At the end of each year, we like to look back to get a sense of where we have been and where we have yet to go. Interfaith Alliance has faced the challenging circumstances of this year’s religious freedom landscape with purpose and intent. Here are some of the more important efforts of the year past.
The results of the 2020 election created opportunities to return to an approach to religious freedom that is more consistent with the First Amendment. In the early weeks, the travel bans that disproportionately affected Muslim travelers and African nationals were revoked. Previously imposed guidance to government agencies and contractors that disadvantaged people who asserted LGBTQ+ identities was replaced with guidelines that affirmed that “all persons should receive equal treatment under the law, no matter their gender identity or sexual orientation.” An executive order established comprehensive initiatives to advance equity for underserved communities, including religious minorities. Interfaith Alliance’s advocacy on behalf of these causes (and our strategic partnerships with coalition partners) contributed to the immediacy with which these actions were taken.
Of course, healthcare has been at the top of everyone’s agenda, especially since the COVID-19 pandemic began. We were the very first interfaith organization on President Biden’s Covid Community Corps, encouraging Americans (and all people) to follow the best protocols for personal safety and collective responsibility. Of course, that means vaccinations, boosters, distancing, and masks. But other healthcare issues are equally important. Recognizing access to comprehensive care as a mandate of every faith tradition, we resisted the efforts of the religious right to restrict coverage of birth control, and, for the first time, affirmed reproductive health care in general – including abortion – to be a matter of conscience. We joined in advocacy against restrictive efforts designed to curtail drastically safe and legal medical care for women seeking to end a pregnancy.
The issues that Interfaith Alliance has addressed forthrightly for more than a quarter-century continue to demand our attention. By any name – the Christian Coalition, the Moral Majority, the Family Research Council or, generically, Christian nationalism – there remains an effort by a minority of vocal advocates to impose a right-wing agenda that exploits certain approaches to Christian belief as an excuse for supporting legislation, vetting candidates and promoting the nomination of judges to federal, state and local courts.
We have remained steadfast in the defense of the first freedoms in our Bill of Rights that protect matters of conscience, even for those who would deny it to others, and that preempt the establishment of any faith tradition or religion itself as favored over the independence of personal convictions and independence. In the distribution of tax dollars, the preservation of a vital public education system, equal protection for those who profess a faith or do not, and the inviolability of there being no religious test for office, officially or unofficially, we continue our work to call out and oppose those who wrap themselves in the flag while treading on it.
Our public outreach continues. Our project Partnering Against Hate has produced web-based materials and public webinars to encourage community solidarity against bigotry and hatred. Our wider look at The American Purpose featured two dozen thought leaders on where the United States was, is and should be. Our popular weekly broadcast and podcast, “State of Belief,” continues to bring remarkable interviews to our listeners.
We are looking ahead to a very busy season of Supreme Court decisions and hearings. The difficulties faced by nominees from minority communities demand attention. And, hard as it may be to believe, an election year is upon us again, creating the need for Interfaith Alliance to resume its role as an honest broker in the appropriate use of religion in campaigns, both individually and institutionally.
Even in this unprecedented time of challenge and uncertainty, we are looking forward to another year of defending true religious freedom for all Americans. We hope that you will continue to join us in defending both religion and democracy, both now and for future generations.
Learn more about Interfaith Alliance’s efforts to protect true religious freedom.