Nov 06 2012
November 6, 2012
Commissioner Douglas H. Shulman
1111 Constitution Ave. NW
Washington, D.C. 20224-0002
Dear Commissioner Shulman:
I am writing to you regarding the Internal Revenue Service’s tax audits of houses of worship which have violated the law prohibiting pulpit politicking by non-profit organizations. As a minister who serves a Baptist congregation in Louisiana and the president of the national Interfaith Alliance, I have been deeply disturbed by the disproportionate role religion has played during recent election cycles. Specifically, I am appalled by the ever increasing frequency with which clergy around the country are endorsing or condemning candidates —that this blatant and intentional law breaking goes unchallenged by the IRS. The situation in which we find ourselves is unlike anything I have seen in my decades of ministry and this threat to both the integrity of religion and the vitality of politics must end.
I understand that a 2009 court case, United States v. Living Word Christian Center, required that the IRS clarify its rules on which officials are able to authorize such audits. However, the overwhelming consensus seems to be that there has been no action — either to make these clarifications or act on houses of worship violating the law. If steps have been taken to put a regime in place that is empowered to challenge the clergy who are intent on entangling themselves with electoral politics, I hope that you will soon make them public.
I want to be clear: I write to share my concerns because of my interest in protecting the interests of both religion and democracy. The prohibition against pulpit endorsements protects my fellow clergy members and me just as much as it protects our democratic system. As a defender of religious freedom I can unequivocally say such rules protect, rather than infringe upon my freedom. My prophetic mission to speak truth to power and educate my congregation on social justice issues important to our faith, is made possible in part because by being tax exempt, my church is free from government oversight and entanglement.
Furthermore, this is an issue that we know is not completely drawn with partisan lines. Though most of the high profile examples involve clergy stumping for Republican candidates — as in the case of the Alliance Defending Freedom’s so-called Pulpit Freedom Sunday — a recent survey from the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life found that 40 percent of black Protestants said their clergy have discussed their support for President Obama in church.
This election cycle is almost behind us, but I hope that you will give priority to putting the necessary rules and personnel in place before the 2014 Midterm Elections, to investigate houses of worship that flaunt the law and endorse political candidates. We have two years to stem this tide and I hope we can do so before our next election cycle, or the inaction of the IRS will only encourage more and more clergy to act in such an unlawful and unethical manner.
Rev. Dr. C. Welton Gaddy
Nov 05 2012
November 5, 2012
His Eminence Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan
1011 First Avenue
New York, NY 10022
Dear Cardinal Dolan:
As a Baptist minister and as a patriotic American, I have been deeply disturbed by the disproportionate role religion has played during recent election cycles; it is unlike anything I have seen in my decades of ministry. Indeed, at times, the entanglement between religion and politics has seemed to threaten both the integrity of religion and the vitality of politics. Recent appeals to the Catholic flock that have been or will be read in churches in several states may not have crossed a legal boundary, but I am a firm believer that what is ethical is every bit as important as what is legal and in that respect, a line has been crossed.
In the most recent example, Bishop Daniel Jenky of Peoria, IL, mandated a letter be read in every parish in his diocese that not only distorts the truth, but calls on parishioners to vote. While he does not explicitly tell Illinois parishioners for whom they should vote, his call to vote comes after explaining how sinful it would be to support the policies of the President and “current majority” of the Senate, making it rather clear for whom he believes a Catholic should vote. One week prior, Bishop David Laurin Ricken of Green Bay, WI, posted a letter (also shared in church bulletins) noting “some candidates and one party” have included in their platform positions contrary to the teachings of the Church and “to vote for someone in favor of these positions means you could…put your own soul in jeopardy.” Bishop Ricken’s letter clearly implies which of the political parties he believes promotes “intrinsically evil” policies.
By contrast, Chancellor of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, Rev. Steve Angi, wrote a letter in a different vein, one that I hope you will support becoming the norm of how the Catholic Church speaks to its flock about elections. Chancellor Angi reminded church leaders in his diocese that not only does the Church “not wish to engage in political activity” but that it is important to not speak or act in a way “that could be construed as endorsement.”
I hope that you agree with me in thinking that religion should never be used as a political tool and clergy should never abuse their pulpit by turning it into a political stump, rather than a platform to inspire, comfort and educate their flock about the faith. A church pulpit is the nexus of Christian beliefs and contemporary issues. The pulpit’s authority is compromised if those who stand in it and preach from it claim a divine authority for
endorsements or condemnations of candidates – even when such statements are cloaked by an appeal to religious liberty. I believe in and will defend the right of clergy to speak to their flock about the challenges facing our nation – including the Catholic Church’s perspective on women’s health care – but that does not and should not include using the pulpit to push a partisan agenda.
People of faith can of course, should they so choose, turn to their spiritual leaders for moral grounding as they contemplate the election. However, it is for each individual voter to make his or her own decision. As the president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, I hope you will act to ensure that the messages are shared in parishes around the nation – and by you yourself – do not declare or even imply which candidate the faithful should vote for; because, what is ethical is just as important as what is legal.
Rev. Dr. Welton Gaddy
New Resource Dispelling Myths and Stereotypes about American Muslims released by Interfaith Alliance and the Religious Freedom Education Project
Oct 11 2012
‘What’s the Truth about American Muslims?’ Takes on Questions about Sharia Law, Mosques and the Relationship between American and Religious law
Washington, D.C. – Interfaith Alliance and the Religious Freedom Education Project of the First Amendment Center today released a new resource with answers to frequently asked questions about religious freedom and American Muslims. Following years of misinformation and demonization of the American Muslim community, this new resource aims to redirect the national dialogue to one based on respect and understanding.
The new document, entitled, “What is the Truth about American Muslims? Questions and Answers,” is an attempt by the partnering organizations to provide accurate information and delve into the law of religious freedom, the history of American Muslims in the United States, and misunderstood terms and practices, including sharia.
“In a time when misinformation about and misunderstandings of Islam and of the American Muslim community are widespread, our goal is to provide the public with accurate answers to understandable questions,” said Rev. Dr. C. Welton Gaddy, president of Interfaith Alliance. “The resource reflects widely-shared views among American Muslims on important topics such as sharia, jihad, the role of mosques, and the relationship between religious and civil legal codes. In producing and disseminating this resource, we seek to uphold our shared commitment to religious freedom and contribute to a climate of understanding and mutual respect among Americans of all faiths and none.”
“Drafted over a period of nine months and vetted by religious liberty experts and scholars of Islam, this new resource answers key questions raised by anti-Muslim groups in the United States over the past decade,” said Dr. Charles C. Haynes, director of the Religious Freedom Education Project at the First Amendment Center. “Our aim is to provide the public with balanced and accurate information about religious freedom and American Muslims in order to counter the dangerous and often vicious propaganda that has helped fuel the dramatic rise of anti-Muslim bigotry in America.”
Twenty-one religious and secular organizations have endorsed the religious freedom principles outlined in the new document and support the effort led by Interfaith Alliance and the Religious Freedom Project to publicize accurate information about American Muslims and Islam.
The endorsing organizations are: the African American Ministers Leadership Council, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), Foundation for Ethnic Understanding, Institute for Social Policy and Understanding, Islamic Networks Group, Islamic Society of North America, Muslim Public Affairs Council, National Religious Campaign Against Torture, New Evangelical Partnership for the Common Good, People for the American Way Foundation, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), Queens Federation of Churches, Rabbis for Human Rights-North America, Secular Coalition for America, Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund, Sikh Coalition, Sojourners, Southern Poverty Law Center, Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations, United Church of Christ, and the United Methodist Church, General Board of Church and Society.
Interfaith Alliance President Rev. Dr. C. Welton Gaddy Reacts to Religious Freedom Question during the Vice Presidential Debate
Oct 11 2012
Washington, D.C. - Praising the Vice Presidential debate's moderator Martha Raddatz for raising the issue of religious freedom, Interfaith Alliance President Rev. Dr. C. Welton Gaddy, noted the very different positions reached by two candidates who expressed a deep connection to their faith. Rev. Gaddy wrote Raddatz and the other debate moderators earlier this month asking them to raise the issue of religious freedom.
Religious Freedom is a foundation of our democracy, and I am grateful it was raised during tonight's Vice Presidential debate. Having said that, I continue to be frustrated that the discussion around religious freedom is all to often viewed only through the lens of abortion. It is an important issue worthy of discussion, but so much more is at stake when we talk about religious freedom.
Each candidate answered the question in a thoughtful way that acknowledged that personal faith is not enough to base public policy on, and yet still found themselves on opposite sides of the abortion issue. That outcome is an important reminder that deeply held personal faith can and does take extraordinarily different forms in this country and each is worthy of protection and none should be given preference over any other.
We need a clear definition of religious freedom from the candidates that acknowledges that no one should worry about the imposition of personal religious beliefs of the candidate being imposed on the American people.