Founded to champion religious freedom and equality, Interfaith Alliance challenges extremism in American politics and builds common ground
WASHINGTON – The only national interfaith organization dedicated to protecting the integrity of both religion and democracy in America is celebrating its 25th Anniversary this year. Interfaith Alliance was founded in 1994 in the midst of the growing entanglement of religion and politics. Its founders sought to show that the Religious Right was not the only authentic voice of faith in this country. In the quarter-century since, the organization has established itself as a leader in defense of true religious freedom.
“Interfaith Alliance is unique in our mission to protect religious freedom for all Americans regardless of their faith or belief,” said Rabbi Jack Moline, president of Interfaith Alliance. “While others are engaged in this effort, they often bring with them a specific sectarian perspective. We embrace the positive role religion can play, and we work to ensure one brand of beliefs can’t be imposed on anyone without their consent.”
Interfaith Alliance is an organization made up of individuals rather than institutions. Its membership is drawn from more than 75 faith traditions and belief systems. Its most famous member, legendary news anchor Walter Cronkite, served as the honorary chair of Interfaith Alliance from 1997 until his death in 2009. Cronkite, often called “the most trusted man in America,” said he joined the organization because “nothing less is at stake in the work of the Interfaith Alliance than the existence of democracy as we know it.”
“Interfaith Alliance has drawn together the variety of religious communities, to uphold religious freedom, the separation of church and state, and justice and respect for all Americans,” said the Rev. Joan Brown Campbell, an original Interfaith Alliance board member. “When the Interfaith Alliance was born, it provided a new avenue for shared impact on public life. I am proud to have had a hand in creating The Interfaith Alliance, attracting progressive religious leaders, welcoming the support of Walter Cronkite and other public leaders, and to continue to provide a means for religious values to grace our life together.”
Over the course of the past quarter-century, Interfaith Alliance has been at the forefront of efforts to pass the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, implement and restore the original purpose of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), and the fight to end anti-Muslim bigotry, including its support for the historic NO BAN Act. The organization has also led national campaigns on civility and the First Amendment and served as a forceful watchdog calling out the misuse of religion for political purposes.
“Twenty-five years ago fundamentalist Christianity dominated the news cycle, when three individuals met in Baltimore, Maryland and conceived the Interfaith Alliance,” said Dr. Herbert Valentine, founding president and honorary board member of Interfaith Alliance. “Representatives of various religious traditions were invited to be part of an alternative voice to the Religious Right of that period. Since that day in Baltimore, Interfaith Alliance has spoken nationally and effectively against many right-wing religious voices that trampled upon the First Amendment of the Constitution.”
Additionally, the Rev. Dr. Welton C. Gaddy, president emeritus of Interfaith Alliance and host of State of Belief, the organization’s weekly podcast and radio show, was one of the first high-profile Christian clergy members to stand in support of LGBTQ Americans, and to advocate for equal rights, including marriage and non-discrimination protections. That legacy continues today with Interfaith Alliance joining as one of the original organizational co-sponsors of the Equality Act.
“Interfaith Alliance continues to bring the strong, morally grounded voices of faith leaders to public issues,” said Diana Eck, former Interfaith Alliance board member and current director of The Pluralism Project at Harvard University. “It is not enough for communities of faith to speak up and advocate for themselves in the public arena. We need to be truthful and faithful advocates for one another, for the common good, and for our civic well-being. This is the kind of engaged pluralism on which the strength of America is built and on which our future depends.”
To celebrate its anniversary over the course of the next year, Interfaith Alliance will highlight each month a different way that religious freedom impacts the day-to-day lives of Americans:
- April: Religious Freedom and Observance
- May: Religious Freedom and Employment
- June: Religious Freedom and the Courts
- July: The Evolution of Religious Freedom
- August: Religious Freedom and Education
- September: Religious Freedom and Minority Faiths
- October: Religious Freedom and Immigration
- November: Religious Freedom and Health
- December: Religious Freedom and the Holidays
- January: Religious Freedom and the Nones
- February: Religious Freedom and Relationships
- March: Religious Freedom and Women
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 interfaithalliance.org.