Washington, DC – Interfaith Alliance President, Rev. Dr. C. Welton Gaddy, issued the following statement today praising the Senate for passing the Matthew Shepard Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act as an amendment to the Department of Defense Authorization Bill:

Hate is neither a religious nor an American value, and that is why Interfaith Alliance praises the Senate for passing this hate crimes prevention bill. The sacred scriptures of many different faith traditions speak with dramatic unanimity in vehemently condemning hate. If we aspire to be true to the prophetic core of our religions and our American values, we cannot condemn hate and then sit idly by while it destroys the lives of a group of our fellow citizens.

Although they made a lot of noise, only a handful of religious right extremists have opposed this bill. Their strategic attempt to use religion as a scare tactic is deplorable. This legislation in no way will impinge on the rights of clergy to speak freely from the pulpit. Indeed, the legislation specifically states that “nothing in this act shall be construed to prohibit any constitutionally protected speech.”

I must point out that our more-than-a-decade-long effort to secure meaningful hate crimes prevention legislation has reached this point before only to be stopped short of enactment for want of the signature of the President of the United States. Even as we applaud the Senate, we urge them to get this legislation to President Obama, and we appeal to him to sign it into law without delay. It is long past due, but this can be the moment for a ringing pronouncement of our democracy’s intolerance of hate and the crime it foments.

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.