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 is a network of people of diverse faiths and beliefs from across the country working together to build a resilient democracy and fulfill America’s promise of religious freedom and civil rights not just for some, but for all. We mobilize powerful coalitions to challenge Christian nationalism and religious extremism, while fostering a better understanding of the healthy boundaries between religion and government. We advocate at all levels of government for an equitable and just America where the freedoms of belief and religious practice are protected, and where all persons are treated with dignity and have the opportunity to thrive. For more information visit