americans to stand up and protect the First Amendment. “It's a very interesting thing that it's somehow 'progressive' to argue for things that were written in the Constitution about 230 years ago,” he said.

Also on the show, Rev. Gaddy does his imitation of David Letterman’s Top Ten List, counting down the worst violations of the separation of church and state in the current election campaign.  The list ranges from the “Patriot Pastors” movement in Ohio to the filming of a campaign commercial in Tennessee.  The dubious honor of being number one falls on Kansas Attorney General Phill Kline, who told his campaign staff to “get each pastor to invite 5 ‘money people’ whom he knows can help” finance his campaign.

Journalist and First Amendment scholar Jeff Sharlett joins Rev. Gaddy to discuss the list, which features abuses from liberal, moderate, and conservative candidates from both parties.  “What is new this year are desperate Democrats mimicking Republican tactics,” said Sharlett.  “That is a signal that the exploitation of religion is a standard feature in campaigns.  If you want to be elected, you have to prove your piety.”

The Role of Religion in the Midterm Election

(Washington, D.C.) On this Sunday's "State of Belief," The Interfaith Alliance Foundation's show on Air America Radio, Reverend Welton Gaddy recaps the mid-term elections and examines how religion influenced the results. Also, Welton speaks with the pastor featured in the film, "Jesus Camp" about her decision to close the camp.

Dr. John Green, senior fellow with the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, joins Welton to review the winners and losers from Tuesday's elections. Several candidates who trumpeted their religious faith in their campaigns went down in defeat, including Florida Senate candidate Rep. Katherine Harris (R), Tennessee Senate candidate Rep. Harold Ford (D) and Kansas Attorney General Phill Kline (R). Harris had said that separation of church and state is "a lie we have been told." Said Green, "Katherine Harris managed to offend a lot of people, including those who ordinarily would agree with her."

Welton also asked Green to asses the power of the Religious Right in light of the recent election. Green noted that many more evangelicals voted for Democratic candidates than in previous elections. "The level of support for the Republican Party [among evangelical Christians] may not extend beyond President Bush," he said.

Journalist Michelle Goldberg speaks with Welton about what happened to the Religious Right in Ohio. Republican gubernatorial candidate Ken Blackwell was a favorite of evangelical Christians, but he was defeated soundly by Democrat Ted Strickland. Goldberg said that evangelical Christians "did turn out in high numbers and voted heavily for Republicans, but there aren't enough evangelicals to win an election by themselves."

Finally, Welton welcomes the pastor in charge of the camp featured in the documentary "Jesus Camp." Pastor Becky Fisher has decided to close the camp in response to the negative reaction the film has generated. Fisher says she "has no regrets" about allowing her camp to be the subject of the film, but, she said, "I don't feel it told the whole story." Fisher said that after the film came out she received nasty calls and emails and the camp site was vandalized.

State of Belief Tackles New Hunger Report

(Washington, D.C.) On this Sunday's "State of Belief," The Interfaith Alliance Foundation's show on Air America Radio, Reverend Welton Gaddy debunks the latest Department of Agriculture hunger report. Also, Welton asks whether non-violence is still an option in an age of terrorism.

The U.S.D.A. released its annual report on hunger this week, which found that 35 million Americans have trouble providing food for their families. The good news is that the number of hungry Americans dropped by three million over the past year, but the U.S.D.A. would like you to believe that "hunger" has been eliminated completely. For the first time, the report does not use the word hunger; instead it refers to people with "very low food security."

Reverend David Beckmann, president of Bread for the World, a Christian advocacy group for the world's hungry people, expresses frustration at the new report. "It was driven by political considerations," he says. "People in the Bush administration do not like to talk about hunger. I find it abominable that the government has abandoned this word because it is emotive."

The federal government's policy towards the hungry has been promising and disappointing, according to Beckmann. On the one hand, the federal government expanded the number of Americans eligible for food stamps in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. However, the Bush administration's latest budget has cut food programs by a combined $1.2 billion.

Welton also considers whether non-violence is a viable philosophy in a world gripped by terrorism. Author David Cortright, a Gandhi scholar and peace activist, thinks so. "Non-violence is actually a very powerful weapon," he says. Cortright points to several examples, from the fall of communism to the civil rights movement, where non-violence successfully spurred social change.

Arun Gandhi, Mahatma Gandhi's grandson, tells Welton that non-violence can help end terrorism through cultural understanding. "Why are people becoming terrorists?" he asks. "We need to bridge the misunderstanding between them and us, which is difficult when our government uses violence as a solution"

“On Faith” Promotes Interfaith Dialogue

Washington, D.C. – On this Sunday’s “State of Belief,” The Interfaith Alliance Foundation’s show on Air America Radio, Reverend Welton Gaddy speaks with Newsweek editor Jon Meacham and Washington Post reporter Sally Quinn, the co-creators of “On Faith,” a new Washington Post/Newsweek project on religion.  “On Faith” is an online forum providing a place for spirited discussion about religion.

 

Sally Quinn points out that religion is playing an increasingly prevalent role in the public square. “I don't think I picked up the paper once this week without reading a story that has something to do with religion, but that is larger than religion,” she says.

 

Jon Meacham acknowledges that covering religion in the media is a difficult task. “Too often, we [in the press] tend to value the passion and the volume of people's voices on these issues more than we do the expertise and the nuance,” he says.

 

“On Faith” brings together dozens of religious experts and leaders, including former Iranian President Mohammad Khatami, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, and Pastor Rick Warren.  Reverend Gaddy and Bishop Jane Holmes Dixon, who serves as a senior adviser to The Interfaith Alliance, are both members of the panel. 

 

According to the “On Faith” website: “And so, in a time of extremism, how can people engage in a conversation about faith and its implications in a way that sheds light rather than generates heat? The point of our new online religion feature is to provide a forum for spirited talk, drawing on a remarkable panel of distinguished figures from the academy, the faith traditions, and journalism.”  The program is online at: http://newsweek.washingtonpost.com/onfaith/.

 

Also on the show: Reverend Barry Lynn, president of Americans United for Separation of Church and State on the Supreme Court’s decision to rule on the constitutionality of the president’s Faith-Based and Community Initiatives program.