Religious freedom advocates call on elected officials to protect the ability to practice faith without fear


April 4, 2019

More than 140 religious liberty advocates have signed on to a letter asking elected officials to ensure that individuals and communities are able to practice their religion without fear for their physical safety. Among the letter’s signers was CHN Executive Director Deborah Weinstein. The letter was delivered today to the White House and to leaders in Congress.

The letter cited recent attacks in the U.S., New Zealand and Canada. Last month, two mosques in New Zealand were attacked, with 50 dead and another 50 injured. In the weeks since those attacks, an assailant stabbed a Catholic priest in a Montreal church during Mass, and a California mosque was set on fire and vandalized with graffiti referencing the New Zealand attacks.

Other houses of worship also have been targeted in recent years, including Tree of Life Congregation in Pittsburgh; Sikh Temple of Wisconsin in Oak Creek; Mother Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina; Dar Al-Farooq Islamic Center in Bloomington, Minnesota; and First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs, Texas.

“We sometimes differ about what religious freedom requires,” the letter states, “but we are united around the bedrock principle of ensuring that all individuals and communities are able to exercise their faith in safety and security.”

In the letter, the signers note, “The words we use matter greatly, especially the words of our leaders.” The letter asks President Trump, Vice President Pence, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) to affirm a set of principles, including the fact that, “Individuals of all faiths and none have equal dignity, worth and rights to religious freedom,” and that “Americans should never foment fear about groups based on attributes like religion, race or ethnicity, and they should speak against fear-mongering by others.”

Signers to the letter include Baptists, Buddhists, Catholics, Evangelicals, Jews, Hindus, Humanists, Mainline Protestants, members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Muslims and Sikhs. Clergy, scholars, civil rights and nonprofit leaders, grassroots activists, lawyers and former government officials from across the nation joined the effort to promote a safer climate for religious freedom in the United States and around the world.

Melissa Rogers, visiting professor at Wake Forest University’s School of Divinity, noted that the signatories to the letter “are incredibly diverse – religiously, theologically and ideologically – yet we are speaking with one voice on these important issues.”

You can view the letter in its entirety and its more than 140 signers here.


Religious liberty