Washington, DC – Today a coalition of over 30 religious organizations released an open letter signed by over 1,400 religious leaders urging members of the Senate to pass hate crimes legislation. The Interfaith Alliance, a member of this coalition, helped organize clergy from a wide array of faith traditions to counter the perception in the media that religious voices oppose the hate crimes bill.
Many organizations on the Religious Right have mobilized their supporters to oppose hate crimes legislation because of a misplaced fear that the bill would chill religious speech. Rev. Louis Sheldon, the founder of the Traditional Values Coalition, even accused the legislation of laying “a foundation for the legal framework to investigate, prosecute and then persecute people who do not agree with homosexuality, transgenderism and cross-dressing.”
“Unfortunately, a few religious voices, arrogantly and wrongly claiming to represent the view of all religious people, continue attempts to defeat hate crimes legislation,” responded the Rev. Dr. C. Welton Gaddy, President of The Interfaith Alliance. “Their despicable language raises only red herrings and obscures the truth of what this legislation does and who supports it. This bill helps law enforcement protect vulnerable groups from hate-motivated violence, a goal that appeals to the moral foundations of all faith traditions,” he said.
The 1,400 clergy who signed the open letter represent over 75 different faith traditions. The letter can be found on the website ClergyAgainstHate.org. The letter is addressed to members of the Senate because the House passed the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act (H.R. 1592 in the House, S. 1105 in the Senate) with broad bi-partisan support in May.
“Hate crimes not only harm individuals, they also rend the fabric of society by making entire communities feel isolated, vulnerable and unprotected,” the letter states. “We know that legislation alone cannot remove hate from the hearts and minds of individuals, but we also know hate crimes legislation will help create a society where hate-motivated violence is deemed intolerable.”
The Interfaith Alliance (TIA) is a nonpartisan, grassroots organization dedicated to promoting the positive and healing role of religion in the life of the nation and challenging those who manipulate religion to promote a narrow, divisive agenda. With more than 185,000 members drawn from more than 75 faith traditions and 47 local activist groups throughout America, TIA promotes compassion, civility and mutual respect for human dignity in our increasingly diverse society. For more information on The Interfaith Alliance visit www.interfaithalliance.org.
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 www.interfaithalliance.org.