Following the revelation that attorneys working for the city of Houston had subpoenaed the sermons of several local pastors, Interfaith Alliance joined a broad spectrum of voices criticizing this violation of religious freedom. U.S. Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) was one of those vocally denouncing these subpoenas. Today, Rev. Welton Gaddy sent the following letter to Sen. Cruz urging him to extend his defense of the freedom of houses of worship to all religious communities, particularly the Muslim community who has frequently been the target of government overreach. Similar letters were sent to Senator Rand Paul, Governor Mike Huckabee, Houston area Congressman Steve Stockman, Family Research Council president Tony Perkins, and Alliance Defending Freedom president Alan Sears.
The Honorable Ted Cruz
185 Dirksen Senate Office Building
United States Senate
Washington, D.C. 20510-4306
October 20, 2014
Dear Senator Cruz,
I have heard from many people over the last week noting the unlikely coalition that has come together to oppose the subpoenas issued to clergy in Houston and I would not be surprised if you had also heard a similar message. I am writing because I am curious if your commitment to this freedom of speech from the pulpit extends beyond clergy with whom you are ideologically aligned.
I know for myself the answer is yes, I adamantly disagree with the clergy that have been subpoenaed on the substance of their argument. I am a steadfast supporter of equal rights and protection for the LGBT community, and I support the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance at the heart of this debate. And yet I stand also with you in opposition to these subpoenas and the overreach they represent.
For years, law enforcement officials at the local, state and federal level have been monitoring sermons at mosques around the country. Your statements on the issue have been, at best, unconcerned with religious freedom of American Muslims and, at worst, suggestive that this trampling on the First Amendment is justified. We cannot assure real religious freedom in America unless we make clear that the government cannot intrude upon the autonomy of clergy and houses of worship – regardless of faith – without demonstrating overwhelming evidence.
Religious freedom is only meaningful if we protect the rights of all religious communities in America, not just Christians. I hope we can maintain the broad consensus we witnessed in the past days as other religious communities see their constitutional rights jeopardized when politicians, prosecutors, and law enforcement agencies overstep.
Will you join me, with all of the passion and power you demonstrated last week, in defense of the Muslim leaders and communities who are so often the victims of government overreach? Time and again we hear of mosques that have been spied on, imams who have been tracked by law enforcement, and Muslims and Sikhs who have been targeted simply because of their religious practice or appearance.
The devotion to religious freedom that you showed last week is laudable, but the truest test of that commitment is whether you are willing to stand up for the rights of those who do not share your personal beliefs.
Rev. Dr. C. Welton Gaddy
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.