Interfaith Alliance and Religious Freedom Education Project to release answers to frequently asked questions on religious freedom and American Muslims
Oct 02 2012
‘What’s the Truth about American Muslims?’
WASHINGTON – On Thursday, October 11, at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., Interfaith Alliance and the Religious Freedom Education Project of the First Amendment Center will release a new resource with answers to frequently asked questions about religious freedom and American Muslims.
The new document, entitled, “What is the Truth about American Muslims? Questions and Answers,” is an attempt by the organizations to provide accurate information and delve into the law of religious freedom, the history of American Muslims in the United States, and misunderstood terms and practices, including sharia.
Hussein Rashid, Hofstra University adjunct professor and Religion Dispatches associate editor, and Rev. Richard Cizik, president of the New Evangelical Partnership for the Common Good, will join Rev. Dr. C. Welton Gaddy, president of Interfaith Alliance, and Dr. Charles C. Haynes, director of the Religious Freedom Education Project, to discuss the guide and the state of religious freedom in the United States.
Twenty-one religious and secular organizations have endorsed the religious freedom principles outlined in the new document and support the effort led by Interfaith Alliance and the Religious Freedom Project to provide accurate information about American Muslims and Islam.
The endorsing organizations are: the African American Ministers Leadership Council, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), Foundation for Ethnic Understanding, Institute for Social Policy and Understanding, Islamic Networks Group, Islamic Society of North America, Muslim Public Affairs Council, National Religious Campaign Against Torture, New Evangelical Partnership for the Common Good, People for the American Way Foundation, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), Queens Federation of Churches, Rabbis for Human Rights-North America, Secular Coalition for America, Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund, Sikh Coalition, Sojourners, Southern Poverty Law Center, Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations, United Church of Christ, and the United Methodist Church, General Board of Church and Society.
WHAT: “What is the truth about American Muslims?”
A discussion on religious freedom and American Muslims
WHEN: Thursday, October 11, 2012 -- 9:30 a.m.
WHERE: National Press Club
529 14th Street NW
Washington, DC 20045
WHO: Leading experts on religious freedom and on American Muslims
Religious Freedom Education Project of the First Amendment Center educates the public about the vital importance of religious freedom through events, educational programs and outreach. The project is an initiative of the First Amendment Center, a program of the Freedom Forum, and affiliated with the Newseum. The First Amendment Center's nonpartisn work supports the First Amendment and builds understanding of its core freedoms through education, information and entertainment. www.religiousfreedomeducation.org
Sep 19 2012
Written Testimony of Rev. Dr. C. Welton Gaddy, President of Interfaith Alliance
The Senate Committee on the Judiciary,
Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Human Rights
for the Hearing Record on “Hate Crimes & the Threat of Domestic Extremism.”
September 19, 2012
As a Baptist minister, a patriotic American and the President of Interfaith Alliance, a national, non-partisan organization that celebrates religious freedom and is dedicated to protecting faith and freedom and whose members nationwide belong to 75 faith traditions as well as those without a faith tradition, I submit this testimony to the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Human Rights for the record of the hearing on “Hate Crimes & the Threat of Domestic Extremism.”
With dramatic unanimity, the sacred scriptures of diverse religious traditions vehemently condemn hate; it is neither a religious nor an American value. These are among the reasons why Interfaith Alliance has been a staunch supporter of laws such as the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act and of efforts to prevent such crimes from occurring in the first place.
At its most fundamental level, hate violence is an aggressive expression of prejudice against another person or group of people simply because of who they are, or who they are perceived to be. All crimes are not equal. We see this not only in how our legal framework metes out punishments based on the crimes committed, but in how we as individuals are affected by some crimes more or less than others. Any crime committed by one human being against another is a tragedy, but a crime that is motivated by hatred and prejudice tears apart the lives not only of the individuals who are targeted, but of the larger group they represent.
This hearing comes at a time in which it seems hatred of minority religious groups in the United States is pervasive—we see it manifested in acts of violence against individuals, in vandalism of houses of worship, and in the rhetoric of pundits and even elected officials on television. In recent months alone, six worshipers at a Sikh gurdwara in Wisconsin were brutally murdered, at least 10 Islamic institutions have faced attacks including vandalism, and attacks on the Jewish community continue to account for a majority of all religiously motivated hate crimes, as documented by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Of course, crimes of hate are committed against far too many groups for far too many reasons. Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans, persons with disabilities, and racial minorities continue to be targets of hate crimes as well. My sorrow related to all of these tragedies is deepened by the reality of how much still must be done to eliminate violence spawned by hate, often religion-based.
Not only is it clear that we as a nation must do more to prevent hate crimes from occurring in the first place, it is also clear that our government and local law enforcement must step up statistics collection efforts. Too often, hate crimes go unreported not only because the victim is afraid to report them – understandably – but also because reporting hate crimes is voluntary for law enforcement agencies. We must do more to find ways to motivate local law enforcement to actually report this data. Furthermore, I urge Congress (and the Administration) to support efforts to collect and break down additional data under the Hate Crimes Statistics Act, including crimes directed against Sikhs, Arabs and Hindus. This data is not currently collected or reported, but it is clear that members of these religious and ethnic groups are targets of hate crimes that are going under- or un-reported. Every story should be heard, every incident should be counted, and every victim deserves justice
Interfaith Alliance condemns outbreak of violence in Libya and Cairo leading to the death of a U.S. Ambassador and three others
Sep 12 2012
Washington, D.C.– Interfaith Alliance president Rev. Dr. C. Welton Gaddy issued the following statement today following news of uprisings in Libya and Egypt that resulted in the death of the U.S. Ambassador to Libya and three members of his staff.
Our deepest condolences go out to the family, co-workers and friends of U.S. Ambassador to Libya Christopher Stevens and his three colleagues. The tragic news of their killing in connection to the uprising that took place yesterday in Libya is a sad end to what was by all accounts an exemplary career. That this happened on September 11 only compounds the tragedy.
Violence cannot be the basis for dialogue between the U.S. and the Arab world, and improved relations will be difficult until that is understood. At the same time, the anti-Muslim bigotry that has become all too pervasive in the United States is only amplified when it reaches the rest of the world and runs the risk of being perceived as the view of all Americans. That misconception is then used by those who seek to target Americans as a means of stirring up hatred among their followers.
The hateful film used as justification for this violence is of little relevance to the vast majority of Americans and certainly does not represent the views of the U.S. government. It is no excuse for yesterday’s violence, but Libya is a nation that is emerging from years of dictatorship where the mere existence of a film can be mistakenly understood to have the endorsement of the state in which it was created. Those responsible for these deaths must be brought to justice and going forward anger should be expressed through means that lead to productive dialogue.
Aug 21 2012
Cathedral magazine publishes candidates’ opinions on the role of faith in public life
Washington, D.C. – Today, Washington National Cathedral’s quarterly magazine, Cathedral Age, published interviews with President Barack Obama and Governor Mitt Romney, in which they each answer questions on their own faiths and their opinions of the role of faith in public life. Interfaith Alliance President Rev. Dr. C. Welton Gaddy issued the following statement in response:
Through a series of questions posed to each candidate for president of the United States by the Washington National Cathedral, we gain new insights into what each of the candidates believes should be the role of faith in public life. While the answers each gives are worthwhile for people to read, it’s essential that voters place these responses in context; after all, we’re electing a commander in chief, not a pastor in chief.
We must also remember that we are a nation defined in large part by our pluralism, by the notion that people of all religious faiths and none are of equal merit. Though the candidates speak primarily of their personal beliefs, for the future, I caution them strongly against implying that we are a Christian, or even a religious-only nation, as they each did in certain responses. After all, the measure of success of either man as president will involve a close look at how he serves people who do not share his religion or, in some instances, even his religious values.
So, while it’s interesting and informative to know more about the backgrounds of the individuals running for office – and how their upbringings and religious identities motivate their work and drive their decisions – it’s equally important that we consider a wide range of issues as we make decisions about for whom we will vote in this election. To that point, both candidates express respect for the boundaries between religion and government, and while we may quibble with where they each draw those lines, we appreciate their understanding of the necessity that such lines exist.