Yesterday was a remarkable, memorable day both for our nation and for Interfaith Alliance. I want to share with you what transpired.
A convergence of news stories from across several days – a plan to burn copies of the Qu'ran in Florida; a warning from General Petraeus regarding the dangerous international repercussions of such a fire; increased anti-Islamic slurs and intensified hatred; potential hate crimes involving arson and attempted murder; and a steady flow of vitriolic speech – prompted an emergency conference among religious leaders in the nation convened by our friends at the Islamic Society of North America. I was pleased to take part in a thoughtful discussion that was inspirational for me. It showed the unwavering resolve of the religious leaders in the room to defend the religious liberty clauses of the Constitution and to protect the right of all religions to assemble, worship and construct houses of worship.
Late yesterday afternoon, I joined yet another group of religious leaders in a meeting with Attorney General Eric Holder. This meeting was a direct result of one I participated in last week with Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights Tom Perez, and arranged by Farhana Khera of Muslim Advocates. Along with my colleagues Rabbi David Saperstein of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism and Rev. Brent Walker of the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty, we had a substantive discussion on the role of the Department of Justice in countering the wave of hatred sweeping across our nation.
We engaged Attorney General Holder in a meaningful conversation. The Attorney General was open and attentive as we spoke candidly about pervasive harassment-induced fears among Muslim Americans, violations of our Constitution and strategies for a partnership between the Department of Justice and the religious community in assuring safety for all religions in our nation and security for all Americans, regardless of their involvement with religion.
Personally, I spoke with Attorney General Holder about ways in which he could aid our work in defusing escalating hate-speech that can lead sick minds to violence. Given that the end of Ramadan coincides this year with the anniversary of 9/11, I am concerned about misunderstandings that can result in violent actions.
Attorney General Holder "gets it." He called the proposed burning of the Qu'ran "ignorant and dangerous." He spoke of the nation's responsibility to deal constitutionally with religious diversity as the "civil rights issue of our time."
Never have I taken more pride in representing you and giving you a voice in a discussion in our nation's capital than I felt yesterday. In an interview with an Arabic television network that covers the Middle East, I was able to say to international viewers, "Don't confuse the biases, prejudices and hatred that you are hearing either with America or with religions in America. A proposed burning of copies of the Qu'ran is neither a patriotic act for the good of this nation nor a religious act for the good of all religions."
Attorney General Holder and I agree that this is a defining moment for America. The character of our nation will be understood best not by our words but by our actions. Interfaith Alliance was founded for just such a time as this. Our message of inclusion, the priority of religious freedom and the necessity of governmental and religious leaders working together for freedom and justice for minorities as well as for the majority provides a way to deal with mean-spirited dissonance and to make our way through this difficult time.
Thank you for your belief in religious freedom and for your ongoing support of Interfaith Alliance's work to protect it.
Rev. Dr. C. Welton Gaddy
P.S. You know that we would be lost without you, and we need your loyalty now more than ever. Interfaith Alliance and I are ready for this moment. Please help us seize the full potential of this opportunity to protect democracy and to ensure freedom for all Americans by making a one-time, tax-deductible donation to Interfaith Alliance today.