Aug 07 2015
WASHINGTON – Last night, the Fox News moderators of the first Republican Primary debate asked several candidates inappropriate and unnecessary questions about whether God spoke to them in their political decisions. Before the debate, Interfaith Alliance Executive Director Rabbi Jack Moline sent a letter to Fox News, and every network hosting a scheduled primary debate, urging them to handle matters of religion more deftly on the debate stage, a charge Fox News failed to live up to.
Following last night’s debate Rabbi Moline issued this statement:
“When we demand that our politicians make public displays of piety to please us with some profession of faith, we will always be disappointed. Nothing could have highlighted that truth more than the question that Fox News host Megyn Kelly asked several of the candidates last night. Rather than prompting an honest conversation about faith and religious freedom, her question spurred a round of grandstanding and puffery about what God wants, who God supports and why God blesses us. This type of chatter demeans our sacred teachings, exploits the passions of voters of faith and isolates those Americans who do not share a particular concept of the divine. The candidates’ response was not a surprise given the nature of the question; Fox News should have known better.
“I remind these candidates how the first and perhaps greatest Republican President framed such use of God in political conflicts. President Lincoln famously said of dividing political factions in his Second Inaugural Address ‘Both read the same Bible and pray to the same God, and each invokes His aid against the other… The prayers of both could not be answered. That of neither has been answered fully. The Almighty has His own purposes.’ If politicians invoke God for their campaign purposes, they delegitimize the faith of others and misunderstand the mystery and complexity of the Almighty. As many candidates aptly said last night, we do not need more of that kind of divisiveness and discrimination.
“I ask the Fox News team to remember that the Constitution insists that there be no religious test for office. Though we may hope that a candidate has the depth of knowledge and openness of heart to navigate the intricacies of America’s religious landscape, we cannot demand it of them. However, such expectations might be worthwhile for moderators of these debates.”
Aug 05 2015
WASHINGTON – Today the White House unveiled highly anticipated plans to reform the way that federal agencies interact with faith-based contractors and sub-contractors. These plans grow out of recommendations on how to best protect the religious freedom of government service beneficiaries presented to the White House by Interfaith Alliance and a number of other faith-based organizations and religious freedom advocates. Today’s announcement opens a sixty day comment period during which Interfaith Alliance will review the proposed changes and work to ensure that vigorous protection of religious freedom when the government contracts with religious organizations. Following this announcement, Rabbi Jack Moline issued this statement:
“During President Obama’s first campaign he vowed to ensure that federal funds were not used to proselytize or discriminate based on religious beliefs. Today’s announcement is significant progress toward making good on that promise. These reforms ensure that people receiving services from religious providers know about their rights; they provide important recourse for individuals preferring to be served by a secular organization. Most importantly they set clear guidelines requiring organizations to formally separate their explicitly religious activities from their federally funded work – surely the only way the government can give money to a religious entity and maintain the spirit of the First Amendment.
“I applaud The White House, under the tireless leadership of Melissa Rogers, for this important step forward. However, there is still much to do to make sure that federal funding of religious institutions respects the Constitution. We continue to be frustrated by the administration’s refusal to overturn the Office of Legal Counsel memo that allows religious organizations who contract with the government to opt out of important regulations and nondiscrimination policies. We look forward to continuing to work with the White House and people of faith from across the religious and political spectrum to ensure that the religious freedom of every individual is protected when they step in line for a government service.”
Aug 03 2015
WASHINGTON - In advance of the first presidential primary debate this year, Rabbi Jack Moline, executive director of Interfaith Alliance, sent the following letter to Fox News Channel. Similar letters were sent to each of the networks hosting debates this year. In this letter Rabbi Moline urges the networks to take care while asking candidates about religion at the debates - encouraging them to focus on questions of policy and substance, rather than asking candidates to demonstrate their religious piety.
Bret Baier, Megyn Kelly, Chris Wallace,
Carl Cameron and Bryan Boughton
Fox News Channel
1211 Avenue of the Americas
New York, NY 10036-8701
August 3, 2015
Dear Mr. Baier, Ms. Kelly, Mr. Wallace, Mr. Cameron and Mr. Boughton,
Congratulations to your network for hosting the upcoming presidential primary debate. This honor comes with great power and opportunity. As you know, debates can help candidates clarify their positions, educate the public about their backgrounds and beliefs, and highlight important differences in approaches to politics and policy. Of course, debates can also be moments of grandstanding, pandering, and senseless bickering. A deft and judicious moderator can often make the difference between a productive debate and a wasted opportunity.
Perhaps nowhere is the distinction between useful discussion and self-promotion starker than when debates turn to issues of religion. There are, today, real issues confronting religious freedom in America that we can all benefit from hearing these candidates debate. I am writing to ask you to facilitate that constructive conversation. The appropriate framework would be to ask candidates about how their faith informs their approach to politics and policy. Ask how they plan to navigate conflicts between their personal religious beliefs, the Constitution, and the best interests of all Americans. Ask what role faith plays in their response to crises or challenges they might face in office.
Obviously, you will not be speaking only to the candidates on stage about their particular faith backgrounds. You will be speaking to the Muslim, the Hindu, the atheist at home who might one day consider running for public office but is afraid how their faith will be viewed.
Among the specific questions you might address are:
How do the candidates understand the contours of religious freedom as America moves toward greater LGBT equality and access to reproductive health services?
What restrictions would they place on houses of worship, religious schools and organizations that receive taxpayer money?
What is their plan for protecting America’s national security without undermining the freedom and respect deserved by all religious communities?
With the range of issues facing our country and the number of candidates participating, there will be limited opportunity to ask about religion and politics. I implore you not to squander that question by asking candidates about their favorite bible verse or their relationship with God. Article VI of the Constitution declares that “no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.” Please protect this guarantee by not making profession of faith an issue.
The public trust is with your network in these debates. Please guard it carefully.
Rabbi Jack Moline,
Jul 29 2015
WASHINGTON – Former Arkansas Governor, and Republican candidate for president, Mike Huckabee recently made offensive and inappropriate comments comparing President Obama’s negotiations with Iran to the beginning of the Holocaust. Following the President’s reaction to these statements, Gov. Huckabee as well as several other candidates in the Republican primary doubled-down on this analogy. Interfaith Alliance has a long history of asking people in public life to refrain from misusing the Holocaust and other Nazi rhetoric in this way. In response to these latest comments, Rabbi Jack Moline, executive director of Interfaith Alliance, released the this statement:
“I am appalled that Mike Huckabee would invoke the Holocaust for his political gain; I am disgusted that he, after hearing passionate critiques from so many in the Jewish community, is waffling about the language he used and defending this sentiment. The only acceptable thing to do now is apologize.
“The Holocaust was a historically unique event that ultimately resulted in the death of six million Jews. To use it as a rhetorical device on the campaign trail is to misunderstand history and disrespect the memory of those who died. Having lived and worked in the Jewish community my entire life, I know how fresh the devastation of the Holocaust still is for so many. He should know better as a pastor than to exploit the sacred memory of others for political purposes and to then use sophistry to defend his insensitivity. There is, quite simply, no excuse for rhetoric of this nature.
“Sadly Governor Huckabee has dragged too many of his Republican colleagues into this debate: with candidates like Senator Rick Santorum and Senator Ted Cruz defending his rhetoric, and Governor Jeb Bush denouncing it. It is deeply unsettling that so many candidates for the highest office in the land cannot see through Governor Huckabee’s rhetoric for the canard that it is. There is clearly a debate to be had about the Iran deal, but we should all agree the Holocaust has no part in it.”