WASHINGTON — Comedian and host of the HBO show Last Week Tonight, John Oliver recently announced the creation of the Church of Our Lady of the Perpetual Exemption in a segment exploring many of the issues with how U.S. law treats religious institutions. Below is a letter from Interfaith Alliance President Rabbi Jack Moline congratulating Mr. Oliver on his new church, inviting him to join Interfatih Alliance, and reminding him why some of these exemptions are necessary.
Last Week Tonight
120 East 23rd St
New York, NY 10023
August 19, 2015
Dear Mr. Oliver,
On behalf of Interfaith Alliance, an organization dedicated to religious freedom in America, I congratulate you on the founding of your new denomination. May the Church of Our Lady of the Perpetual Exemption find the success and support it deserves.
As someone committed to my own Jewish faith, I hope you will excuse me from joining your church. However, as someone devoted to interfaith cooperation, religious freedom, and stopping the misuse of religion, I find much to appreciate in the doctrine of Our Lady of the Perpetual Exemption.
Interfaith Alliance is a national organization that draws support from individuals who identify with more than 75 faith traditions and philosophies. We hope that with the establishment of your church we can now say “more than 76 faith traditions.” I would welcome you and any other members of the Church of Our Lady of the Perpetual Exemption (COOLPERX?) to join us.
You seemed surprised at how easy it was for you to open your church, register it, and ensure its legal protection. We understand what made you shake your head at what the IRS allows as a house of worship. The only way we can be absolutely sure that mosques, synagogues, churches and temples are able to serve communities across the country is to protect the rights of new and unique churches like Our Lady of the Perpetual Exemption.
If the IRS were truly empowered to regulate religion in this country, every sermon would be written in red-ink, our prophets would all be living in the Caymans and we’d have to file our prayers at a processing center in Peoria. Religious life thrives in America precisely because the government plays no role in deciding what is or is not a legitimate faith.
Call us crazy, but we believe that the common sense of most people will alert them to the absurdities of religious practitioners who take advantage of these freedoms. And when that fails, we count on you to point out those who are misusing the trappings of faith for personal or political gain.
I hope that Interfaith Alliance can count on your wit, intellect and support as we continue the hard work of balancing religious freedom and the government’s interest in preventing abuse and protecting the rights of all Americans. And I give you my personal promise that no donation you might send us will go toward mansions or private jets. (That’s what government contracts are for, and that’s where the real money is anyway).
Rabbi Jack Moline
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.