For Immediate Release

June 4, 2010



Interfaith Alliance Statement on Recent Comments by S.C. Sen. Jake Knotts



Washington, DC – Interfaith Alliance President Rev. Dr. C. Welton Gaddy issued the following statement today condemning a statement by South Carolina Sen. Jake Knotts in which he referred to Lexington Rep. Nikki Haley, an Indian-American gubernatorial candidate, and President Barack Obama as “ragheads.”


Sen. Jake Knotts demonstrated the poorest of judgment when he questioned Rep. Nikki Haley’s religion and called her, along with President Barack Obama, a “raghead.”  Such comments are deplorable, insensitive and have no place in the American political lexicon.  Unfortunately, his recent halfhearted apology only reaffirms his lack of understanding regarding the nature of his comments.  He should issue an immediate and clearer apology to Rep. Haley and all citizens of South Carolina.


In our country, there is no “religious test” for assuming any public office at any level.  The fact that Rep. Nikki Haley is Indian-American is not a relevant criteria in judging her ability to serve as governor of South Carolina.  Calling her religion into question, as Sen. Knotts continued to do in his apology, is wrong enough – using the language he did is repulsive and demonstrates his own lack of knowledge about how to conduct himself as a public servant.


Voters of course have the right to know what role a candidate’s faith will play in creating public policy and whether or not a candidate will respect the boundaries between religion and government.  But the Constitution clearly prohibits using a candidate’s religious convictions as a qualification for – or disqualification from – public office. 


I urge candidates in all electoral campaigns to maintain civility and leave religious criteria out of the discussion as they debate the issues that affect and impact voters.






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