Washington, DC – Interfaith Alliance President, Rev. Dr. C. Welton Gaddy, issued the following statement today praising the Senate for passing the Matthew Shepard Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act as an amendment to the Department of Defense Authorization Bill:

Hate is neither a religious nor an American value, and that is why Interfaith Alliance praises the Senate for passing this hate crimes prevention bill. The sacred scriptures of many different faith traditions speak with dramatic unanimity in vehemently condemning hate. If we aspire to be true to the prophetic core of our religions and our American values, we cannot condemn hate and then sit idly by while it destroys the lives of a group of our fellow citizens.

Although they made a lot of noise, only a handful of religious right extremists have opposed this bill. Their strategic attempt to use religion as a scare tactic is deplorable. This legislation in no way will impinge on the rights of clergy to speak freely from the pulpit. Indeed, the legislation specifically states that “nothing in this act shall be construed to prohibit any constitutionally protected speech.”

I must point out that our more-than-a-decade-long effort to secure meaningful hate crimes prevention legislation has reached this point before only to be stopped short of enactment for want of the signature of the President of the United States. Even as we applaud the Senate, we urge them to get this legislation to President Obama, and we appeal to him to sign it into law without delay. It is long past due, but this can be the moment for a ringing pronouncement of our democracy’s intolerance of hate and the crime it foments.

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.