Press Releases

Statement of Rev. Dr. C. Welton Gaddy Criticizing the Chaplains’ Letter to President Obama and Secretary Gates on “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”

Washington, DC – Interfaith Alliance President, Rev. Dr. C. Welton Gaddy, issued the following statement today in response to a letter from a group of retired chaplains asking President Obama and Defense Secretary Gates to uphold the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy of gays in the military:

As a longtime advocate for equal rights for all citizens, regardless of race, religion, gender, or sexual orientation, I am deeply troubled by the views expressed in today’s letter from a group of retired military chaplains to President Obama and Defense Secretary Gates. It is so fraught with illogical reasoning, one almost does not know where to begin in discussing its content. 

The chaplains claim that their religious freedoms would be threatened if gays serve openly in the military.  Yet, repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” in no way would hinder chaplains from voicing their personal moral convictions and theological doctrines.  The chaplaincy should represent the diversity of faiths in the military, not simply one point of view.

Similarly, the chaplains argue that this would impact their “ability to counsel” because “service members seeking guidance regarding homosexual relationships will place chaplains in an untenable position.”  By this logic, we also should ban all service members whose gambling habits, treatment of spouses, and views on abortion, politics, or the economy are not in line with those of the chaplains.  As a Baptist minister, I frequently counsel people whose beliefs on a number of subjects are not exactly in line with the religious or moral values that I embrace.  Such a challenge in counseling comes with the territory of being a clergy member.

If forced to interact with gays in the military, this group of chaplains says they will be presented with a moral conundrum. Yet, Jesus said we are to love other people as he loved us—the love of Jesus was inclusive beyond measure and graceful beyond imagination.  In fact, this Sunday, Christians around the world will be studying Jesus’ admonition for his followers to love others as he has loved them—often called “the new commandment.”  The views expressed by the chaplains are the antithesis of the themes of love and inclusion commended and demonstrated by the Christ from whom they form their religious identity.  If Christian chaplains followed the teachings of Jesus they would have no problem joining any military member in prayer or spiritual thought.

Our servicemen and women deserve chaplains who support and comfort them as they carry out their military duties regardless of their individual lifestyles.  Sexual orientation is no more a hindrance to that mission now than was racial identity years ago.  Repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” is a step forward in equality and justice for all citizens.  When chaplains find the government’s pursuit of these goals to be a threat to their values, we must ask whether something is askew with their values.
 

Statement of Rev. Dr. C. Welton Gaddy On Supreme Court’s Decision on Salazar v. Buono

Washington, DC – Interfaith Alliance President, Rev. Dr. C. Welton Gaddy issued the following statement today in response to the Supreme Court’s ruling on Salazar v. Buono, a case that presented an Establishment Clause challenge to a cross placed on federal land in 1934 to honor American soldiers who died in World War I. 

The Supreme Court’s decision today on Salazar v. Buono raises a cluster of worries about the government’s treatment of religion and unnecessary entanglement between religion and government. The Court’s reversal of the 9th Circuit ruling that the cross represents an “impermissible governmental endorsement of religion,” is just the latest in a series of troubling Supreme Court decisions that are eroding religious freedoms in our country.

Our public parks are a sanctuary for people of all faiths and belief systems as well as none. These government-owned-and-run public places should not be used to endorse any one religion.

Two sad ironies stand out here.  First, for Christians to celebrate this decision requires a will to allow the government to reject the distinct religious value the cross has traditionally held in Christianity.  Second, those who have fallen in battle for our country often have done so protecting the rights that are the defining characteristics of our democracy and, specifically, our First Amendment.  Central to this are our religious liberties—the ones jeopardized in this ruling by the Supreme Court.
 

 

Interfaith Alliance and Jews On First Call For The President To Issue An Inclusive National Day Of Prayer Proclamation

PDF Version

April 20, 2010

The Honorable Barack H. Obama
President of the United States
The White House
Washington, DC 20500

Dear Mr. President,

The National Day of Prayer and Reflection will be observed this year on May 6th. While we believe a call to prayer is best left to religious leaders and not the government, we would respectfully request that if you do issue a proclamation, that once again you call for an Inclusive Day of Prayer and Reflection as you did last year. We believe that an inclusive declaration that explicitly opens this day to clergy and believers of all religions, as well as those who profess no religion is in keeping with President Truman’s original intent.

As you know, a federal judge recently ruled the National Day of Prayer unconstitutional, but has allowed your proclamation to move forward during the appeal process. In light of this decision, it is even more important that this year’s proclamation speak to Americans of all faith traditions and belief systems.

We are compelled to make this request because in past years the National Day of Prayer was taken over by a group of religious exclusivists led by Shirley Dobson of Focus on the Family. In past years Mrs. Dobson's group, The National Day of Prayer Task Force has represented itself in a way that led many to believe that they were the government sanctioned National Day of Prayer organizers. In fact, they clearly represent only certain evangelical Christians. While they have taken some steps this year to clarify their role, the casual visitor to their website would still assume that it is the official website of the National Day of Prayer.

We urge you to again issue a single proclamation for the day that calls for an Inclusive National Day of Prayer and Reflection that restores and reflects our nation's best values by explicitly inviting clergy from diverse faith traditions to participate equally and fully - especially in events held on government property. 

With gratitude for the sensitivity and inclusiveness of your proclamation last year,

Sincerely,
Rev. Dr. C. Welton Gaddy,              
President, Interfaith Alliance

Rabbi Haim Dov Beliak,
Co-Director-Jews On First

Jane Hunter,
Co-Director-Jews On First

Organizations support freedom of religion, but neither party, in case to be argued Monday before U.S. Supreme Court

Groups filed friend-of-the-court brief defending religious freedom principles in Christian Legal Society v. Martinez

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Supreme Court should protect the religious autonomy of student groups that have expressive association rights to meet on campus as part of a public university’s forum, but not in a manner that clears the way for government funding of religion, says the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty and the Interfaith Alliance.

Oral arguments are scheduled for Monday, April 19, in Christian Legal Society v. Martinez. At issue is whether the Constitution permits the University of California’s Hastings College of the Law to exclude the campus chapter of the Christian Legal Society (CLS) from official recognition and attendant benefits afforded other clubs solely because the group requires its members to share its core religious commitments.

In the only friend-of-the-court brief filed on behalf of neither party in the case, the Baptist Joint Committee and the Interfaith Alliance wrote that a public university’s laudable goal of preventing discrimination is not impeded by allowing a student group to control its own message and membership criteria. The groups support the constitutional requirement that religious clubs on a public university campus receive equal access to a forum for speech that is offered to other student organizations.

CLS allows anyone to attend meetings, but only those who sign its Statement of Faith and agree to live “in a manner consistent” with it can become voting members. The dispute arose when the law school denied CLS official recognition for failing to comply with its nondiscrimination policy. Hastings maintains that recognized student organizations must not discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, natural origin, ancestry, disability, age, sex or sexual orientation. In fact, the parties stipulated that Hastings requires recognized student organizations to have “open membership.”

The High Court agreed to hear CLS’s appeal of a lower court’s ruling that the chapter had to follow the school’s nondiscrimination policy to participate as a recognized student organization with access to related benefits, such as use of school name and logo, campus e-mail addresses, mass e-mail privileges and access to certain funding.

On the membership issue, the Baptist Joint Committee and Interfaith Alliance brief argues there is nothing extraordinary about a religious club wanting to control its message by having exclusionary criteria for membership. 

According to the brief, “for CLS, allowing those who would not affirm their Statement of Faith to become voting members would alter who they are.”

The law school’s nondiscrimination policy “interferes with rights of expressive association and destroys its intended purpose of allowing student groups to meet around common interests and to encourage the exchange of ideas on campus.”

BJC Executive Director J. Brent Walker said the policy is problematic because it does not allow groups to develop viewpoints that are diverse from other groups. “What Hastings gives with one hand — a forum for student expression — it takes away with the other hand by not allowing CLS to define itself and its message.”

The Hastings policy is further complicated because it also provides for funding of student organizations, raising additional religious liberty concerns. As the brief explains, the constitutional principle of equal access for a speech forum “is constitutionally and logically tied to principles of no establishment that protect against government sponsorship of religion.” In linking access to the forum with access to university funds, Hastings threatens “sponsorship” of Christian fellowship and Bible study through direct government funding. This is a far cry from the indirect, incidental forum funding the Court has previously permitted in such contexts.

The Rev. Dr. C. Welton Gaddy, president of the Interfaith Alliance, underscored the importance of a narrowly tailored decision by the High Court.

”Regardless of which side prevails, the Court should avoid rendering a decision that allows direct funding of a private religious organization and their religious activities or that unduly curtails the expressive association rights of the organization,” Gaddy said.

The Baptist Joint Committee is a 74-year-old, Washington, D.C.-based religious liberty organization that works to defend and extend God-given religious liberty for all, bringing a uniquely Baptist witness to the principle that religion must be freely exercised, neither advanced nor inhibited by government. For more information visit www.BJConline.org.