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Friday August 1st 2014

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Coalition asks for end of religion bashing in politics

A diverse coalition of major national religious organizations today issued an “Interfaith Statement of Principles,” calling on the presidential candidates and all candidates for public office this election year to help ensure decency, honesty and fair play in elections by conducting campaigns that honor our nation’s traditions of religious liberty and avoid sowing religious discord.

The statement is available at http://www.bjconline.org/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=4904&Itemid=112 .

The statement – organized and drafted by the Anti-Defamation League, the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty and the Interfaith Alliance – says candidates should feel comfortable explaining their religious convictions to voters. But the statement warns against placing an overt emphasis on religion, as “there is a point when an emphasis on religion becomes inappropriate and even unsettling in a religiously diverse society such as ours.”

“Religion in Political Campaigns – An Interfaith Statement of Principles” has been endorsed by 14 national religious organizations, representing a diverse tapestry of America’s majority and minority faiths. In honor of the values of religious freedom and pluralism championed by the Founding Fathers, the statement was formally released just following the 2012 observance of Presidents’ Day.

“This statement of principles reaffirms our commitment to freedom of religion as enshrined in the Constitution, and our message to all candidates for public office is to set a proper tone where faith may be openly discussed, but avoid overt appeals for support on the basis of religion, or the denigration of another person’s views on the basis of religion,” said Abraham H. Foxman, ADL National Director. “Candidates should reject appeals to voters that reflect religious prejudice, bias or stereotyping, and to avoid statements intended to encourage divisions along religious lines.”

“Candidates do not have to check their religion at the door of the offices they seek. But they need to understand that they serve people of other faiths and of no faith. Resorting to religious language that sets people of faith against each other harms political discourse and sows religious discord,” said J. Brent Walker, Executive Director, Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty.

“I have been deeply disturbed by the disproportionate role religion has played during recent election cycles with some candidates seeming to be running for ‘pastor-in-chief’ rather than ‘commander-in-chief. Candidates are free to speak about their faith – if it’s important to them – as a way of giving voters insight on who they are, but a line is crossed when a candidate implies that they should receive your vote because of their faith. Religion is not a political football to be used by candidates for tactical advantage, instead It should be a force that brings diverse people together with mutual respect and understanding,” said Rev. Dr. C. Welton Gaddy, president of Interfaith Alliance.

Because political candidates bear the primary responsibility for setting the proper tone for elections, the statement calls on all candidates for public office to:

• Serve and be responsive to the full range of constituents, irrespective of their religion;

• Conduct their campaigns without appeals for support based upon religion;

• Reject appeals or messages to voters that reflect religious prejudice, bias or stereotyping;

• Avoid statements, actions or conduct that are intended primarily to encourage division in the electorate along religious lines.

Endorsing organizations include the American Islamic Congress, American Jewish Committee, Anti-Defamation League, Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty, Interfaith Alliance, Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), Hindu American Foundation, Muslim Advocates, National Council of Churches USA, Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund (SALDEF), Sikh Coalition, Union for Reform Judaism, The United Methodist Church – General Board of Church and Society, and United Church of Christ, Justice and Witness Ministries.

The Baptist Joint Committee(www.BJConline.org) is a 76-year-old, Washington, D.C.-based religious liberty organization that works to defend and extend God-given religious liberty for all, bringing a uniquely Baptist witness to the principle that religion must be freely exercised, neither advanced nor inhibited by government.