Interfaith Alliance Welcomes Improvements to Hate Crime Data Collection, Calls for Rapid Implementation
Washington, D.C. - A Federal Bureau of Investigation Advisory Policy Board voted on Wednesday to begin formally reporting and tracking data on anti-Arab, anti-Hindu and anti-Sikh hate crimes, as well as hate crimes committed against other minority religious groups including Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Orthodox Christians and Buddhists. Though religion-based hate crimes are already prosecutable under federal hate crime laws, the FBI had not previously reported data on the religion of hate crime victims as comprehensively as it will now. Interfaith Alliance President Rev. Dr. C. Welton Gaddy issued the following statement on this policy shift, which Interfaith Alliance worked with its coalition partner organizations to secure:
"We have made great strides in recent years in our ability to prosecute and prevent hate crimes. Yet, our ability to track these crimes has not kept pace. The Advisory Policy Board’s recommendation that the FBI begin collecting and breaking down additional data on crimes directed against Sikhism, Islam and Hinduism, and individuals adhering to and communities associated with other minority religions, is an important step. I look forward to working with the FBI and the Department of Justice to see that this important change is properly and rapidly implemented."
"From news reports and anecdotes alone, there is clear, specific, demonstrated evidence that members of these religious and ethnic groups are the targets of hate crimes—and that these crimes are too often under- or un-reported. No law, no data alone, can remove hatred from an America increasingly rife with uncivil and narrow-minded bigotry. Yet, more detailed data collection and reporting will improve public awareness of this problem as well as our ability to see where more education and engagement is necessary to prevent future crimes. Beyond that—every story should be heard, every incident should be counted, and every victim deserves justice."
Statement on the Passing of U.S. Senator Frank Lautenberg
WASHINGTON –Interfaith Alliance President Rev. Dr. C. Welton Gaddy issued the following statement on the passing of U.S. Senator Frank Lautenberg:
"Our thoughts and prayers go out to the friends, family and constituents of Senator Frank Lautenberg. He was a true friend and ally in the cause of protecting religious freedom and the equal rights of every American regardless of race, religion or sexual orientation. He was the last of the World War II generation in the Senate, a war that profoundly shaped the actions of him and his colleagues. His experience and his wisdom will be missed, and those that come after him would do wise to look to his legacy for guidance."
Interfaith Alliance Celebrates Marriage Equality in Delaware, Minnesota
WASHINGTON - Interfaith Alliance President Rev. Dr. C. Welton Gaddy issued the following statement celebrating the growing trend of same-gender marriage legalization and expressed concern about the corresponding trend of religious freedom exemptions:
It is thrilling to watch the wave of states enacting marriage equality laws continue to move across the nation, with Delaware and Minnesota being the latest to do so. Still, I wish that the inclusion of religious exemptions—even those which are benign—were not part of this continued trend. I continue to believe the First Amendment and existing laws already protect religious freedom, and that ensuring the civil rights of LGBT Americans is not at odds with respecting religious freedom. Yet, it is still a victory when more government entities recognize that our civil laws on marriage cannot continue to be based on one theological perspective of who can or should be allowed to marry.
Diverse Organizations Urge Inclusion of Ban Against Religious Profiling in Immigration Reform Bill
As leaders of organizations that advocate for religious freedom for all, we urge the Senate to support the inclusion of religion and national origin in the immigration reform bill’s prohibition against profiling by law enforcement. As written, the bill omits these categories, prohibiting profiling based only on race and ethnicity. This glaring loophole must be closed.
By omitting religion and national origin in this manner, Congress would effectively give law enforcement the go-ahead to target Americans based on these defining characteristics. This is particularly true since other sections of this very bill prohibit discrimination based on religion, as do countless civil rights laws, always alongside race, ethnicity and national origin, leading to the inference that such an omission is intentional.
We appreciate that most law enforcement officials discharge their duties honorably. Yet, when law enforcement profiles individuals based solely on their real or perceived religion, it undermines our nation’s commitment to religious liberty and equal protection of the law—not to mention our security. Furthermore, such actions not only have the effect of discriminating against religion generally and religious minorities in particular, but also fuel divisiveness by casting suspicion over an entire religious community. We applaud Sen. Mazie Hirono’s proposed amendment to correct this egregious oversight and we urge her fellow senators to support this amendment.
Rev. Dr. C. Welton Gaddy
President, Interfaith Alliance
Nancy K. Kaufman
Chief Executive Officer, National Council of Jewish Women
Rabbi David Saperstein
Director and Counsel, Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism
Rev. J. Brent Walker
Executive Director, Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty
Interfaith Alliance Relieved by LA Supreme Court Decision on School Voucher Program
WASHINGTON — Having previously signed a joint amicus brief challenging the Louisiana school voucher program recently signed into law by Governor Bobby Jindal, Interfaith Alliance expressed relief at the state supreme court’s decision overturning the method of funding for the voucher program as unconstitutional. Rev. Dr. C. Welton Gaddy, who has been an outspoken critic of the voucher scheme both as president of Interfaith Alliance and in his capacity of Pastor for Preaching and Worship of Northminster (Baptist) Church in Monroe, La. Rev. Gaddy issued the following statement:
"I am relieved that the Louisiana Supreme Court overturned our state’s school voucher program which diverts taxpayer dollars from public schools to private schools—the vast majority of which are religious in nature."
"Most, if not all private religious schools are governed by theology both in the general operations of the school and the development of course curricula. Funding, participating in, and sending our children to religious education programs is the right and responsibility of faith communities, clergy, and parents as they see fit—not of our government. Every American also has an equal right to choose not to fund or participate in religious education."
"I have little doubt that our legislators and governor will attempt to circumvent this ruling and find new methods to keep the voucher program funded. But they should have little doubt that I—and other Louisianans who value religious liberty—will continue to fight these programs."