Washington, DC – Interfaith Alliance President, Rev. Dr. C. Welton Gaddy, released the following statement in response to comments from President Obama and Members of Congress during the last week regarding the proposed Islamic Center in lower Manhattan:  

I was proud to see President Obama’s strong endorsement of religious freedom on Friday, only to be disappointed on Saturday when he seemed to walk back his comments. This is a project that shows the American Muslim community’s commitment to democratic values, interfaith dialogue, and civic engagement and is, in many ways, a slap in the face to the extremists who sought to destroy those values with the September 11th attacks.  Opponents must stop intentionally mischaracterizing the motives of those behind the Cordoba Initiative. To oppose this project because Islam is involved and Muslims are sponsors of it is a violation of the religious freedom guaranteed and protected by the First Amendment of the Constitution. 

It has been disheartening to see Members of Congress and other national leaders cite public opinion polling as a reason to stop the project. Anyone with a basic knowledge of the history of the First Amendment knows that religious freedom exists in part to protect the rights of the minority from the whim of the majority. In fact, it would not be a stretch to say that if the Founding Fathers had relied on polling data, the First Amendment might not exist at all. The President and Congress should remember that they have sworn to defend the Constitution. Never is there a time to waver from that commitment.

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 interfaithalliance.org.