Feb 11 2013
Re: Oppose H.R 592 The Federal Disaster Assistance Nonprofit Fairness Act of 2013
On behalf of Interfaith Alliance, I write to express our opposition to H.R. 592, the Federal Disaster Assistance Nonprofit Fairness Act of 2013. This legislation would “amend the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act to clarify that houses of worship are eligible for certain disaster relief and emergency assistance on terms equal to other eligible private nonprofit facilities.” Interfaith Alliance strongly opposes this bill and any attempts to grant federal funds to rebuild houses of worship—even those damaged by natural disasters like Hurricane Sandy—because doing so sets in motion a violation of religious liberty that ultimately hurts a house of worship more than helps it.
Hurricane Sandy’s tragic impact reminds us of the aftermath of far too many other natural disasters. As a Baptist minister to a congregation in Monroe, Louisiana, Hurricane Katrina in particular is on the forefront of my mind. In times such as these, there is an understandable, compassion-based temptation to steer federal funds to houses of worship that have been damaged, but it is a temptation we must resist. An act of compassion must not be allowed to erode our historic Constitution.
The independence of houses of worship from the government regulations which accompany government funds is more important than federal dollars with which to do reconstruction. Becoming dependent on or indebted to our government’s financial benevolence is far from being in a house of worship’s best interest. The autonomy of religious institutions—and religious leaders—from the government coffers and the government’s regulation is what enables religion to flourish and enables clergy to speak truth to power as a prophetic voice to our government.
Interfaith Alliance has long been critical of efforts to funnel tax dollars to religious institutions whether through the faith-based initiative, or in emergency situations like this—even in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina—because of reverence and respect for these important institutions in our society. To steer such money to religious institutions clearly violates the boundaries between religion and government, and opens the door to government intrusion into the affairs of houses of worship. Making an exception in this case will only result in damaging a principle that has ensured the ability of diverse faith and belief to flourish in this country for centuries.
Furthermore, to imply as this bill does, that a house of worship “provides essential services of a governmental nature,” does a disservice to religious institutions. There is no doubt in my mind that houses of worship are essential. They are not however “of a government nature,” and to imply otherwise is to challenge the independence and integrity of these institutions. Houses of worship often provide critical services to their communities and, even while sometimes done in partnership with government, this work is rooted in their faith, in their religious teachings, not in being an extension of government.
Government can do so much to help communities recover from these tragedies and so much has been learned from the mistakes made in the wake of Katrina. But to violate a principle inherent in the foundation of our religious freedom would be a disservice to all Americans, including those whose places of worship have been impacted by natural disasters.
Rev. Dr. C. Welton Gaddy
Feb 02 2013
Washington, D.C. – Today, the Department of Health and Human Services released a revised rule intended to reconcile religious freedom concerns with the new health care law’s requirement that all women have access to coverage for contraception. In response, Interfaith Alliance President Rev. Dr. C. Welton Gaddy issued the following statement raising concerns that while the new proposal theoretically ensures women have access to covered contraception, successful implementation of such a rule might be more complicated.
On the surface, HHS’ new proposed rule looks like a workable solution to a complicated problem, but it is not without danger in terms of precedent and implementation. While the plan appears to provide a means to take faith-based organizations out of the middle of the relationship between an employee and the insurance company – thereby ensuring coverage for contraceptives without the employer ever having to hear about it – the real question is whether such a model can be successfully implemented.
Furthermore, we should not be in the position of allowing a single religious perspective to dictate public policy. Will this solution truly serve women who are simply trying to receive the medical care that is their right as well as a means to avoid additional, unfair out-of-pocket costs and to avoid bureaucratic nightmares? And what about the many women whose doctors prescribe contraception for medical reasons other than birth control? I certainly hope that the proposal does all these things, but time will tell.
Jan 30 2013
Written Testimony of Rev. Dr. C. Welton Gaddy, President of Interfaith Alliance
The Senate Committee on the Judiciary,
for the Hearing Record on "What Should America Do About Gun Violence?"
January 30, 2013
As a Baptist minister, a patriotic American and the President of Interfaith Alliance, I submit this testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on "What Should America Do About Gun Violence?" A national, non-partisan organization, Interfaith Alliance celebrates religious freedom and is dedicated to protecting faith and freedom with members nationwide who belong to 75 faith traditions as well as those without a faith tradition.
Interfaith Alliance, an organization that focuses on religious freedom and on uniting diverse voices to challenge extremism, is engaging in the initiative to prevent gun violence because our deeply divided nation could experience a modicum of healing by finding common ground on which legislation could be structured to make our nation a safer and healthier place. The support for immediate action to end gun violence coming from religious leaders from diverse religious traditions is thrilling to me. It's also indicative to the moral value that all religions place on protecting all people, especially children. As members of this distinguished committee well know, the reforms necessary to prevent gun violence cut across numerous issues that must be addressed—from the impact of concealed-carry laws on houses of worship to anti-bullying measures—all of which affect all our nation's citizens, including worshipers in churches, synagogues, mosques, and gurdwaras, as well as children in schools.
For years now, I have been an outspoken opponent of legislation that would permit concealed firearms to be carried in houses of worship in states such as my home state of Louisiana, also the home of the congregation in which I serve. This is a congregation that I have led to support a policy of no guns in our worship center despite a civil law passed to the contrary. Our houses of worship should be places where people find comfort and solace, not where they fear for their lives. Amidst consideration of policies such as prohibiting concealed-carry of firearms, as well as a renewed assault weapons ban and universal background checks, I hope this Committee and Congress as a whole will not lose sight of policies which can prevent individuals from seeking dangerous weapons in the first place—namely, improved mental health services and anti-bullying initiatives. However, these policies cannot be a substitute for policies related to the ownership of weapons. We need both stricter gun laws and government-based initiatives to deal with mental health issues and bullying. Let me assure you that many of us who lead houses of worship are already hard at work on mental health matters and anti-bullying tactics.
Whatever our disagreements, be they substantive policy arguments, misguided bigotry, or petty misunderstandings, we as a nation need to be done forever with the thought that guns, that killing, settles anything. Rather than disrespecting people because they hold ideas with which we disagree and turning on them with violence, we must find our way back to civility. And guns should not be readily available to those who cannot embrace civility. Otherwise, as a nation, we will lose both our democracy and our moral compass. What then?
The year 2012 will forever stand out as a particularly tragic year for gun violence in America: a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado; a Sikh gurdwara in Oak Creek, Wisconsin; an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut. And then there are the countless other victims whose deaths did not draw national media attention. I offered commentary on the memorial ceremonies from two of these tragedies on the set of a national television broadcast. I felt the pain I saw on the faces of the people. I hurt with those who could not stop weeping or those who were two emotionally frozen to cry. These tragedies do not just come and go as life moves on; for many, life is never the same after one of these events. As a nation, surely it is time for us to act in a manner that prohibits us from arriving at the end of 2013 only to see the trail of violence extended.
More often than not, when we find ourselves faced with unimaginable tragedy, we struggle against the feeling of helplessness—but presently we are in a situation in which to grieve for those whose lives have been lost to gun violence is to imagine what we can do to stop needless grieving, needless deaths in the future. With the ancient Hebrew prophet, I find myself repeatedly asking, "How long, O God, how long?" What will it take to stop these needless deaths?
Jan 16 2013
Washington, D.C. –Interfaith Alliance President Rev. Dr. C. Welton Gaddy issued the following statement in response to actions being taken by President Obama to stem gun violence in America based on recommendations by Vice President Joe Biden.
Today’s actions by President Obama are a welcome and important step forward in our nation’s effort to reduce and ultimately eradicate gun violence and I urge Congress to move quickly in approving and implementing these recommendations. Far too many people already have died as a result of the obscene number of guns among us with capacity far beyond what any private citizen needs for either sport or protection. I am delighted at the support for immediate action coming from religious leaders from diverse religious traditions.
This much-needed current effort is important, but it does not absolve our political leaders or past administrations of their failure to act for well over a decade out of concern that they would be challenged by the radical elements on the political spectrum. Vice President Biden’s recommendations to the President are sensible measures to restrict access to weapons that have no place outside the military, and that provide resources for mental health. I join all who thank the administration for acting quickly, responsibly, and compassionately, but I remain saddened by the long and deadly path we have traveled to get here.