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 is a network of people of diverse faiths and beliefs from across the country working together to build a resilient democracy and fulfill America’s promise of religious freedom and civil rights not just for some, but for all. We mobilize powerful coalitions to challenge Christian nationalism and religious extremism, while fostering a better understanding of the healthy boundaries between religion and government. We advocate at all levels of government for an equitable and just America where the freedoms of belief and religious practice are protected, and where all persons are treated with dignity and have the opportunity to thrive. For more information visit interfaithalliance.org.