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 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.