Urges Senator McCain and All Presidential Candidates to Heed First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution
Statement of Reverend Dr. C. Welton Gaddy President, The Interfaith Alliance

Washington D.C. – In a revealing and disturbing new interview with BeliefNet, Senator John McCain, a candidate for the 2008 Republican presidential nomination, stated, “…I just have to say in all candor that since this nation was founded primarily on Christian principles…personally, I prefer someone who I know who has a solid grounding in my faith. But that doesn’t mean that I’m sure that someone who is Muslim would not make a good president. I don’t say that we would rule out under any circumstances someone of a different faith. I just would – – I just feel that that’s an important part of our qualifications to lead.”

In the same interview, Senator McCain also stated that the “Constitution established the United States of America as a Christian nation.”

Senator McCain then contacted BeliefNet to backtrack his comments following the interview by saying, “I would vote for a Muslim if he or she was the candidate best able to lead the country and defend our political values.”

His BeliefNet remarks come on the heels of reports that McCain said last month that questions over whether he identifies himself as a Baptist or an Episcopalian are not as important as his overarching faith. “The most important thing is that I am a Christian,” the Associated Press reported.

In response, Reverend Dr. C. Welton Gaddy, President of The Interfaith Alliance, issued the following statement along with a letter to Senator McCain.

“Senator McCain’s comments on his litmus test of religion as a qualification to be President of the United States are simply outrageous. That a presidential candidate and sitting United States Senator would seem to suggest that an entire group of people should be barred from seeking the presidency based only on their religion is offensive to all Americans, no matter their faith or political affiliation. While Senator McCain later sought to clarify his statement, I am concerned with the overall pattern of remarks he has made recently about religion and politics. To state that the U.S. Constitution establishes this as a Christian nation is absolutely ludicrous. Candidates on both sides of the aisle are using religion in radically new ways within their political operations. Candidates are forced to defend the practices and beliefs of their faith, describe how they pray and how regularly they attend services, and other questions that have no bearing over a candidate’s vision for leading this country.

Candidates must remember that they are running for “Commander-in-Chief” and not “Pastor-in-Chief”. I would urge Senator McCain and all candidates for office to heed and pledge to uphold the first Amendment to the United States Constitution.

I would remind the Senator that the founders of this nation included language in the Constitution that clearly states that ‘no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.

If Senator McCain intends to hold the highest office in this land, he better make sure he is comfortable with the language of the Constitution. But more importantly, he needs to find a way to lead that does not disenfranchise a significant portion of our population.”

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.