May 14 2015
WASHINGTON -- As Congress considered renewing its work of foricng a school voucher program on the Washington, D.C., Interfaith Alliance head, Rabbi Jack Moline, wrote the following letter to the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee urging them to protect religious freedom by stopping public money from flowing to private, parochial schools:
The Honorable Jason Chaffetz
House Oversight & Government Reform
2236 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515
The Honorable Elijah Cummings
House Oversight & Government Reform
2230 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515
May 12, 2015
Dear Chairman Chaffetz and Ranking Member Cummings,
On behalf of the members of Interfaith Alliance, individuals across the country belonging to seventy-five different faith traditions as well as no particular faith tradition, I write to register our strong opposition to the DC voucher program and, indeed, all voucher programs that fund private schools. Our organization is committed to the integrity and freedom of American religious communities and to the stalwart defense of the First Amendment – both of which are undermined when public tax dollars fund private, parochial schools.
Certainly, if America’s religious communities are to remain vibrant and strong, then every community must retain the right to educate young people in the doctrine and practices of its traditions. These beliefs need not agree with secular understandings of science and history to be worthy of protection; religious education need not have the goal of preparing our children for the 21st century workforce to be valued. However, these are the primary goals of public education, and when religious schools receive government money they are necessarily subject to scrutiny and evaluation. This puts the government in a position of determining which religious doctrines – which types of religious education – live up to educational standards and merit public support. Such external judgment and evaluation of religious communities and beliefs is untenable if we are to maintain religious freedom in America – yet it is unavoidable if we continue to send our public money to private schools.
The civil rights and religious freedom of students at private, parochial schools are also of deep concern to all those who champion the First Amendment. Too often private schools receiving public money are not held to the same civil rights standards as public schools, including those standards set in Title VI, Title IX, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act, and the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). When religious schools use their exemptions to compromise the rights and freedoms of their students, they justify gender discrimination, dictate the religious practices of students, and jeopardize the rights of students with disabilities. Moreover, they do so with public money and thus the tacit cooperation of the government.
In the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision in Hobby Lobby and the debates over religious freedom legislation in Indiana and Arkansas, many in our nation have been reexamining the relationship between our Constitution’s promise of religious freedom and the protection of civil rights. But surely there must be clear line: when an entity receives federal funding – in the form of a school voucher, or otherwise – it must fully comply with federal civil rights standards, regardless of its religious affiliation.
It is for these reasons that I urge you not to renew the DC Voucher program. As we move forward as a nation in the work of safeguarding the religious freedom and civil rights of all, such public funding of private, religious schools, stands out as a particularly egregious threat to religious freedom.
Rabbi Jack Moline,
May 07 2015
WASHINGTON—In response to President Obama’s National Day of Prayer Proclamation – which strove to include and represent Americans of all faiths – Rabbi Jack Moline, executive director of Interfaith Alliance, released the following statement: those
“In 1952, Congress mandated that the President designate the first Thursday in May the National Day of Prayer. Too often public prayer, and this observance in particular, is used as a wedge to divide and demean Americans of different faiths and of no particular faith. I, along with faith leaders across the country, am grateful that President Obama repudiated such tactics in his proclamation today. The President’s inclusive proclamation today was first and foremost an articulation of America’s promise of religious freedom – a nation where all are free to worship as they please, and where no one’s religious beliefs dictate the rights and freedoms of others. Prayer can and does play a role for many in that vision of religious freedom and pluralism, the President’s proclamation honored and celebrated it.
“Yet the National Day of Prayer remains an observance that flouts the spirit of religious freedom in America, if not very the letter of the law. We should ask our leaders to join us in the common cause of solving our nation’s most urgent needs with, in the President’s words, “solemn reflection.” However, Government-sponsored prayer, no matter how well-intentioned, violates the Constitution. Our leaders should demonstrate respect for people of all religious traditions and of no religious tradition, and there should be no expectation of a public display of any particular form of piety.”
May 04 2015
Washington, DC – Interfaith Alliance executive director, Rabbi Jack Moline, condemned both a shooting that took place in Garland Texas yesterday and the event that seems to have provoked it.
“The events that transpired in Garland, Texas represent a tragic breakdown of our democratic values. The attempted shooting has no justification – not even the reprehensible event that seems to be its intended target. Violence as a response to insult is indefensible. The motives of the two gunmen killed at an anti-Islam event yesterday are still under investigation. However, regardless of their intent, we reject their use violence.
“The so-called 'Muslim Art Exhibit’ where the shooting took place is an event deserving of criticism even absent yesterday’s violence. Pamela Geller, the exhibit’s sponsor, seeks to hide provocation behind the First Amendment. This competition, which rewarded disrespect with cash, may be legal, but it is certainly not worthy of the great tradition of free-speech advocacy in America. Unfortunately, this was not her organization’s first attempt to incite radical elements in society, and this time, sadly, it would appear some took the bait.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with the security guard who was injured last night and with the community that was threatened. We pray as well for peace and compassion in the wake of this tragedy – just as violence is the wrong response to hate, more hate is the wrong response to violence.”
Apr 29 2015
Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams First National Company to Join Campaign
WASHINGTON – In response to the ongoing national debate surrounding so-called religious freedom bills in state legislatures, Interfaith Alliance has launched the “Everyone Only” campaign. The organization is asking businesses to place signs in their windows declaring “We Serve Everyone Only.” Local businesses across the country have begun to display the signs and home furnishings brand Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams has signed on as the first national retailer to display the signs. In the coming weeks more than 20,000 signs will be mailed to Interfaith Alliance supporters across the country to share with local businesses.
“Following a national outcry, Indiana and Arkansas attempted to fix their flawed bills. Not surprisingly, the changes did not go nearly far enough to prevent the enabling of discrimination,” said Interfaith Alliance executive director, Rabbi Jack Moline. “Through Everyone Only, we will keep the pressure on leaders in Indiana, Arkansas and any other state seeking to pass this kind of flawed legislation. These signs in communities around the country will symbolize our united commitment to basic civil rights.”
States across the country, from Louisiana to Michigan, are considering new legislation that could allow people to use religious ideology to discriminate against and jeopardize the rights of American citizens. At the same time, the LGBT community, religious minorities and other vulnerable populations are working to understand what the compromises reached in Indiana and Arkansas – and similar legislation already on the books around the nation – mean for their rights. The simple reality is these laws are not needed in the first place. Businesses doing business in the public sphere, using public utilities, roads, police and other services have to be willing to serve everyone.
Interfaith Alliance encourages communities and business to make a commitment to remain open to all, in spite of any legal right to discriminate. “Everyone Only” is a campaign for business owners and community members willing to build an inclusive and welcoming environment. Already Everyone Only signs have been hung in storefronts across the country from the OpenTable Café in Owasso, Oklahoma to Busboys and Poets in Washington, D.C.
Interfaith Alliance takes special pride in the support of Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams, long-time leaders in LGBT advocacy. Mitchell Gold, co-founder of Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams and long time ally of Interfaith Alliance, said, “I grew up in the 1960’s and remember all too well the signs that said ‘we serve whites only’ and the other visible signs of discrimination against African-Americans, minority religious groups and more. This sign is a signal to our customers and employees that we embrace serving everyone. If a gay or straight couple, or individual, walks in our store to make their house a home, we stand ready to serve them…equally!” Gold went on to add, “The people who ask for or support these discriminatory bills continue to depend on outdated and misguided teachings to justify their prejudice. The signs in our windows also mean ‘Enough!’ Too much suffering and harm has been caused in the past to innocent people because of these teachings that are not relevant in a modern and fair society.”
Learn more about Everyone Only at http://www.everyone-only.org