Press Releases

House Vote Reduces First Amendment to Second Class Status

(Washington, D.C.) Today the House of Representatives scheduled a vote on H.R. 2679, the “Public Expression of Religion Act.”  The bill would eliminate damages and awards of attorneys’ fees for individuals or groups in successful cases brought to ensure their constitutional rights under the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.  This bill would limit long-standing remedies available under civil rights law, 42 U.S.C. 1988.

The Interfaith Alliance President, the Reverend C. Welton Gaddy today issued the following statement:

“The Public Expression of Religion Act is an attack on the religious freedoms guaranteed to every American by the Constitution.  If it passes, the House of Representatives will have closed the courthouse doors to ordinary Americans, including members of religious minorities, who seek the protection of their constitutional rights.  This bill is another example of election-year tactics designed to manipulate religion for partisan political gain.  We call on the Senate and President Bush to stop this bill and end the pandering to the Religious Right.

“We cannot allow Congress to open the door to picking and choosing which constitutional rights it wants to protect and which ones it wants to devalue.  What is next?  Can we imagine a day when citizens cannot go to court to protect their free speech rights?

“Religious expression is not threatened by the enforcement of the Establishment Clause, but is protected by it.  The only way to ensure free exercise of all religious faiths is if ordinary citizens can raise challenges when governments try to impose one particular religious viewpoint on the people.  Religious freedom as guaranteed by the First Amendment includes both the Free Exercise Clause and the Establishment Clause.  One without the other would render religious freedom a hollow phrase.”

Senate Bill Turns Houses of Worship into Political Convention Halls

(Washington, D.C.) Today Senator James Inhofe (R-OK), in an election-year appeal to the Religious Right, introduced a bill that would compromise the sanctity of religion.  The bill, S. 3957, would amend the IRS Code to allow houses of worship to endorse candidates from the pulpit and engage in partisan political activity without harming their tax-exempt status. 

“Senator Inhofe wants to turn houses of worship into political convention halls,” said Interfaith Alliance President, the Reverend Welton Gaddy.  “This bill would allow politicians to exploit the moral authority of the pulpit to advance a partisan agenda.  When religious leaders endorse candidates for office, they compromise their prophetic voice.  The very sanctity of religion is at stake in this debate,” he said.

Inhofe’s bill is similar a H.R. 235, introduced in the House by Representative Walter Jones (R-NC).  At last weekend's Family Research Council's Values Voter Summit in Washington, Senator Inhofe spoke in favor of the Jones bill and promised action on the Senate floor before Congress adjourned to home for the November elections.  The Interfaith Alliance has been successful in bottling up the Jones bill through the dedicated grassroots efforts of its 185,000 members.

In addition to endorsements of candidates, Inhofe’s bill would also allow houses of worship to make political contributions to candidates and political parties.

“Congress should not allow money from Sunday’s collection plates to line their campaign coffers on Monday,” said Dr. Gaddy.  “Under this bill, tax-exempt donations intended for the common good – to heal the afflicted and feed the hungry – could be used instead to curry favor with politicians,” he said.

The Role of Religion in the Immigration Debate

(Washington, D.C.) On this Sunday’s “State of Belief,” The Interfaith Alliance Foundation’s show on Air America Radio, the Reverend Welton Gaddy welcomes Pat Buchanan, the outspoken conservative pundit and former presidential candidate, and legal expert John Pomeranz. Dr. Gaddy asks Buchanan about the role of religion in the current debate over immigration reform and Pomeranz warns houses of worship against falling prey to ambitious politicians. 

Buchanan chides religious leaders who favor a more lenient immigration policy based on a reading of the Hebrew and Christian Scriptures. “It seems to me, in my understanding of Christian doctrine, the first obligation of the father is to defend his family and the home, and protect it against invaders,” said Buchanan.  “And the fact that invaders might be poor does not justify bringing them into the house and claim the rights of the first born.”

Buchanan is also the author of a new book on immigration called State of Emergency: The Third World Invasion and Conquest of America.  In it, he argues against viewing the debate on immigration from an economic perspective, saying that too many Americans worship “at the Church of the GDP.” 

Instead, Buchanan argues that the foundation of American values should be based on Christianity.  “The United States of America has an ethno-cultural core.  It was a Western country, a European country, a Christian country.  This is one of the things that held it together,” he said.  

Also, Dr. Gaddy also examines the ongoing controversy over political messages from the pulpit with legal expert John Pomeranz.  In 2004, two-days before the Presidential election, the congregation of All Saints Episcopal Church heard a sermon delivered by George Regas, a former rector at All Saints.  The sermon was called, “If Jesus Debated Senator Kerry and President Bush,” and included hypothetical questions and answers from Jesus to the two Presidential candidates.  All Saints is currently under investigation by the IRS and is at risk of losing its tax-exempt status.

Pomeranz noted that other houses of worship across the country could face similar problems. “Political campaigns have every incentive into misleading churches and other tax exempt organizations into violating law.  “They're not the ones at risk.  The only danger is to the church, and the political organization gets what it needs from the church and it's the churches that are left to take the consequences.”

New Christian Coalition President on State of Belief This Sunday

(Washington, D.C.) – On this Sunday's "State of Belief," The Interfaith Alliance Foundation's show on Air America Radio, the Reverend Welton Gaddy conducts the first radio interview with the new president of the Christian Coalition, the Reverend Joel Hunter.  The author of Right Wing, Wrong Bird: Why the Tactics of the Religious Right Won't Fly with Most Conservative Christians, Rev. Hunter discusses his vision for a new, more broadly-focused Christian Coalition.  Also, Welton explores the religious blogosphere in a new segment, called Blogs of Belief.

 

Rev. Hunter tells Welton that the Christian Coalition must hold onto the "basic moral stances" in which it has always believed, but it will also expand into what he calls "'compassion issues' -- taking care of God's creation, justice, religious liberty, and helping the marginalized." 

 

Welton asks Rev. Hunter whether evangelicals who want to remain solely focused on outlawing abortion and same-sex marriage will oppose this new mission.  Rev. Hunter admits that the Christian Coalition is "going to take our licks for doing this, but we're going to do it because we think it is right, and we cannot ignore the rest of the gospel.  We're forging some new ground for the evangelical community, and that's not going to go automatically and easily." 

 

Plus, Welton explores what has the attention of the religious blogosphere in a new segment called Blogs of Belief.  The editor of StreetProphets.com, Pastor Dan Schultz, joins Welton to talk about the reaction to the Mark Foley sex scandal.  An offspring of Daily Kos, Street Prophets is an online forum is an online forum that mobilizes progressive people of faith on political and religious issues.