By Bob Allen
After championing religious freedom for most of his ministry career, former Interfaith Alliance head Welton Gaddy says he does not think the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution would pass if it were being proposed today.
Accepting the Voice of Courage Award from Muslim Advocates Dec. 3 in Washington, Gaddy, pastor for preaching and worship at Northminster Church in Monroe, La., said the integrity and quality of religious freedoms for all Americans “are seriously threatened” in today’s political climate.
“When candidates for the highest office in our land sound like bigots, with favor for anarchy over democracy, something is bad wrong,” said Gaddy, an ordained Baptist minister active in the Alliance of Baptists and Cooperative Baptist Fellowship. “When any person’s religious identity can be considered a justification for hate and discrimination, the health of the soul of our republic needs to be re-examined.”
“Having spent most of my adult life promoting, protecting and defending religious freedom, I must tell you that I do not think we could pass the First Amendment to the Constitution today,” Gaddy said. “Extremely short-sighted people are seeking to change the definition of liberty in order to claim a freedom for themselves that they refuse to extend to others.”
Gaddy said Muslims “should not have to go it alone” when it comes to religious toleration.
“It is far past time for all religions in this land, majority religions and minority religions, to position themselves alongside you as Muslims and to remain alongside you, tirelessly advocating for eradicating hate and practicing injustice as you’re having to experience,” Gaddy said.
He said work being done in organizations like the Interfaith Alliance and Muslim Advocates to protect freedom and justice for Americans of all faiths needs to expand to “media, coffee houses, humanist gatherings, board tables, universities, atheist organizations and houses of worship all across this nation.”
“If Muslims are not free in this nation, none of us are free in this nation,” Gaddy said in remarks televised on C-SPAN.
The Dec. 3 Muslim Advocates dinner at the Ritz-Carlton Pentagon City in Arlington, Va., featured U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch in her first public event with the American Muslim community.
Muslim Advocates, a national legal advocacy and educational organization, has been documenting an increase of hate crimes against American-Muslims since recent terrorist attacks in Paris. The group declared an “open season” to attack American Muslims, “created in part by xenophobic and divisive rhetoric from public officials and other public figures.”
“False claims and inflammatory rhetoric have real-life consequences,” Muslim Advocates said, illustrated by anti-Muslim incidents such as a threatening voice mail left at the Islamic Center of St. Louis and “No Jihad in Fredericksburg” fliers distributed prior to a public hearing about a new mosque in Fredericksburg, Va., both added to the list Dec. 5.