Press Releases

Rev. Gaddy's Letter to Gov. Brewer on Her Decision to Rescind Domestic Partners' State Employee Benefits

The following is Rev. Gaddy's letter to Governor Brewer on her decision to rescind state employee benefits to domestic partners.

September 23, 2009

The Honorable Jan Brewer
Governor of Arizona
1700 West Washington
Phoenix, Arizona 85007
Fax (602) 542-1381

Dear Governor Brewer,

I write to you as the president of Interfaith Alliance, a national organization that celebrates religious freedom and is dedicated to protecting the boundaries between religion and government for the good of both institutions.  I was concerned and saddened to read that, according to the Arizona Daily Star, you are eliminating domestic partners’ state employee benefits just one year after they were added to the benefits plan by Governor Janet Napolitano.

By taking these benefits away from domestic partners, you are implementing a policy of unequal treatment for some of your citizens based solely on their sexual orientation.  Yet, the U.S. Constitution ensures that social acceptability and civil equality apply to all citizens.  Our government thankfully guarantees that every American enjoys the full benefits of citizenship.

Your explanations of why you signed this troubling bill, that reportedly will affect 800 state employees, deepened my concern and set off an alarm.  The Star reported that you attribute some of your actions as Governor, at least in part, to your belief that God is responsible for your current position —“God has placed me in this powerful position as Arizona’s governor,”— and that, in affirming a belief of former U.S. Senator John Danforth in his book Faith and Politics, “it is important that we don’t check our religion at the church door.  We want to apply it to the rest of our lives.”

Articulating these beliefs that so closely link religion and government directly contradicts the First Amendment, which ensures that these two institutions remain separate, for the good of both.  Regardless of your religious beliefs towards domestic partners, in our country, law, not scripture, should be the foundation of government benefits for citizens.  Thus, all citizens should receive the same civil rights guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution without infringing on anyone’s religious rights.  Incidentally, I know former Senator Danforth and I am well aware the he and I share a profound appreciation for faith without fostering entanglement between the institutions of religion and government that compromise the integrity of both.

Governor Brewer, why would you choose to take away benefits from domestic partners?  This certainly is not upholding the vision of our founders, who believed that practitioners of religion should not impose their beliefs on our civil society.  Additionally, your action signals disrespect for the thoughtful leadership of Governor Napolitano.  These state employees deserve better.  As a minister who believes that faith should be the best friend of equal rights for all people and a citizen concerned about a violation of the Constitution, I urge you to both rethink the legislation, now in legal review, and the mindset that it appears you have applied to this important matter.

It is unlikely that this is the last question related to domestic partner benefits that you will face.  I trust that you will revisit some of the core tenets of our Constitution – equality of all people and the clear boundary between government and religion – as you deal with this issue moving forward.  If you do, I believe you will conclude that domestic partners, as equal citizens, deserve the same benefits as all other Americans.


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

Interfaith Alliance and Others Call on Attorney General to Review and Withdraw Memo That Threatens Crucial Religious Freedom Protections

Interfaith Alliance and Others Call on Attorney General to Review and Withdraw Memo That Threatens Crucial Religious Freedom Protections

Washington, DC - Interfaith Alliance, along with 57 other religious, education, civil rights, labor and health organizations, today wrote U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, Jr. to request that he direct the Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) to review and ultimately withdraw a 2007 memorandum that threatens crucial religious freedom protections.  Rescission of this memo is vital for the protection of religious liberty and civil rights.  The undersigned organizations are deeply concerned by the memo’s interpretation of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) of 1993, which prohibits any federal law that would substantially burden religious exercise without a compelling reason, achieved through the least restrictive means.

Interfaith Alliance President Rev. Dr. C. Welton Gaddy – a member of the Reform of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships Task Force, one of six task forces led by the White House's Advisory Council on Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships – issued the following statement regarding Interfaith Alliance’s position on the memo:

“The Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) was enacted to protect religion and those who wish to freely exercise it,” said Interfaith Alliance President Rev. Dr. C. Welton Gaddy.  “Unfortunately, the Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) memo instead turned RFRA into an enabler of religious discrimination.  Interfaith Alliance has long worked to protect religious freedom, a central principle of the U.S. Constitution, and today I join my colleagues in calling upon Attorney General Holder to ensure that religion is never used as a means for an organization to implement discriminatory hiring decisions.  Today, the battle to protect religious freedom is hard enough without the government, which should be defending the Constitution, making it more difficult.  I look forward to the day when this harmful and constitutionally suspect memo is rescinded.”

A copy of the letter follows.


September 17, 2009

The Honorable Eric H. Holder, Jr.
Attorney General of the United States
United States Department of Justice
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20530-0001

Dear Mr. Attorney General: 

The undersigned religious, education, civil rights, labor, and health organizations are committed to protecting religious liberty, and working to do so at all levels of the government.  We write today to request that you direct the Office of Legal Counsel (“OLC”) to review and withdraw its June 29, 2007 Memorandum (“OLC Memo”).1 The OLC Memo’s interpretation that the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 19932 (“RFRA”) provides for a blanket override of statutory nondiscrimination provisions is erroneous and threatens core civil rights and religious freedom protections.

Some of us were leaders in the Coalition for the Free Exercise of Religion, which led the effort to persuade Congress to enact remedial legislation after the United States Supreme Court sharply curtailed Free Exercise Clause protections in Employment Div. v. Smith in 1990.3 This effort culminated in 1993, when then-President William J. Clinton signed RFRA into law.4 In essence, RFRA was intended to provide robust protection of free exercise rights, restoring a standard of strict scrutiny to federal laws that substantially burden religion. 5

Many of us also are members of the Coalition Against Religious Discrimination (CARD), which formed in the mid-1990s specifically to oppose insertion of the legislative proposal commonly known as “charitable choice” into authorizing legislation for federal social service programs.  Upon taking office, the Bush Administration sought to impose “charitable choice” on nearly every federal social service program.  Stymied in its legislative efforts to do so,6 the Administration instead issued Executive Orders and federal regulations to allow religious organizations to participate directly in federal grant programs without the traditional safeguards that protect civil rights and religious liberty.

Not all statutory provisions barring religious discrimination in the workplace could be obviated by Executive Order,7 and the Bush Administration’s attempts to repeal them in Congress were repeatedly rejected.  Failing in its attempts to repeal these laws in Congress, the Administration then developed and promoted the far-fetched assertion, memorialized in the OLC Memo, that RFRA provides religious organizations a blanket exemption to these binding anti-discrimination laws.

The OLC Memo wrongly asserts that RFRA is “reasonably construed” to require that a federal agency categorically exempt a religious organization from an explicit federal nondiscrimination provision tied to a grant program.  Although the OLC Memo’s conclusion is focused on one Justice Department program, its overly-broad and questionable interpretation of RFRA has been cited by other Federal agencies and extended to other programs and grants.  The guidance in the OLC Memo is not justified under applicable legal standards and threatens to tilt policy toward an unwarranted end that would damage civil rights and religious liberty.

When President Barack Obama issued Executive Order 13498, amending former President George W. Bush’s Executive Order 13199 (Establishment of White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives), he underlined the importance of ensuring that partnerships between government and faith-based institutions can be created and maintained effectively while “preserving our fundamental constitutional commitments.”  The OLC Memo, however, stands as one of the most notable examples of the Bush Administration’s attempt to impose a constitutionally questionable and unwise policy—RFRA should not be interpreted or employed as a tool for broadly overriding statutory protections against religious discrimination or to create a broad free exercise right to receive government grants without complying with applicable regulations that protect taxpayers.

We accordingly request that the Obama Administration publicly announce its intention to review the OLC Memo, and that at the end of that review, withdraw the OLC Memo and expressly disavow its erroneous interpretation of RFRA, the most significant free exercise protection of the post-Smith era.

Thank you in advance for your consideration of our views.


African American Ministers in Action (AAMIA)
American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee
American Association of University Women
Asian American Justice Center (AAJC)
American Civil Liberties Union
American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, AFL-CIO
American Humanist Association
American Jewish Committee
Americans for Religious Liberty
Americans United for Separation of Church and State
Anti-Defamation League
Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty
Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law
B’nai B’rith International
Center for Inquiry
Central Conference of American Rabbis
Disciples Justice Action Network
Equal Partners in Faith
Friends Committee on National Legislation
Interfaith Alliance
Hadassah, the Women's Zionist Organization of America
Hindu American Foundation
Human Rights Campaign
Japanese American Citizens League
Jewish Council for Public Affairs
Lambda Legal
Leadership Conference on Civil Rights
Legal Momentum
National Center for Lesbian Rights
National Community Action Foundation
National Council of Jewish Women
National Council of La Raza
National Gay and Lesbian Task Force
National Education Association
National Employment Lawyers Association
National Ministries, American Baptist Churches USA
National Organization for Women
National Partnership for Women and Families
National Women’s Law Center
OMB Watch
People For the American Way
The Rabbinical Assembly
Rainbow PUSH Coalition
Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice
Secular Coalition for America
Sexuality Information and Education Council of the U.S. (SIECUS)
Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund (SALDEF)
Sikh Council on Religion and Education
Texas Faith Network
Texas Freedom Network
Union for Reform Judaism
Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations
United Church of Christ Justice and Witness Ministries
United Methodist Church, General Board of Church and Society
Women of Reform Judaism
Women’s Law Project

cc: The Honorable Gregory B. Craig, White House Counsel

1 Memorandum for the General Counsel,  Office of Justice Programs, from John P. Elwood, Deputy Assistant Attorney General, Office of Legal Counsel, Re: Application of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act to the Award of a Grant Pursuant to the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act (June 29, 2007).
2 42 U.S.C. § 2000bb et seq.(2000).
3 494 U.S. 872 (1990).
4 The Coalition for the Free Exercise of Religion, chaired by the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty, also led the effort to enact the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000, 42 U.S.C. § 2000bb-2(4) (2000).
5 Although RFRA, as enacted, reached both federal and state law, the Court held in City of Boerne v. Flores, 521 U.S. 507 (1997), that application of RFRA to state and local laws was unconstitutional. The Boerne decision, however, did not render RFRA per se unconstitutional and subsequent cases demonstrate that, as applied to the federal government, RFRA remains good law. See Gonzales v. O Centro Espirita Beneficente Uniao do Vegetal et al., 546 U.S. 418, 424 (2006).
6 In 2001, the Bush Administration strongly promoted legislation (H.R. 7) which would have expanded “charitable choice” to nearly all federal social service programs. The measure failed in Congress, in large part, because of the civil rights and religious liberty concerns CARD raised.
7 Many programs – including Head Start, AmeriCorps, and those created by the Workforce Investment Act – contain specific statutory provisions barring religious discrimination that cannot be superseded by Executive Order.

Interfaith Alliance President Rev. Dr. C. Welton Gaddy Responds to Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal’s Attack on Interfaith Alliance

Washington, DC - Interfaith Alliance President Rev. Dr. C. Welton Gaddy issued the following statement in response to Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal's attack on Interfaith Alliance. Rev. Gaddy sent a letter to Gov. Jindal following reports on the Baton Rouge Advocate that he had spent $45,000 in public funds traveling to church services around the state. A copy of the letter can be found at
Governor Jindal's response does not answer the important question regarding his use of state funds for speaking engagements in houses of worship. Why the governor should not repay or reimburse the state with $45,000 and apologize to citizens for politicizing religion is still in need of an answer.

Governor Jindal's critique of the work of Interfaith Alliance is another disturbing example of his lack of understanding of the danger of entanglement of institutions of government and institutions of religion.

I am saddened to know that Governor Jindal lacks a basic appreciation for the constitutional principle of religious freedom.

Rev. Gaddy's Letter to Gov. Jindal on the use of taxpayer funds to travel to church services

The following is Rev. Gaddy's letter to Governor Jindal regarding the use of taxpayer funds to travel to church services.

September 1, 2009

Governor Bobby Jindal
State Capitol
P.O. Box 94004
Baton Rouge, LA 70804-9004

Dear Governor Jindal,

I write to you as both the pastor of Northminster Baptist Church in Monroe, LA and as the president of Interfaith Alliance, a national organization dedicated to protecting the boundaries between religion and government for the good of both institutions. The Baton Rouge Advocate's recent report on your official travel to church services around the state funded by taxpayer money is of great concern to me for several reasons.

If you were traveling to these churches to worship with the various congregations, you should have paid your own expenses to get there as did the other worshippers. If you were traveling to these churches for the purpose of sharing your personal faith and encouraging faith in others, state funds absolutely should not have been used to pay your expenses. Indeed, in that instance, your state-funded actions were a violation of the United States Constitution's promise of religious freedom which has been a critical contributor to the vitality of religion in our nation. If you were traveling to these churches for political purposes, you should not have been there in the first place, regardless of who funded the travel.

I know that you told the Advocate these trips were about providing you the opportunity to talk to citizens. Why during a service of sacred worship? And, why only in churches? I believe you can find venues other than houses of worship to have official meetings, so that all citizens have an opportunity to hear from you - and for you to hear from them.

Governor Jindal, it appears that you owe the people of Louisiana an apology and the treasurer of the state a reimbursement of at least $45,000 in addition to whatever money was spent in the period not covered by the Advocate's investigation. No taxpayer money should have been used for your travel.

I am well aware of how elected officials welcome opportunities to make public appearances at houses of worship. However, as I am sure you know, an invitation to a public official - sought or offered - to speak at a house of worship raises questions for both the official and, ultimately, for the house of worship. Indeed, your use of a house of

worship for political purposes can jeopardize its legal identity. Federal tax laws place restrictions on what houses of worship can and cannot do in relation to politics.

As a person who cares deeply about the integrity of houses of worship and the influence of the Louisiana state government, I urge you to be careful about using your elected office as cover for an event that has more to do with politics than it has to do with governing.

For the sake of religion, please do not politicize houses of worship in Louisiana and rob those of us who minister there of the credibility that allows our faith to be a healing force in our state and across our land.

Rev. Dr. C. Welton Gaddy
President, Interfaith Alliance
Pastor for Preaching & Worship, Northminster Church