WASHINGTON -- January 13 -- Today, The Interfaith Alliance hosted a press conference at the National Press Club where leaders from five major national organizations warned that religious liberty is under siege and called on the nation to block efforts in the 109th Congress that would tear down the constitutional wall of separation between religion and government.
The Rev. Dr. C. Welton Gaddy, president of The Interfaith Alliance, ( http://www.interfaithalliance.org ) moderated the event and introduced the speakers: Rabbi David Saperstein, director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism ( http://www.rac.org ); Sarah Eltantawi, co-founder and communications director, Progressive Muslim Union of North America ( http://www.pmuna.org ); Rev. Romal Tune, senior organizer for African American Programs, People for the American Way ( http://www.pfaw.org ); and J. Brent Walker, executive director, Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty ( http://www.bjcpa.org ).
"The 109th Congress and the courts to which members of the Senate will send new judges are critical venues in which we will see whether or not the historically heralded value of religious liberty will be preserved and strengthened or ignored, compromised, eroded or abolished," Gaddy said.
Saperstein warned that the Jones Bill, "the so-called 'Houses of Worship Free Speech Restoration Act'....would amend the tax code to permit houses of worship to engage in partisan electoral activity while maintaining their tax-exempt status...transforming sanctuaries into political campaign headquarters and blurring the line between church and state. Congregations would be plunged into divisive political battles, pitting congregant against congregant and congregant against clergy."
Walker referred to the numerous versions of the Ten Commandments in the Bible and asked "which commandments?...which translation?" would government officials choose to display.
"How strange it is to create a graven image out of a document that says we are not supposed to have any graven images." Walker said.
"Should the time come for President Bush to nominate a Supreme Court justice, we will urge members of the Senate not to be intimidated, by the false claim that they are somehow anti- Christian when they oppose right-wing nominees because of their legal philosophy; and we will encourage members of the Senate to protect the moral vision of the Constitution," Tune said.
"Laws such as the PATRIOT Act and tactics like 'interviews' or what civil-liberties groups call 'surveillance' have yielded the same results in most, if not almost all cases: hype that has not lead to one terrorist arrest since Sept. 11," Eltantawi said. "What these tactics have in fact accomplished is to alienate and frighten the Muslim community, which is surely counterproductive to the larger goals of working with all Americans to keep our nation safe."
Listen or Read Online: An audio file and a written transcript of the news conference is available online at http://www.interfaithalliance.org/libertypc.
The Interfaith Alliance (TIA) and The Interfaith Alliance Foundation (TIAF) serve as the national, nonpartisan advocacy voice of the interfaith movement. More than 150,000 members drawn from more than 75 faith traditions, and 47 local alliances, are united to promote democratic values, defend religious liberty, challenge hatred and religious bigotry, and reinvigorate informed civic participation -- http://www.interfaithalliance.org.