Press Releases

Interfaith Alliance President Rev. Dr. C. Welton Gaddy 
Announces his Retirement

After 16 years, Rev. Gaddy will step down at the end of 2014

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Rev. Dr. C. Welton Gaddy announced today that he will step down as president of Interfaith Alliance at the end of 2014. Rev. Gaddy, who has led the organization since 1998, transformed Interfaith Alliance into a respected voice on religious freedom, and a leading advocate for protecting the boundaries between religion and government. His leadership of Interfaith Alliance is the culmination of a career in ministry that stretches back more than five decades. Interfaith Alliance’s Board of Directors has already launched the search for Rev. Gaddy’s successor who will inherit an organization strongly positioned to take on challenges to the historic understanding of religious freedom.

“It has been an honor and a privilege to lead Interfaith Alliance over the last 16 years as we have fought back against efforts to redefine religious freedom based on a narrow sectarian view,” said Rev. Gaddy. “Our work is not done – my work is not done – but it is time for a new leader to take up the mantel and continue to represent the millions of Americans who understand that religious freedom – our first freedom – is a foundation of our democracy that needs protection, but also understand that it is not meant to be an opt-out for any public policy with which one might disagree.”

In addition to his work at Interfaith Alliance, Rev. Gaddy is the Senior Pastor of Northminster Baptist Church in Monroe, Louisiana, and the host of State of Belief Radio. He currently serves on the Religious Advisory Committee of the Council on Foreign Relations and is a past member of President Barrack Obama’s Task Force on Reform of the Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, as well as the World Economic Forum’s Council of 100 leaders.

“Welton is a powerful and compassionate voice for all of us who care about the role of faith in America,” said Helio Fred Garcia, chair of the Interfaith Alliance Board of Directors. “We are so grateful for the many years of service Welton has given this organization, and with his help during this transition, Interfaith Alliance will continue protecting religious freedom. Working with the rest of the board, we are in the process of identifying candidates to lead Interfaith Alliance into the future.”

Born in Paris, Tennessee, Rev. Gaddy received his Bachelor of Arts from Union University in Jackson, Tennessee, before going on to the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky, where he received his master’s in theology in 1968 and his Ph.D. in 1970. Rev. Gaddy held pulpits and teaching positions across the southern United States before becoming a member of the Executive Committee of the Southern Baptist Convention. He left the SBC in the early 1980’s as it took a drastic turn to the right. Going forward, he aligned himself with the Alliance of Baptists, which he helped found, and eventually serving as the president of its board. Rev. Gaddy increasingly focused his ministry on the relationship between faith and public life. He joined the board of Americans United for Separation of Church and State and served as its president before leaving to lead Interfaith Alliance.

Since taking over Interfaith Alliance, Rev. Gaddy enabled the organization to become the leading non-partisan advocacy organization aimed at protecting religious freedom. During his sixteen-year tenure, Rev. Gaddy helped shape the way government and faith work with each other, and helped advance public policies that protect religious freedom for all Americans regardless of their faith or religious tradition. The highlights of his tenure include:

  • Exposing the errors and dangers of the Christian Coalition and local houses of worship distributing candidate scorecards on the Sunday prior to national elections. Ultimately, Interfaith Alliance introduced Election Guides for candidates and houses of worship in order to educate them on what they can and cannot do during election seasons.
  • Strongly opposing efforts to change the IRS regulation that prohibits houses of worship from endorsing political candidates. Rev. Gaddy highlighted the fact that when candidates seek endorsements from faith leaders, it serves only to help the candidate and does nothing to strengthen faith, and in reality, often causes harm.
  • Projecting a representation of faith in the media that differs from the divisive and sectarian views of the “religious right.” In addition to hosting State of Belief Radio, Rev. Gaddy has been a regular source and commentator in the national media.
  • Opposing from the start the establishment of a “faith-based office” in the White House and ultimately working to reform the office to bring it more in line with the Constitution.
  • Advocating in support of meaningful anti-hate crimes legislation for more than a decade. Rev. Gaddy led Interfaith Alliance’s grassroots efforts to build support for the legislation by holding vigils across the country that drew local and national attention.
  • Early and vocal supporter of LGBT rights including marriage equality and employment non-discrimination. Rev. Gaddy authored the defining work: “Same-Gender Marriage and Religious Freedom.”
  • Steadfast supporter for the rights of Muslim minorities as anti-Muslim bigotry became a growing problem. Interfaith Alliance co-authored the FAQ guide “What is the Truth about American Muslims?” – a resource aimed at dispelling myths and misconceptions about the Muslim community, a publication endorsed by nearly two dozen faith-based institutions.

Interfaith Alliance Calls Supreme Court Decision on Legislative Prayer ‘Disturbing’ for Religion and Government

WASHINGTON – Interfaith Alliance president Rev. Dr. C. Welton Gaddy issued the following statement today in response to the United States Supreme Court’s decision in Town of Greece, New York v. Galloway:

"Today’s decision is bad for both faith and public life. Legislative prayer has long presented difficult questions for anyone who cares about maintaining the boundaries between religion and government. As problematic as the practice is, it was at least tolerable when preference was given to inclusive prayer that reflected our nation’s diversity of faith and belief. This decision eliminates that preference and allows clergy to come in to the halls of government to promote a sectarian viewpoint."

"If there is any positive side in this disturbing decision it is that the court makes clear that if ‘the invocations denigrate nonbelievers or religious minorities, threaten damnation, or preach conversion… That circumstance would present a different case than the one presently before the Court.’ The distinction is a difficult one to make and one I expect will cause the courts to revisit the issue soon."

"Given the court’s inability to understand the damage it has caused to the First Amendment, I turn to my fellow members of the clergy and remind them that what is ethical is every bit as important as what is legal. I have long asked politicians not to use houses of worship as a tool in political campaigns, now it would seem that we need to ask clergy to show the same courtesy to the halls of government."

Interfaith Alliance was a co-signer of an amicus brief in support of the respondents along with The American Civil Liberties Union, the New York Civil Liberties Union, and the Anti-Defamation League. 

Interfaith Alliance Responds to Dr. Dobson's National Day of Prayer Remarks

WASHINGTON, D.C. – In response to Dr. James Dobson’s offensive comments about President Obama at a National Day of Prayer event in Washington yesterday, Rev. Dr. C. Welton Gaddy, president of the Interfaith Alliance released the following statement:

“While Dr. James Dobson’s remarks about the president during yesterday’s National Day of Prayer event at the United States Capitol were inappropriate and shocking, sadly they were not new or unexpected. We have watched with dismay for years as the National Day of Prayer has been taken over by religious exclusivists. The so-called ‘National Day of Prayer Task Force’ uses this day, and the attention it receives from politicians and the media, to pursue a right-wing religious agenda. Because of this, government endorsement of the Task Force’s events does significant harm to the religious diversity and religious freedom that is the bedrock of American life.

“Last week, Interfaith Alliance sent a letter to the president and all fifty governors, urging our nation’s leaders to not participate in events sponsored by the National Day of Prayer Task Force and to ensure that their celebrations of the day would truly unite all Americans. While I regret that it had to come in such a heinous and offensive manner, I hope that Dr. Dobson’s remarks serve as a wake-up call for our leaders so that many more of them will participate in commemorating an inclusive National Day of Prayer in the future.“

Interfaith Alliance Calls For Inclusive Day of Prayer In Letter to All Fifty Governors, President Obama

Washignton, DC - In advance of the National Day of Prayer, celebrated this year on Thursday May 1, Rev. Dr. C. Welton Gaddy, the president Interfaith Alliance, sent the following letter to President Obama and the governors of every state. In this letter, Rev. Gaddy called on each of the governors and the President to respect Americans of all faiths, and those of no faith tradition, in their National Day of Prayer celebrations. Interfaith Alliance also cautioned against partnering with the so-called National Day of Prayer Task Force whose events systematically exclude Jews, Muslims, Catholics, Buddhists, Hindus and even some mainline Protestant Christians.

 

President Barack Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500

April 24, 2014

Dear President Obama,

On behalf of the Interfaith Alliance, an organization committed to defending religious freedom whose members represent more than 75 faith traditions, I am writing to request that you ensure that your observance of the National Day of Prayer is welcoming to clergy and believers of all religions, as well as to those who profess no religion. This celebration, mandated by an act of Congress, has too often been dominated by religious extremists who define religion by exclusion. In a nation already deeply divided, we should work together to make this year's National Day of Prayer, held on May 1, a reflection of both our nation's diversity of religious belief and its commitment to religious freedom. This day presents a great opportunity for us to demonstrate that religion can be a healing and reconciling force in our nation, but I fear that opportunity will be lost if the message of the day is defined by leaders from the religious right working for a Christian Nation. I commend you for the intentional and inclusive way that you have marked this day in the past, and I urge you to do the same this year.

I am compelled to make this request because, several years ago, the National Day of Prayer was taken over by a group of religious exclusivists led by Shirley Dobson of Focus on the Family. Dobson's group calls itself the "official" National Day of Prayer Task Force yet it has no official relationship with the government and it systematically excludes Jews, Muslims, Catholics, Buddhists, Hindus and even some mainline Protestant Christians from National Prayer Day events it conducts around the United States.

Moreover, The National Day of Prayer Task Force requires volunteer coordinators to sign a statement of faith which includes the following language: " I believe that the Holy Bible is the inspired, only, infallible, authoritative Word of The Living God. That there is one God, eternally existent in three persons: Father, Son and Holy Spirit... That for salvation of lost and sinful men and women, regeneration by the Holy Spirit is absolutely essential." Government sanction of the Task Force's work clearly aligns a government-sponsored event with a particular Christian denomination, in violation of the basic provisions of the First Amendment to the Constitution, establishing the separation of church and state.

I respectfully ask that you decline to participate in events sponsored by, or issue a separate proclamation to, the National Day of Prayer Task Force. This group has a record of using proclamations from and the participation of elected officials to raise the status of events in which they discriminate against and exclude clergy who represent faith traditions other than fundamentalist evangelical Christianity.

Indeed, I implore you to use your power of proclamation on this National Day of Prayer to restore it to what President Harry Truman intended when he signed it into law in 1952. Use your proclamation to bring together Americans of every religion and no religion, to express their faith in whatever way is appropriate for them. I urge you to issue a single proclamation for the day that calls for an inclusive National Day of Prayer that reflects our nation's rich tradition of religious pluralism by explicitly inviting clergy from diverse faith traditions to participate equally and fully -- especially in events held on government property.

Sincerely Yours,

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