Reconciliation on same-sex marriage? Well…

Can the Rev. C. Welton Gaddy come up with something like a compromise position on same-sex marriage?

He’s tried, in a new paper called Same-Sex Marriage and Religious Freedom.

Gaddy, the head of the Interfaith Alliance, says: “My purpose in writing this paper is as simple as the subject of the paper is complex. I want to find a way for people with contradictory beliefs, religions, values and opinions to live together without violating the basic nature of our democracy.  I am motivated by confidence in the power of religion to affect reconciliation, and I am also a patriot who embodies the unwavering commitment to freedom and justice integral to the American experience.”

Here’s the thing, though: Gaddy supports same-sex marriage.

Having given his paper a quick once-over, I can’t help thinking that those who support same-sex marriage will like his reasoning.

Those who don’t will find it lacking.

In his paper, Gaddy writes:


Regardless of what happens next in Iowa or in any other state, I remain committed to dialogue about and efforts to find support for two fundamental convictions related to the assurance of equality in law and independence for religion: all citizens should have equal access to civil marriage and to the benefits of marriage provided for citizens in this government. Couples who desire religious marriage can seek a house of worship in which to receive that blessing. But, as is the case now, no house of worship would be legally obligated to provide marriage for a couple whom it does not want to bless. All houses of worship should be free to advocate for, defend and perpetuate the view of marriage that is consistent with their religious traditions and convictions.

Cronkite was no fan of the ‘religious right’

Walter Cronkite, who died the other day, is being universally remembered as the nation’s newsman, the voice of all.

He was a relic, really, of a day when journalists were seen as down-the-middle, impartial, objective. He wasn’t a favorite of the left or the right, like just about all TV celebrities these days.

But Cronkite did lend his considerable voice and credibility to a partisan cause during his later years.

He did not like the “religious right.”

A couple of years back I got a fundraising letter for the Interfaith Alliance, a liberal to moderate group that tries to serve as a balance to conservative Christians in the public square.

On the envelope was a picture of Cronkite. And this quotation: “For years I kept my opinions to myself. But now I must speak out.”

In a letter marked “From the desk of Walter Cronkite,” America’s most respected man described his deep concern over the “dangerous and growing influence of people like Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell on our nation’s political leaders.”

He explained his larger fears this way: “As a concerned person of faith, however, I have watched with increasing alarm as the Christian Coalition and other Religious Right groups manipulate religion to further their intolerant, political agendas.”

Today, the Interfaith Alliance is remembering Cronkite, its honorary chairman. Cronkite was affiliated with the group since 1997.

The Alliance’s president, the Rev. C. Welton Gaddy, writes:


Walter Cronkite embodied the core values espoused by Interfaith Alliance—integrity and civility, respect for diversity and the importance of religious liberty.  In venues across the nation and around the world Walter called for responsive and responsible government, leaders characterized by honesty and courage, and citizens informed as well as active.  Walter valued personal faith even as the right to keep his faith private.

Walter was uncompromising in his reporting of reality—what he saw and heard—and straightforward when speaking of possibility—exploring what could be and pointing the way forward.  The intensity and seriousness with which Walter did his work were complemented by the lightness of his sense of humor and the warmth of his smile.  His strong resonant voice conveyed the relentless objectivity with which he reported the news but a pause in his speech or an infrequent tear in his eye provided insight into how much he cared about the people and events in his reports.

Reactions keep coming on shooting of abortion doctor

I came in this morning to find my in-box filled with statements condeming the murder of “abortion doc” George Tiller (that’s him in 1994).

The Wichita Eagle has comprehensive coverage of the shooting.

First, from the anti-abortion side…

Father Frank Pavone of Priests for Life says this:


I am saddened to hear of the killing of George Tiller this morning. At this point, we do not know the motives of this act, or who is behind it, whether an angry post-abortive man or woman, or a misguided activist, or an enemy within the abortion industry, or a political enemy frustrated with the way Tiller has escaped prosecution. We should not jump to conclusions or rush to judgment.

But whatever the motives, we at Priests for Life continue to insist on a culture in which violence is never seen as the solution to any problem. Every life has to be protected, without regard to their age or views or actions.


The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops just released this:


Our bishops’ conference and all its members have repeatedly and publicly denounced all forms of violence in our society, including abortion as well as the misguided resort to violence by anyone opposed to abortion,” Cardinal Rigali said. “Such killing is the opposite of everything we stand for, and everything we want our culture to stand for: respect for the life of each and every human being from its beginning to its natural end. We pray for Dr. Tiller and his family.


Operation Resue’s Randall Terry, who led protests against Tiller, says:


George Tiller was a mass-murderer. We grieve for him that he did not have time to properly prepare his soul to face God. I am more concerned that the Obama Administration will use Tiller’s killing to intimidate pro-lifers into surrendering our most effective rhetoric and actions. Abortion is still murder. And we still must call abortion by its proper name; murder.

Those men and women who slaughter the unborn are murderers according to the Law of God. We must continue to expose them in our communities and peacefully protest them at their offices and homes, and yes, even their churches.


Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, says:


If the perpetrator of this violence proves to be someone who was acting in the name of the pro-life movement, everyone in the pro-life community must swiftly and soundly repudiate him and his actions.

The murder of Dr. George Tiller is a human tragedy. Murdering someone is a grotesque and bizarre way to emphasize one’s commitment to the sanctity of human life. People who truly believe in the sanctity of human life believe in the sanctity of the lives of abortion providers as well as the unborn babies who are aborted.


The Traditional Values Coalition, says, in part:


The Traditional Values Coalition condemns the murder of late-term abortionist George Tiller during a church service on Sunday.

The pro-life movement is non-violent and does not encourage vigilante justice against abortionists. We seek to bring about an end to abortion through peaceful and legal means.


And now, from other positions, come these voices…

Interfaith Alliance Board Chair the Rev. Dr. Galen Guengerich says:


Today’s despicable shooting at a Kansas church is profoundly disturbing. The abortion issue evokes deep passion from people on all sides, but resorting to murder should never be an option. The fact that it happened at a church is all the more distressing. Our houses of worship should be places where people find comfort and solace, not where they fear for their lives.

The solution to reducing the number of abortions in this country is not murder; it is for all sides to work together towards a common ground.


Catholics United says, in part:


In the wake of Dr. Tiller’s death, we call on all sides of the abortion debate to commit to charitable dialogue and pursuit of common ground solutions. It is only through this sort of respectful communication that we can find real solutions to abortion and avert tragedies like the one that occurred in Kansas today.


A group of religious leaders, including people on both sides of the abortion debate, issued this statement:


We were shocked and saddened to hear that Dr. George Tiller was murdered at his church yesterday morning. Such violence is an affront to the teachings of all faith traditions and an attack on civil society. Houses of worship have served as sanctuaries providing a safe harbor even in times of widespread violence for millennia — that this act took place in Dr. Tiller’s church where he was serving as an usher on Sunday morning only underscores its abhorrence. We condemn it, and we pray for Dr. Tiller’s family, church and community.

As people of faith working to create civility and common ground on abortion, this reprehensible attack reminds us of our moral obligation to respect the humanity of those on both sides of this issue. Wherever we stand, this act offends us all.


AP Photo/The Wichita Eagle, Dave Williams

Endorsements from the pulpit — or not

This Sunday, a few dozen pastors across the country plan to talk politics, endorse candidates and attack other candidates.

They say they will exercise their First Amendment rights. But they will also ignore a federal ban on campaigning by non-profit groups — putting their tax-exempt status at risk.

pulpit.jpg“Pulpit Freedom Sunday” is a project of the Alliance Defense Fund, a group that wants to shrink the wall between church and state.

ADF Senior Legal Counsel Erik Stanley explains it like this: “Pastors have a right to speak about Biblical truths from the pulpit without fear of punishment. No one should be able to use the government to intimidate pastors into giving up their constitutional rights. If you have a concern about pastors speaking about electoral candidates from the pulpit, ask yourself this: should the church decide that question, or should the IRS?”

The Rev. Wiley S. Drake of First Southern Baptist Church of Buena Park, Calif., tells the LA Times: “I’m going to talk about the un-biblical stands that Barack Obama takes. Nobody who follows the Bible can vote for him. We may not be politically correct, but we are going to be biblically correct. We are going to vote for those who follow the Bible.”

Obama probably won’t fare too well in any of the churches taking part in this initiative.

Other groups, such as the Interfaith Alliance and Americans United for Separation of Church and State, think this is a really bad idea. Over 150 clergy have signed an Interfaith Alliance pledge to refrain from endorsing candidates.

The Rev. Welton Gaddy, president of the Interfaith Alliance, said: “I cannot stress strongly enough my objections to turning houses of worship into pseudo-precinct nominating conventions.”

Cutting ties with religious problems

I have jury duty this week, so I don’t know if or when I’ll be able to blog.

We’ll see how it goes.

images.jpegSo, Obama has ended his two-decade membership at Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago. Beside the whole Jeremiah Wright flap, he’s apparently unhappy with a recent appearance by the social activist Catholic priest, the Rev. Michael Pfleger (that’s him), who mimicked Sen. Clinton crying over “a black man stealing my show.”

images1.jpegAnd John McCain has, of course, regurgitated the endorsements of televangelists John Hagee and Rod Parsley (and him).

So many troubling religious connections. I’m surprised Sen. Clinton hasn’t trotted out some mild-mannered Methodist minister to show off as a righteous religious mentor.

The Rev. C. Welton Gaddy, head of the moderate/liberal Interfaith Alliance, send the following note to the 3 candidates:

While I appreciate your decisions to distance yourself from the harmful rhetoric from people like Father Pfleger, Rev. Hagee and Rev. Parsley you share some of the responsibility. You have all gone after endorsements of clergy, and I sense that you are now having some buyer’s remorse. But you can’t have it both ways. You can’t continue to use clergy as political props when they serve your purpose, and then discard them when they no longer fit your image.

The clergy who have endorsed you share some responsibility. They open themselves up to criticism when they make political endorsements. The more the pulpit is treated as a stump for partisan politics the more clergy will be caricatured as cartoon figures. Houses of worship will be considered just like other institutions interested in power regardless of its cost. And politics and faith will be confused to an extent that harms both religion and democracy. When will it end? It must end soon or people will be fed up with politics and religion.

I ask you all to stop seeking clergy endorsements from the pulpit, and stop using religion as a political tool.

In the coming months, I hope you will talk about the role of faith in public life in a way that is constructive. What are the boundaries for you between religion and government? What role will your faith play in creating public policy? How will you balance the principles of your faith and your obligation to defend the Constitution, particularly if the two come into conflict?

A new top 10: abuse of religion on the presidential campaign trail (so far)

And the worst abuse of religion during the presidential campaign goes to…

Mike Huckabee.

tjndc5-5iw2dfqrbysd2dum1rg_layout.jpgFor this line: “What we need to do is to amend the Constitution so it’s in God’s standards rather than try to change God’s standards.”

He won’t get a gold statue.

The Interfaith Alliance today released its list of the 10 “worst abuses of religion during the campaign so far.”

Interfaith Alliance President the Rev. C. Welton Gaddy explains:

I have witnessed more abuses of religion in this primary season than in any election in recent memory. Candidates from both parties seem to be locked in a competition to be ‘holier than thou.’ Incidents like these demean the sanctity of religion by inferring that God has endorsed a certain candidate. Far be it for candidates to run for ‘Commander-in-Chief’ instead of ‘Pastor-in-Chief.’

Here’s the top 10:

10. Mitt Romney is asked if he believes “every word� of the Bible
(CNN/You Tube debate (11-28-07).
9. CNN’s Soledad O’Brien asks John Edwards to “name his greatest sin�
(CNN/Sojourners town hall 6-26-07).
8. James Dobson tells a reporter he does not think that Fred Thompson is a Christian
7. Barack Obama distributes a campaign flier describing himself as a “Committed Christian� (1-21-08).
6. Hillary Clinton said we need to “inject faith into policy�
(CNN/Sojourners town hall 6-26-07).
5. Mike Huckabee explains his rise in the polls by invoking the Biblical story of two fish and five loaves feeding a crowd of 5,000 people (11-28-07).
4. Tim Russert asks all the Democratic candidates to “name their favorite Bible verse� (MSNBC 9-26-07).
3. John McCain says the Constitution established the United States as a Christian nation and that he would prefer a Christian president (9-27-07).
2. Barack Obama asked a congregation to help him “become an instrument of God� and join him in creating “a Kingdom right here on Earth� (10-17-07).
1. Mike Huckabee tells a crowd: “What we need to do is to amend the Constitution so it’s in God’s standards rather than try to change God’s standardsâ€? (1-14-08).

(Photo: AP/Elise Amendola)