WASHINGTON, D.C. – Interfaith Alliance President, Rev. Dr. C. Welton Gaddy, sent a letter to presidential candidates Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and John McCain today following the latest round of campaign mishaps related to religion. Obama was forced to disassociate himself from Father Michael Pfleger, who gave a sermon that parodied Senator Hillary Clinton. This follows months of analysis of Obama’s relationship with Rev. Jeremiah Wright. And, just last week, Sen. McCain distanced himself from Rev. John Hagee and Rev. Rod Parsley, after some of their more extreme views came to light.
Rev. Gaddy told the 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?”
The Interfaith Alliance celebrates religious freedom by championing individual rights, promoting policies that protect both religion and democracy, and uniting diverse voices to challenge extremism. Founded in 1994, the Interfaith Alliance has 185,000 members across the country from 75 faith traditions as well as those without a faith tradition. For more information visit www.interfaithalliance.org.