If you were traveling to these churches to worship with the various congregations, you should have paid your own expenses to get there as did the other worshippers. If you were traveling to these churches for the purpose of sharing your personal faith and encouraging faith in others, state funds absolutely should not have been used to pay your expenses. Indeed, in that instance, your state-funded actions were a violation of the United States Constitution’s promise of religious freedom which has been a critical contributor to the vitality of religion in our nation. If you were traveling to these churches for political purposes, you should not have been there in the first place, regardless of who funded the travel.
Protecting the boundary between government and religious institutions is at the core of Interfaith Alliance’s work. We shared the letter with the media and the public and the response was overwhelming. Newspapers and the blogosphere reported Jindal’s misuse of taxpayer money and commended Rev. Gaddy for his efforts to reverse this wrong. The American public recognizes that these trips blurred the lines between politics and religion and were an unacceptable abuse of Gov. Jindal’s position.
Interfaith Alliance kept the pressure on Jindal throughout the month. On his weekly radio show, State of Belief, Rev. Gaddy hosted The Advocate (Baton Rouge) reporter Mark Ballard, who first uncovered the governor’s misuse of taxpayer funds. And during an appearance on MSNBC’s The Rachel Maddow Show, Rev. Gaddy highlighted the misuse of taxpayer funds, responded to Jindal’s attacks against Interfaith Alliance and again pressed the governor to reimburse the state and to stop using houses of worship for political gain.
Why did Rev. Gaddy’s letter generate such interest? Quite simply because the boundary between government and religion is held in high regard by so many Americans. And when their own money is being used to damage that boundary, it hits home. We’re still waiting for a clear answer from Gov. Jindal regarding his irresponsible actions and any plan to reimburse the state of Louisiana and its taxpayers.
Interfaith Alliance will keep you updated and will continue to safeguard one of the most basic principles of the U.S. Constitution: the separation of religion and government.