|The Honorable Bradley Byrne
P.O. Box 3510
Montgomery, AL 36109
|The Honorable Roy Moore
P.O. Box 100
Gallant, AL 35972
May 17, 2010
Dear Mr. Byrne and Judge Moore,
As a Baptist minister and as a patriotic American, I have been deeply disturbed by the disproportionate role religion has played during recent election cycles. Indeed, at times, the entanglement between religion and politics has seemed to threaten the integrity of religion and the vitality of politics.
Based on recent statements from both of your campaigns, I am concerned that you are continuing this trend. Religion should never be used as a political tool – campaigns should be about policies, issues that will affect how a candidate governs and shapes the lives of his or her constituents, not about a candidate’s religious faith.
Attacks by Judge Moore on Mr. Byrne’s candidacy based upon whether or not he believes in evolution and whether or not he believes that the Bible is completely true exemplify the improper use and abuse of religion in the election process. Mr. Byrne’s position on teaching creationism or evolution in schools is certainly relevant to understanding the education policies he would uphold as governor. But criticizing his position on teaching evolution in order to challenge his faith instead of his politics and questioning his belief in the Bible is entirely inappropriate. Such attacks appear aimed at nothing more than discrediting Mr. Byrne and his faith – which is in no way relevant to his competency to serve as governor. A person’s faith is a personal tradition of belief – and should remain exactly that – personal
Similarly, Mr. Byrne’s support for teaching the theology of creationism in public schools and not the pure science of evolution is disturbing enough in and of itself. But even more troubling is the assertion that “faith in God” and “dependence on our creator and savior” make Alabamans who they are and dictate their “collective character.” Such a statement disenfranchises voters who do not share those beliefs and denigrates their constitutional freedom to believe in whatever religious faith they choose, or adhere to none at all.
Voters have the right to know what role a candidate’s faith will play in creating public policy, whether candidates will respect the boundaries between religion and government and how a candidate will balance the principles of their faith with their pledge to defend the Constitution, particularly when the two come into conflict. But the Constitution clearly prohibits using a candidate’s religious convictions as a qualification for public office. Political campaigns are about presenting real solutions to real problems, enabling voters to choose the path that they believe their state should follow. Engaging in a “holier than thou” competition to does nothing to illuminate those solutions.
I would also hope both of you would uphold the religious freedom of all Alabamans to believe in or to reject any religious faith, as they choose. Such freedom is promised by the First Amendment to our Constitution and is an integral part of American democracy. Based upon your recent conduct, I have serious doubts as to whether either of you as governor would truly uphold these rights for all Alabamans, not just your coreligionists.
It is unfortunate that your respective campaigns represent just the most recent in a long line of examples of political candidates misusing religion to gain voters’ support. I urge you both to cease these faith-based attacks and defenses and ensure that the remainder of your campaigns are focused on the issues which distinguish you as candidates, not the tenets of your faith.
Winning an election is not worth destroying the private integrity of your personal beliefs or compromising our nation’s historic commitment to religious freedom.
C. Welton Gaddy
Interfaith Alliance has released a statment correcting the record on Roy Moore. Click here to read the statement.
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.