Aug 28 2015
WASHINGTON -- Yesterday, following a tragic shooting outside of Roanoke, VA, Roanoke Mayor David Bowers called for prayer and a return to church. Following this call, Rabbi Jack Moline, Interfaith Alliance Executive Director and longtime Virginia faith leader, wrote this letter:
Mayor David A. Bowers
215 Church Ave, S.W.
Roanoke, VA 24011
August 28, 2015
Dear Mayor Bowers,
Roanoke was the epicenter of a shock that reverberated throughout the Commonwealth, the nation and the world. Please accept my condolences to the city, as I have already extended to WDBJ7, both as Executive Director of Interfaith Alliance and as a long-time rabbi from Alexandria, Virginia.
In response to a question from CNN reporter Carol Costello, you called for prayer as a response to the murders. I join you in the call for people to seek solace in their faith or philosophy in moments of trauma like these tragic deaths. Indeed, my experience as a member of the clergy is that there are few better places to find the courage to persevere than in the company of like-minded people gathered for worship, reflection or meditation.
However, prayer addresses only part of the problem – which you, as an elected official, certainly know. Public policy plays a principal role in addressing the scourge of gun violence. I hope that you recognize the wisdom expressed by Governor McAuliffe when he called for meaningful reform to regulate access to firearms. As you well know, in Virginia, a licensed gun owner like Vester Lee Flanagan II could bring his weapon into the church where the prayers you recommend are being offered. Imagine if his rage had boiled over on Sunday morning instead of Wednesday.
As such, I hope you will encourage clergy and other moral leaders to speak to the process of reflection and discernment on ways to preserve Constitutional guarantees while protecting life and liberty for all. When prayer leads us through personal solace toward communal action it is most effective, and it is more likely to show us the answers we seek to the real social problems that were highlighted by this tragedy.
Rabbi Jack Moline
Interfaith Alliance Welcomes Donald Trump’s Approach to Religion on the Campaign Trail, Calls for Civility
Aug 27 2015
WASHINGTON – Yesterday, Bloomberg’s John Heilemann asked Donald Trump, candidate for the Republican presidential nomination, a series of questions about his faith and his relationship to the Bible. Mr. Trump rightfully pushed back on the question saying it was a personal matter. Interfaith Alliance has encouraged candidates to take care when discussing religion on the campaign trail, and has long urged the media to respect candidates’ private views. Today, Interfaith Alliance Executive Director Rabbi Jack Moline released the following statement:
“Mr. Trump demonstrated a remarkable deftness and respect for the spirit of the First Amendment when pressed, recently, with questions about his relationship to the Bible. The Constitution mandates that the government set no religious test for office, if we are to truly protect religious freedom in America the media must uphold that goal as well. We do a disservice to both our politics and our religious communities when we encourage candidates to translate their faith into sound-bytes. I thank Mr. Trump for respecting religion enough to refuse to answer such questions.
“Mr. Trump has rightfully asked that the privacy of his personal religious identity and beliefs be respected, that America give him the benefit of the doubt when he discuss faith. As someone who strives to lead our nation, I urge him to extend that same civility and generosity to his political opponents, members of the media, and the general public. We are not better informed when we insult one another, our political debate is not helped when we question each other’s intentions, our country will not be made great through demonizing members of our community, fueling divisiveness and championing vitriol.”
Rabbi Jack Moline Invites John Oliver's Church of Our Lady of the Perpetual Exemption to Join Interfaith Alliance
Aug 19 2015
WASHINGTON -- Comedian and host of the HBO show Last Week Tonight, John Oliver recently announced the creation of the Church of Our Lady of the Perpetual Exemption in a segment exploring many of the issues with how U.S. law treats religious institutions. Below is a letter from Interfaith Alliance President Rabbi Jack Moline congratulating Mr. Oliver on his new church, inviting him to join Interfatih Alliance, and reminding him why some of these exemptions are necessary.
Last Week Tonight
120 East 23rd St
New York, NY 10023
August 19, 2015
Dear Mr. Oliver,
On behalf of Interfaith Alliance, an organization dedicated to religious freedom in America, I congratulate you on the founding of your new denomination. May the Church of Our Lady of the Perpetual Exemption find the success and support it deserves.
As someone committed to my own Jewish faith, I hope you will excuse me from joining your church. However, as someone devoted to interfaith cooperation, religious freedom, and stopping the misuse of religion, I find much to appreciate in the doctrine of Our Lady of the Perpetual Exemption.
Interfaith Alliance is a national organization that draws support from individuals who identify with more than 75 faith traditions and philosophies. We hope that with the establishment of your church we can now say “more than 76 faith traditions.” I would welcome you and any other members of the Church of Our Lady of the Perpetual Exemption (COOLPERX?) to join us.
You seemed surprised at how easy it was for you to open your church, register it, and ensure its legal protection. We understand what made you shake your head at what the IRS allows as a house of worship. The only way we can be absolutely sure that mosques, synagogues, churches and temples are able to serve communities across the country is to protect the rights of new and unique churches like Our Lady of the Perpetual Exemption.
If the IRS were truly empowered to regulate religion in this country, every sermon would be written in red-ink, our prophets would all be living in the Caymans and we’d have to file our prayers at a processing center in Peoria. Religious life thrives in America precisely because the government plays no role in deciding what is or is not a legitimate faith.
Call us crazy, but we believe that the common sense of most people will alert them to the absurdities of religious practitioners who take advantage of these freedoms. And when that fails, we count on you to point out those who are misusing the trappings of faith for personal or political gain.
I hope that Interfaith Alliance can count on your wit, intellect and support as we continue the hard work of balancing religious freedom and the government’s interest in preventing abuse and protecting the rights of all Americans. And I give you my personal promise that no donation you might send us will go toward mansions or private jets. (That’s what government contracts are for, and that’s where the real money is anyway).
Rabbi Jack Moline
Aug 13 2015
WASHINGTON – The Colorado Court of Appeals ruled today that a Colorado cake shop violated the Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act when it refused to sell a wedding cake to a same-sex couple. Most importantly, the court ruled that the cake shop’s refusal to serve a same-sex couple was not a protected form of religious expression. Following this ruling, Rabbi Jack Moline, executive director of Interfaith Alliance, released this statement:
“Today’s victory is an affirmation of the vision of religious freedom that Interfaith Alliance, and many others, champions. The First Amendment is the basic compact of our society: each of us is granted the freedom to worship as we see fit, each of us must respect the right of others to do otherwise. Religious freedom is not a license to discriminate, religious freedom is not the ability to opt out of laws you find disagreeable.
“Too many on the Religious Right have tried to argue otherwise. Most recently Russell Moore, of the Southern Baptist Convention, has exploited his community’s fears that increased legal protections for the LGBT community will jeopardize church autonomy and individual conscience. These opponents of religious freedom seem to believe in the sanctity of their own First Amendment rights while blatantly ignoring, if not outright violating, the rights of others. They want all of the freedom, with none of the responsibility that the constitution demands. In short, they want to have their cake and eat it too.
“I hope that today’s victory is a rebuke to those efforts to debase religious freedom into a sectarian, partisan agenda.”