WASHINGTON – Following a suspected arson attack at the Flood Christian Church in St. Louis, whose leadership had spoken out vocally about the death of Michael Brown and where Michael Brown Sr. had recently been baptized, Rev. Dr. C. Welton Gaddy, president of Interfaith Alliance, released the following statement:
“As we celebrate Thanksgiving this week, we remember that the freedom to worship without fear of persecution or the threat of violence was the very reason so many of our ancestors came to this land. That guarantee, enshrined in the First Amendment of the Constitution, can only be safeguarded if every house of worship in our nation is free from the threat of attack. Violence targeting religious communities for what they believe or preach, like the suspected arson at the Flood Christian Church, does more than terrorize one community; it jeopardizes the very core of the American promise and, indeed, threatens us all. While the relationship between law enforcement and the community in the St. Louis area remains dangerously divided, I hope that this tragic event will be investigated swiftly and thoroughly. My prayers are with the family and friends of Michael Brown as they continue to mourn, and with the community in Ferguson that continues to seek a peaceful and just way forward.
“The specifics of this attack are particularly chilling because they recall some of the darkest moments in American history. Throughout the twentieth century black churches were burned and brutalized as a means of silencing the prophetic voice of African American religious communities who demanded civil rights and equality. In the twenty-first century all Americans must stand with those religious communities who are victimized for their beliefs and declare that we will not be silenced. We dare not be divided or allow others to divide us into black churches or white churches, synagogues or mosques in this matter. Religious freedom is only safe if it protects us all.
“Our nation’s observance of Thanksgiving Day provides us with a great opportunity to reaffirm the necessity of religious freedom and for all Americans to recommit themselves to the application and protection of that freedom every day for every person.”
Interfaith Alliance celebrates religious freedom by championing individual rights, promoting policies that protect both religion and democracy, and uniting diverse voices to challenge extremism. Founded in 1994, Interfaith Alliance brings together members from 75 faith traditions as well as those without a faith tradition to protect faith and freedom. For more information visit www.interfaithalliance.org.