Press Releases

Religious Freedom Center and Interfaith Alliance condemn Newt Gingrich’s proposal to deport American Muslims who practice Sharia law as unconstitutional, misinformed and dangerous

WASHINGTON -- Newt Gingrich’s proposal to deport American Muslims who practice Sharia law is both unconstitutional and dangerous, according to the Religious Freedom Center of the Newseum Institute, and Interfaith Alliance. The two organizations jointly produced the resource “What is the Truth about American Muslims?” which explains Sharia in broad terms and dispels myths around it.

“This sweeping and inaccurate attack on American Muslims is an assault on religious freedom,” said Dr. Charles C. Haynes, founding director of the Religious Freedom Center. “Demonizing Islam fuels hostility and hate — and only serves the cause of extremists who commit violence in the name of religion.”

In the hours after the attacks in Nice, France, a Muslim Community Center in Rhode Island was vandalized. Once again, many American Muslims are fearful that they will be the targets of a backlash in the coming days.

“Unfortunately, there are some who are all too eager to use this moment to demonize the Muslim community,” said Rabbi Jack Moline, president of Interfaith Alliance. “Newt Gingrich’s comments are an affront to everything we stand for as Americans. I question whether anyone who makes such a proposal has even a basic understanding of the First Amendment.”

As explained in “What is the Truth about American Muslims?” Sharia stands for Islamic or sacred law. Sharia is overwhelmingly concerned with personal religious observances such as prayer and fasting. Just as many observant Jews follow Halakha, many observant Muslims follow some aspect of Sharia. The full document, which was endorsed by more than 20 organizations committed to protecting religious freedom, may be downloaded at: http://bit.ly/sharia-rfc).

For centuries, Muslim scholars have given a broad definition of Sharia, reflecting the diversity of interpretations on how Muslims have attempted to best understand and practice their faith. The general definition of Sharia as understood by most American Muslims is as follows:

  • Sharia represents how practicing Muslims can best lead their daily lives in accordance with God’s divine guidance
  • It may be generally defined as the Islamic law revealed by God to the Prophet Muhammad
  • That divine law was then interpreted by Muslim scholars over the centuries
  • Among the primary aims of the Sharia are the achievement of justice, fairness and mercy

“What is the Truth about American Muslims?” explains the sources of Sharia law and the diverse and dynamic interpretations and applications of Sharia law. The vast majority of American Muslims see no conflict between their religious obligations and values and the U.S. legal system.

“To single out religious practices and beliefs of any religion for government regulation is not only unlawful, it is un-American. The U.S. Constitution guarantees religious freedom for people of all religions and none,” said Haynes.

“These are dangerous times that call for real leadership and a sophisticated understanding of the complex world we live in. By making these statements, Newt Gingrich has proven himself to be incapable of either,” added Moline.

A full list of organizations that endorsed “What is the Truth about American Muslims?” includes:

  • African American Ministers Leadership Council
  • Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)
  • Foundation for Ethnic Understanding
  • Friends Committee on National Legislation
  • 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
  • Reconstructionist Rabbinical College
  • 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 United Methodist Church
  • General Board of Church and Society

About the Religious Freedom Center

The Religious Freedom Center of the Newseum Institute is a nonpartisan national initiative focused on educating the American public about the religious liberty principles of the First Amendment. We envision a world committed to religious freedom as an inalienable right for all people. In carrying out this vision, our mission is to educate the public about the history, meaning and significance of religious freedom and to promote dialogue and understanding among people of all religions and none.

Interfaith Alliance Condemns Attack on Nice, and the Demagoguery That Has Followed

WASHINGTON – Following the terrorist attack in Nice, France, Interfaith Alliance president Rabbi Jack Moline released the following statement offering condolences to the people of France and condemnation of remarks made by former House Speaker Newt Gingrich that demonize Muslims:

“The horrifying terrorist attack in Nice is an incomprehensible act that makes us all feel vulnerable. When we feel vulnerable we are often inclined to make poor decisions, but doing so only serves the purpose of the perpetrators of this heinous act.

“We stand in solidarity with the people of France and all those who have been victimized by terror. We honor their memory by standing firm in our efforts to combat extremism, whatever its origin, without trampling on the rights of the Muslim community, or any other community.

“Unfortunately, there are some who are all too eager to use this moment to demonize the Muslim community. Newt Gingrich’s call to test 'every person who is of a Muslim background,' to determine whether he or she believes in Sharia is an affront to everything we stand for as Americans. It is a scare tactic aimed at radicalizing a segment of our population that has been wrongly taught to fear Muslims, which has become a competitive sport among extremist elements in right-wing American politics. I question whether anyone who makes such a proposal has even a basic understanding of the First Amendment.

“These are dangerous times that call for real leadership and a sophisticated understanding of the complex world we live in. Newt Gingrich has proven himself to be incapable of either.”

Interfaith Alliance Responds to Donald Trump Remarks on Religion

WASHINGTON — During a meeting with Religious Right leaders today in New York, presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump vowed to change the U.S. tax code to allow churches to endorse politicians. Churches — along with all other tax-exempt groups — have been prevented since 1954 from backing candidates for public office. In response to Trump’s remarks, Rabbi Jack Moline, president of Interfaith Alliance, released the following statement:

"I am astonished by reports emerging from Donald Trump’s meeting with conservative Christian leaders earlier today. It would seem that Mr. Trump is pandering to the Religious Right by playing into their narrative that Christian leaders somehow are being silenced. That claim is false — more designed to spread fear and raise money than represent the truth. 

"Religious leaders have no less of a right to speak out on political issues than any other American. What they cannot do is use their tax-exempt pulpit to do it. That’s no different than any other 501(c)(3) organization that is required by the IRS to stay out of politics in exchange for not paying taxes. 

"The reality is that religious freedom as we know it is indeed in danger, only not in the way that Tony Perkins and other leaders of the Religious Right would have you think. Religious freedom is in danger because of a deliberate effort to redefine it as only protecting a narrow sectarian view of religion seen as authentic by the Religious Right, a view that favors orthodox views of religion over more mainstream and progressive interpretations. The Religious Right is not seeking to preserve the First Amendment. They are trying to weaponize it.

"As Donald Trump continues his campaign for the presidency, he should remember that the person who obtains the highest office in the land will represent all Americans. The President of the United States needs to protect the rights of everyone regardless of their faith or belief and must not show favor to the views of those he sees as more politically aligned with him.”

Interfaith Alliance Welcomes Introduction of Do No Harm Act to Protect Religious Freedom

WASHINGTON – Today, Interfaith Alliance joined religious and civil rights organizations in welcoming the introduction of the Do No Harm Act in the House of Representatives by Rep. Joseph Kennedy III (D – MA) and Rep. Bobby Scott (D – VA). The bill is a response to so-called religious freedom bills that have advanced in a number of states and would allow discrimination on the basis of religion. Following the introduction of this legislation, Rabbi Jack Moline, president of Interfaith Alliance, released this statement:

“The religious freedom promised by the Constitution, the religious freedom envisioned by our Founders, is one where every person’s faith is protected and no one’s faith is used to subjugate or harm others. For years the Religious Right has tried to force legislation through Congress and state legislatures designed to turn religious freedom into a weapon used against religious minorities, people of color, women, children and the LGBT community. The Do No Harm act is a critical first step toward counteracting that misguided campaign.

“I am grateful to Rep. Kennedy and Rep. Scott for their continued leadership on this issue and look forward to working with them and members of Congress of both parties as we continue to find the proper balance in safeguarding the religious freedom of all.”