Aug 16 2012
August 16, 2012
The Honorable Mitt Romney
Romney for President
P.O. Box 149756
Boston, MA 02114-9756
Dear Governor Romney:
As a Baptist minister and as president of Interfaith Alliance, I have dedicated my career to preserving the sanctity of religion and the integrity of government. I have been pleased that, for the most part, your campaign appropriately has demonstrated respect and appreciation for religion on the campaign trail. However, after seeing your recent advertisement on TV, “Be Not Afraid,” I could not help but be disappointed in your campaign’s use of religion as a divisive electoral tool in an attempt to win votes. Going forward, I urge you to tread more carefully in your outreach; it’s never ok to use religion for political gain, and as a presidential candidate, you should be striving to set the model.
Asserting, “President Obama used his health care plan to declare war on religion, forcing religious institutions to go against their faith”invokes a war that simply does not exist outside the minds of the Religious Right. Furthermore, such rhetoric oversimplifies the legitimate questions that exist about finding the proper balance between ensuring all women receive necessary health care benefits and protecting the religious freedom of all Americans. I would welcome an ad that conveys your differing perspective on the public policy issue of health care and religious freedom. But to trot out the image of a deceased beloved religious leader and the specter of a non-existent war on religion is shameful.
Invoking the image and words of the late Pope John Paul II and employing the rhetoric used by Catholic leaders in denouncing the Affordable Care Act, your ad appears to be nothing more than a divisive ploy to win “the Catholic vote.” Religion should never be used as a political tool to secure votes. Campaigns should be about policies, issues that will affect how a candidate would govern and shape the lives of his or her constituents. It is both my concern with the current state of affairs, and my commitment to being a part of the solution, that motivates me to write to you today.
I urge you to ensure that the remainder of your campaign is focused on the policy issues which distinguish you as a candidate. For more guidance on running for public office in our great multi-faith nation, I encourage you to review Interfaith Alliance’s guide for candidates, available at interfaithalliance.org/elections. Winning an election is not worth destroying the private integrity of your personal beliefs or compromising our nation’s historic commitment to religious freedom.
C. Welton Gaddy
Aug 15 2012
Security guard injured by gunfire at Family Research Council in Washington, D.C.
Washington, D.C. – A shooter opened fire on a security guard at the Washington, D.C. headquarters of the Family Research Council this morning. Interfaith Alliance President Rev. Dr. C. Welton Gaddy issued the following statement in response:
We don’t yet know the details of today’s shooting at the headquarters of the Family Research Council, but our thoughts and prayers are with the injured security guard and his colleagues at FRC. What we do know is that these all too frequent shootings must stop. Whatever our disagreements, be they substantive policy arguments, misguided bigotry, or petty misunderstandings, guns cannot be the answer. 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. Otherwise, as a nation, we will lose our democracy and our moral compass.
Aug 06 2012
Washington, D.C. - A mosque in Joplin, Missouri, burned down this morning. Interfaith Alliance President Rev. Dr. C. Welton Gaddy issued the following statement in response:
As we learn today that the Joplin Islamic Society in Missouri has burned to the ground, we are still reeling from senseless shootings in an Aurora, Colorado, movie theater and at the Sikh Temple of Oak Creek, Wisconsin. In less than three weeks, the world has witnessed three confounding tragedies.
While we dare not venture assumptions as to whether today's fire was intentional or not, we extend our condolences to the community of families who prayed at this mosque; as they observe Islam's holy month of Ramadan, their house of worship now smolders, no longer usable. Whether we are religious or choose not to be, whether each of finds faith in quiet, solitary settings or amongst others within the walls of religious institutions, we each deserve to feel safe in our religious choices. In fact, we are promised such assurance of protection by our Constitution's First Amendment. The freedom of religion is not a liberty to be taken lightly; it is at the very heart of our American democracy.
Our sorrow related to these recent tragedies is deepened by the reality of how much still must be done to eliminate violence spawned by hate, often religion-based. The grief we experience will fuel even greater efforts on our part to help shape a nation that celebrates rather than seeks to obliterate diversity, a nation that makes good decisions about how best to keep the tools that are ravaging our society away from those in whose hands they can create such damage.
Aug 07 2012
August 7, 2012
The Honorable Bobby Jindal
Office of the Governor of Louisiana
P.O. Box 94004
Baton Rouge, LA 70804-9004
Dear Governor Jindal:
I write to you as the President of Interfaith Alliance to express my disappointment, concern and indeed, outrage at the school voucher program you have implemented in the state of Louisiana. Not only do I represent this national organization whose members come together from 75 faith traditions and belief systems to protect religious freedom, champion individual rights, and promote policies that protect both religion and democracy, I also serve as Senior Pastor for Preaching and Worship at Northminster (Baptist) Church in Monroe, and thus, I am one of your constituents. Your school voucher scheme is bad for religious freedom and bad for public education as well as a blatant attack on the religious freedom clauses in the United States Constitution.
Thankfully, thoughtful educators, concerned citizens, and media representatives in the state are exposing your ruthless attack on public education—the provision that the founders of our nation considered essential to the survival of our democracy. You seem unable to distinguish between religious indoctrination and basic public education. Though Interfaith Alliance is a non-litigious agency, we are encouraging other agencies to file suits challenging your decision to use public tax dollars to build structures for churches across the state and to fund educational curricula that qualify more as a catechism than as a tool for holistic education. Of course, you flaunted your disregard for government-subsidized religion by choosing a Roman Catholic Church as the venue at which to sign your legislation!
When in 1785 the state of Virginia considered a bill that would fund “Teachers of the Christian Religion,” James Madison penned his famous remonstrance reminding his contemporaries, and indeed, generations to come, that “it is the duty of every man to render to the Creator such homage and such only as he believes to be acceptable to him.” Put another way, funding, participating in, and sending our children to religious education programs is the right and responsibility of faith communities, clergy, and parents as they see fit—not of our government. Every American also has an equal right to choose not to fund or participate in religious education.
Your voucher program also will fund private schools and curricula that are inevitably not up to the standards of quality information of public schools, and fund the teaching of theology, which goes against the fundamentals of our religious freedom. I was appalled to learn that private schools—funded with my taxes—will teach our children that evolution does not exist, using the fabled Loch Ness Monster as a “real” example, from textbooks that state:
“God created each type of fish, amphibian, and reptile as separate, unique animals. Any similarities that exist among them are due to the fact that one Master Craftsmen fashioned them all.”
Let me be clear: I am not appalled that a Christian school is teaching its students that God created the Earth. Children in my church learn that every Sunday. I am appalled that these schools are teaching theology as science; and they’re doing so withgovernment money, my tax dollars. Teaching the theology of Creationism is part of the mission of religious schools, and religious education more broadly—I defend with my life’s work their right to teach future generations about their faith. But they should not receive financial support from our government to do so.
What often gets lost in the conversation around school vouchers is the negative impact they can have on religious schools. In the short term, having new revenue streams is of course helpful to private schools, but the fact is that with government money comes government regulation, which can open religious schools up to all kinds of threats to their autonomy that it is in religion’s best interest to avoid. Furthermore, public education is often called the “great equalizer,” and right now, our nation is at a place in history in which all of us truly need to learn how to get along with each other and work together for the good of our nation despite our differences in religion, ethnicity, race, and income. Besides preparing our children and young people to be proficient in math, science, grammar, thinking, and communication skills, public education has no greater role than enabling us to work and walk together despite obvious diversity. Many of the private schools in Louisiana that you are supporting with millions of dollars of vouchers are honestly saying upfront that their mission is sectarian education that promotes one faith over another and makes no effort to commend the common good.
Finally, one of the central problems with school voucher programs could not be on clearer display than it is in Louisiana: Vouchers create competition between religious groups for government funds, and put the government in a position to prefer one over another. A case in point is the reason state Rep. Valarie Hodges changed her position on the school voucher program. I wish that I could celebrate this move, and had she decided to no longer support it because she realized how harmful such funding is to our religious freedom, I would have. Instead, she changed her position on vouchers because she found out that not only Christian groups received the funding, but Muslim groups can too. As a former Hindu—a minority religion in this nation—you, as much as anyone in our state, should be fully aware that herein lies one of the many problems with funneling government money to religious groups. By doing so, the government can (or at least can try) to pick and choose between them -- exactly the situation our founders created the First Amendment to avoid.
In short, the school vouchers system you have allowed to be implemented in our state embodies everything that is wrong with school vouchers as a whole and threatens the integrity of both religion and government. I hope that you will take a step back and see that what you are doing is propelling education in Louisiana back to a level that will decrease even more our abominable ranking when it comes to education in our nation. You are hurting the state, the education of our children, and broadsiding an affront to the values of religious freedom that most of us hold dear.
I am incapable of and uninterested in judging your motivations for such a destruction of education in our state. But, you are capable of changing your mind and helping the situation rather than hurting it. Governor Jindal, please, for the sake of all that is good about education, religious freedom, and our state, put an end to the school vouchers program in Louisiana.
C. Welton Gaddy