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I don’t usually wax too political in this space, but there’s an activist organization I’m getting all hot and sweaty for lately. It’s The Interfaith Alliance (TIA), a coalition of 185,000 members from over 75 different religious and nonreligious perspectives founded in 1994 “to challenge the radical religious right” by protecting religious pluralism and the separation of church and state. They’ve had it with the use of religion as a tool of political manipulation and division. They think it’s bad for the church AND the state.

I have a collective crush on these people.

The president of TIA is Rev. Dr. Welton Gaddy, Pastor for Preaching and Worship at Northminster Baptist Church in Monroe, Louisiana and host of the program State of Belief on Air America Radio.

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Gaddy is a Baptist who remembers that church-state separation was woven into the founding of his denomination and remembers why. He is awesome. He is a force of nature. (And I’m not only saying that because he declared himself “so impressed” with my “important work” when he interviewed me on December 22. Goodness, I’ve forgotten about that completely.)

It was TIA that pointed out last week, in a way both brilliant and hard to refute, that “if a potential employer asked you questions about your religious beliefs in a job interview, it wouldn’t only be offensive, it would be illegal.” Yet one interviewer after another in the presidential campaign asks questions about personal religious convictions. And what is a campaign if not an extended job interview?

Asking how a candidate thinks religion and government should intersect — well, that’s a terrific question, and one that’s rarely asked. Instead, we get a litany of questions that violate the Constitutional guarantee that “no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States” (Article VI, section 3), in spirit if nothing else.

This week had TIA drawing attention to an effort by Focus on the Family to put the “National Day of Prayer” (seven days away) squarely in the hands of evangelicals:

The National Day of Prayer Task Force requires volunteer coordinators to sign a pledge stating: “I commit that NDP activities I serve with will be conducted solely by Christians while those with differing beliefs are welcome to attend.” The coordinators must also sign a statement of faith that includes the following language: “I believe that the Holy Bible is the inerrant Word of The Living God. I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and the only One by which I can obtain salvation and have an ongoing relationship with God.” This clearly aligns a government-sponsored event with a particular Christian denomination, in violation of the basic provisions of the First Amendment to the Constitution.

And so it always goes. When religion and politics mix, “religion” will inevitably become a single narrow expression of religion. In the case of the U.S., that’s evangelical Protestantism.

Anyway, I could go on all day about the great work of The Interfaith Alliance, but I’ll let you chase links on your own if you wish.

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TIA homepage

The questions about religion that TIA thinks candidates should answer

The campaign for a more inclusive Nat’l Day of Prayer (if we must have one at all, *sigh*), led by a Jewish group of First Amendment defenders called…wait for it…Jews on First! Oh, how I love it!

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Dale McGowan is the author of Parenting Beyond Belief, Raising Freethinkers, and Atheism for Dummies. He holds a BA in evolutionary anthropology and a PhD in music.