Washington, D.C. – Interfaith Alliance President Rev. Dr. C. Welton Gaddy issued the following statement calling on the Department of Justice to investigate the tragic death of Trayvon Martin as a possible hate crime. He goes on to urge people to let this tragedy lead the nation back towards civility.

Trayvon Martin’s death was tragic by any measurement. The disturbing events that led to his death should serve as an eye-opening moment for all Americans.  The botched handling of the loss of a young man’s life has raised again serious questions about gun violence and how justice is administered in this nation –questions that must be addressed. Enough red flags have been raised that I would urge the United States Department of Justice to use the tools provided to it through the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act to investigate this tragedy.

Apparently we have reached a time in our national history when targeting people based on perception is as acceptable as seeing people with compassion and treating them with the restraint demanded by justice. In this case it was a young black man died, but it just as easily could have been someone from any number of ethnic or religious backgrounds who we as a society have decided to stereotype as dangerous. Sadly, I cannot help but wonder how different the situation would be had the young man been white and the man with the gun black. Too many times already I have sat with people grieving over a needless murder that resulted from an incident where someone is targeted because they were Muslim or Jewish or gay or black or Sikh. The list goes on in a nauseating manner.

We are a better people than this!  We are smart enough to find our way back to civility, to reject the kind of thinking that lad to Trayvon’s death. I hope we are disturbed enough by this tragedy that we cannot forget it until the next one. How I pray and work for a time when we set our wills on a renewed commitment to a more civil society that celebrates our diversity, accommodates our different points of view and leads toward a culture where a young man can walk down the street without fearing for his life.  

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 interfaithalliance.org.