State of Belief - May 30th 2015

May 31, 2015

Pew, the Duggars, Pam Geller & the Challenges of Religious Community

This week on State of Belief, Interfaith Alliance’s weekly radio show and podcast, host Rev. Welton Gaddy looks at some disturbing recent events confronting religious communities across America. He’ll check back in with Vyckie Garrison, the blogger behind “No Longer Quivering,” to hear her take on the Josh Duggar scandal. We’ll talk to an activist who had a shocking encounter with Pamela Geller and her attempts to insult and incite Muslims. And Rabbi Jack Moline, executive director of Interfaith Alliance, will join Welton to add his thoughts to our ongoing conversation on the changing religious landscape in America.

Encountering (or Avoiding) Pamela Geller
Following the fatal outcome of her “Draw Mohammed” cartoon contest in Texas, Pamela Gellar announced that she’d be placing her newest anti-Islam cartoon on Washington, DC public transit. And while the Washington Metro Area Transit Authority has stopped the ads, the debate about them continues. Religion Dispatch’s Senior Correspondent Haroon Moghul will join Welton to discuss his own encounter with Geller and ways in which we can respond constructively to provocative and hateful work such as hers.

Cultural vs. Spiritual Affiliation with Religion
Executive Director of Interfaith Alliance, Rabbi Jack Moline, will join us to discuss declining levels of reported religiosity in the United States. He and Welton will focus on the distinction between spiritual and cultural affinities toward religion and how the decrease in spiritual religiosity may increase the significance of cultural ties to religion in our lives.

The Duggar scandal and the risks of insular, fundamentalist communities
When Josh Duggar, star of TLC’s 19 Kids and Counting, admitted to molesting his younger sisters as a child, questions were raised about the role fundamentalist Christianity played in enabling his actions. The authoritarian family structure of certain fundamentalist groups, known as the “quiverfull” model, poses – many argue – special risks to women and children. On this week’s show, Welton will speak with activist Vyckie Garrison, former member of a quiverfull family and blogger of “No Longer Quivering,” for a serious look at the increased risk of abuse and victim-blaming in these isolated communities.

Attacks on Christianity at Home
Several recent events, including the shooting of an LGBT-inclusive pastor in Connecticut and the vandalizing of a progressive church in California, have raised questions on the consequences of Christian extremism in the United States. Welton finishes our show by sharing his thoughts on how the Christian right continues to scare-monger and assault members of progressive Christian communities, and these assaults are as much an affront to Christianity as violence against Christian abroad.


State of Belief - May 23rd 2015

May 23, 2015

< Fear of a Secular Nation >

his week on State of Belief, Interfaith Alliance’s weekly radio show and podcast, host Rev. Welton Gaddy looks at the latest developments in the fight to protect real religious freedom in America. We’ll hear from longtime friend of the show John Denison about a fight bubbling up in Welton’s home state of Louisiana. Entrepreneur and activist Mitchell Gold will fill us in on a new religious freedom project from Interfaith Alliance. And James Croft of the Ethical Society of St. Louis talks about how America’s growing secular community fits in with the rest of society.

Don’t Mess with Monroe: Religious Freedom Fight Comes to Louisiana
When Louisiana’s Republican legislature decided against voting on a problematic Religious Freedom bill, Governor Bobby Jindal enacted its provisions by executive order. Two hours later! Now, throughout all his time at State of Belief and Interfaith Alliance, Welton has maintained his home and his pulpit in Monroe, Louisiana. So you don’t get to stomp on religious freedom in Louisiana without comment. On this week’s show, Welton brings on a fellow Louisianan, activist John Denison of the Forum for Equality Foundation, to talk about Gov. Jindal’s recent attempts to undermine the First Amendment in Louisiana for his own political gain – and how that can serve as a warning for what might be coming to other states.

Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams Signs On To “Everyone Only”
On previous shows, Interfaith Alliance executive director Rabbi Jack Moline has talked about the Alliance’s new “Everyone Only” project to keep our communities free of discrimination. This week we’re joined by one of the business owners who’s helping spearhead this campaign – longtime Interfaith Alliance ally, and co-founder of the furniture company Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams, Mitchell Gold. Mitchell will talk to Welton about what inspired him to join the campaign, what reaction he’s received, and his tireless work defending LGBT Americans against destructive attacks cloaked in religious rhetoric.

Making Room in The Ethical Society in Our Changing Community
As we discussed last week, the Pew Research Center recently released a survey that shows a dramatic decrease in America’s Christian population and a rise in the religiously unaffiliated – as well as in the number of secular Americans. James Croft is about to become the Leader for Outreach at the Ethical Society of St. Louis, and he joins us for a look at America’s changing religious landscape from a Humanist perspective.

A Look Abroad for Inspiration
Finally Welton will share some thoughts about the upcoming Marriage Equality referendum in Ireland. Given the deeply religious history of that country, the strong role of the Catholic Church, and the overwhelming support for marriage equality found in recent polls – this referendum will certainly be fascinating to watch. And, maybe, an inspiration to all of us on how to balance our religious convictions with the need to strive toward equality.


State of Belief - May 16th 2015

May 16, 2015

How Many NONEs [referring to religion] Does It Ttake To Re-Landscape America

his week on State of Belief, Interfaith Alliance’s weekly radio show and podcast, host Rev. Welton Gaddy dedicates the entire show to the changing religious landscape of America. We’ll hear from three guests on the issue, each with their own unique insight – you won’t want to miss any of it! First, Welton will check in with Greg Smith of the Pew Research Center about their new study showing a steep decline in religious identity in America. Then it’s Baylor University’s Byron Johnson on why it’s too soon to write religion’s funeral song. Finally, Welton will discuss some of the reasons behind America’s changing religious demographics with U.C. Berkeley Sociologist Claude Fischer.

Survey Says… Christianity in Decline, Unaffiliated on the Rise
Last week the Pew Research Center released its report, America’s Changing Religious Landscape. Seven years since the last time Pew conducted this comprehensive this survey, the research team has found some fascinating trends. We’ll be joined by the lead researcher on the project, Dr. Greg Smith, who’ll walk us through the numbers, which parallel other reputable studies consistently identifying an increase in the percentage of Americans who identify as religiously unaffiliated.

The End of Religion? Not So Fast…
While many have greeted the Pew survey with dismay at what looks like an apocalypse for religion in America, others – like Baylor University’s Dr. Byron Johnson - say hold your horsemen. Baylor recently held a symposium that did not shy away from casting aspersions on the methods – and even motives – of more mainstream public surveys. Are we looking at a legitimate alternative interpretation of the data? Or a defensive attempt to muddy the waters with charges of a “liberal media” conspiracy against religion?

A Little More Nuance and a Lot Less Politics
We’ll round out the show with a scholar who has long studied trends in religious affiliation in America – and focuses on the reasons behind those trends. Dr. Claude S. Fischer is a sociologist at the University of California – Berkeley who’s been studying the forces behind religious change in America for over a decade. Even as some on the right insist its moral permissiveness that has damaged attendance in mainline churches, Dr. Fischer says it’s the politicization of religion around culture war issues that has moved many to disaffiliate in frustration.


State of Belief - May 9th - 2015

May 9, 2015

Spreading Love Not Hate, Celebrating the Sikh Faith, Protecting Secularism and Words to the Unwise

This week on State of Belief, Interfaith Alliance’s weekly radio show and podcast, host Rev. Welton Gaddy will speak with Ken Sofer of the Center for American Progress about Islamophobia and the structures working to disenfranchise Muslims in America. Welton will also sit down with filmmaker and activist Valarie Kaur, who delivered a sermon at the Pentagon during a commemoration of the Sikh faith. We’ll hear from Sarah Levin, legislative associate at the Secular Coalition of America, about the growing number of religion-influenced state laws. Lastly, Welton will share a few words to the unwise – politicians who he sees as making some irresponsible choices.

Battling Hate with Love
This past Sunday in Garland, Texas, two gunmen were killed after opening fire at an event hosted by an anti-Muslim group. The organizer of the event, leading professional Islamophobe Pamela Geller, once again insisted that the attackers were representative of the Muslim faith. Ken Sofer, Associate Director for National Security and International Policy at the Center for American Progress will speak to Welton about how this rhetoric only makes us all less safe, and about the Islamophobia industry that Geller is a part of, as revealed in the report he co-authored titled Fear, Inc. 2.0: The Islamophobia Network’s Efforts to Manufacture Hate in America.

Commemorating the Sikh Faith at the Pentagon
The second ever commemoration of the Sikh faith recently took place at the Pentagon. Followers of the faith have been advocating for the ability of Sikhs to serve in the military while wearing religious garb, which made the commemoration even more significant. Valarie Kaur, interfaith activist and filmmaker, delivered the sermon at the commemoration, and she will join Welton to speak about activism in the Sikh community and beyond, and the importance of selfless service, or Seva, in Sikh life.

The Push for Secular Laws
Religion continues to be misused as a political tool by lawmakers, causing tension between many progressives and people of faith. A recent surge of Religious Freedom Restoration legislation blatantly brings religion into our constitutionally secular government. Joining Welton is Sarah Levin, Legislative Associate at the Secular Coalition for America, to discuss the Coalition’s recent initiatives to protect a government that represents all of the people.

A Word to the Unwise
Prominent leaders and officials should be scrutinized for their foolish words and actions – particularly when that foolishness concerns religion! Welton closes out our show by offering some unasked-for advice to Gov. Jindall (from his home state of Louisiana), Democratic Party leadership, and other politicians who are crossing the line of good judgement.


State of Belief - May 2nd - 2015

May 2, 2015

Faith in Baltimore, The Negative Side of Religious Freedom Rhetoric, & Femmevangelicals

Rev. Welton Gaddy is back from Sri Lanka this week after participating in a State Department delegation on religious freedom. We’ll hear about his trip on an upcoming show, but this week on State of Belief, Interfaith Alliance’s weekly radio show and podcast, Welton will sit down with Rev. Dr. Heber Brown, III, a pastor in North Baltimore, and speak about the role and responsibilities of faith leaders in that community in the aftermath of the suspicious death of Freddie Gray. Timothy Snyder will join us in the studio to discuss the costs of the pervasive religious freedom rhetoric being used to discriminate throughout the United States. And, finally, we’ll hear from Rev. Jennifer Crumpton about the inclusion and empowerment of women in faith communities.

Faith Leaders in #BaltimoreUprising
As protesters march throughout Baltimore in response to the death of Freddie Gray and ongoing police violence against people of color, countless faith leaders have opened their church doors and provided resources to protestors and demonstrators. In the midst of protests, Rev. Dr. Heber Brown, III, pastor of Pleasant Hope Baptist Church in North Baltimore, and his allies have been working tirelessly to offer solace for residents of his cities. Rev. Brown will walk us through these interfaith efforts and reflect on the role of religion in pre-emptively working with law enforcement.

The Costs of Faulty Religious Freedom Rhetoric
This week, the Supreme Court heard arguments in the battle for marriage equality nationwide. Both supporters and opponents of marriage equality gathered outside the Supreme Court and, remarkably, both supporters and opponents used religious freedom arguments to make their case. Tim Synder, public theologian and author of, ‘The Theological Hijacking of Religious Freedom” will join us in the studio to discuss the implications of using religious freedom to discriminate against certain groups of people.

Femmevangelical: Feminism and Faith
The intersection of faith and gender has been taboo for many faith communities around the world. Despite this taboo, many female faith leaders are discussing the importance of inclusion in the pulpit and the empowerment of women in faith communities. Rev. Jennifer D. Crumpton, author of “Femme-Evangelical: The Modern Girl’s Guide to the Good News” will join Welton to discuss her deconstruction of a male-centered view of faith and the bible.


State of Belief - April 25th - 2015

April 25, 2015

Sister Simone, a Jewish Scholar, and Muslims in America

State of Belief host Rev. Welton Gaddy is away with a State Department delegation, discussing religious freedom in Sri Lanka. We’ll hear all about his trip on an upcoming show, but this week on State of Belief, Interfaith Alliance’s weekly radio show and podcast, Huffington Post Executive Religion Editor Paul Raushenbush will guest-host. Paul will sit down with Sister Simone Campbell on the Vatican’s abruptly ended investigation of American nuns, and speak with Rabbi Jay Michaelson on the hidden agenda behind far-right evangelical designs on the Jewish community. And we’ll get to meet a few other members of Paul’s team at HuffPost Religion as they discuss their new Muslim in America series.

Having Nun of This Investigation
In 2008, the Vatican announced that it was investigating the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, an American organization of nuns, for diverging from Catholic doctrine and even entertaining “feminist thought.” But last week, the Vatican – rather abruptly – called it off. This week we’ll be joined by Sister Simone Campbell, Executive Director of NETWORK, and one of America’s leading social justice activists. She’ll walk us through what the Church’s decision means, how it affects her work and her hope for the future of change within the Catholic Church.

Muslim in America: A Huffington Post Religion Project
Next Paul brings on two of the journalists who help him provide the excellent coverage at HuffPost Religion: senior religion reporter Jaweed Kaleem, and associate editor Antonia Blumberg. They’ll discuss their new project called Muslim in America, an interactive, multimedia series on the experiences of this growing and dynamic segment America. Tune in to hear their goals and objectives for the project, as well as some of the challenges they face in covering religion responsibly and accessibly. And be sure to check it out at:-

Jay Michaelson: “Don’t Be Shocked by Jewish Honor for Anti-Gay Pastor Charles Stanley.”
As the Supreme Court prepares to hear a case about marriage equality, recent polling shows that 77 percent of Jewish Americans support same-sex marriage. Despite this, a major Jewish organization recently announced plans to give an award to Charles Stanley, a vehemently anti-gay but staunchly pro-Israel pastor. Jay Michaelson will speak with Paul this week about why focusing on the homophobia of Stanley and his end-time evangelical ilk risks missing an even bigger problem.


State of Belief - April 18th 2015

April 18, 2015

Florida Family Equity, Religion and The Road to the White House, Religious Liberty 30,000 Feet in the Air

This week on State of Belief, Interfaith Alliance’s weekly radio show and podcast, host Rev. Welton Gaddy will sit down with Denise Brogan-Kator, senior legislative counsel at Family Equality Council about an anti-gay near-miss in Florida’s adoption laws that would have hurt LGBT families. Sarah Posner, investigative reporter, will speak to Welton about the religious appeals some 2016 presidential candidates have already included in the rhetoric on the road to the White House. Lastly, Welton will discuss the recent phenomenon of ultra-Orthodox Jewish male airline passengers who are delaying flights due to their seat assignments next to women with Dr. Elana Sztokman.

Adopting in the Sunshine State
According to the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute, 102,000 children living in foster care in the United States are eligible for adoption. While there is no shortage of children to be adopted and placed into loving families, lawmakers in Florida have proposed changes to Florida’s adoption laws that would allow agencies to refuse to place children in LGBT families based on the religious convictions of the agency. Denise Brogran-Kator, senior legislative counsel at Family Equality Council, will speak to Welton about this recent initiative in Florida and ways listeners can get involved in the work of Family Equality Council.

Religious Language on the Road to 2016
Over the past week, two additional White House contenders entered the 2016 presidential election. As the nation gears up for this election cycle, there will be no shortage of political and religious rhetoric included in campaign and fundraising speeches. Some of the candidates have not been shy about inserting religious language into their appeals for support. Sarah Posner, will discuss where these appeals – always conservative Christian – have popped up in the 2016 presidential campaigns, and how voters should evaluate candidate positions on religion.

Planes, Trains and Religious Liberty
What happens when ultra-orthodox Jewish airline passengers demand to be moved away from women to accommodate their religious need to not sit next to female passengers? For passengers on a recent flight to Israel, this tension between religious liberty of the orthodox Jewish men and the rights of their fellow passengers meant a flight delay of several hours. Dr. Elana Sztokman, author and scholar of Orthodox Judaism and feminism, will join Welton from Israel to discuss how this phenomenon is more than an inconvenience to fellow passengers and share her thoughts on how to resolve these conflicts. Dr. Sztokman is the author of the book The War on Women in Israel: A Story of Religious Radicalism and the Women Fighting for Freedom.


State of Belief - April 11th 2015

April 11, 2015

BetterTogether, Responding to and Reporting on RFRA, and Tux Evasion

This week on State of Belief, Interfaith Alliance’s weekly radio show and podcast, host Reverend Welton Gaddy will sit down with Adam Garner, an organizer of Interfaith Youth Core’s “Better Together Day” campaign. Kevin Eckstrom, Editor-in-Chief of the Religion News Service, will discuss the challenges of covering the controversial Religious Freedom Restoration Acts in various states across the country. Welton will also speak with Asaf Orr, an attorney at the National Center for Lesbian Rights, about what happened at a Louisiana high school after a student was told she could not wear a tuxedo to prom. Rabbi Jack Moline, Executive Director of Interfaith Alliance, will tell us about the Alliance’s new #EveryoneOnly campaign. And we’ll bring back our fast-paced Interfaith Awards feature.

Organizing to be Better Together
According to a new study by the Pew Research Center, religious tension is at a six-year high around the world. The divide between religious and non-religious communities is large and a lack of understanding and knowledge across that divide is common. In order to help overcome religious tension, Adam Garner of Interfaith Youth Core, is leading the “Better Together Day”campaign on April 14th and will join us to share what he hopes this initiative, aimed at college-age people, will achieve.

Responsibly Reporting on RFRA
The public outcry over some state-level Religious Freedom Reservation Acts (RFRA) has received media coverage across the country. The coverage is complicated by the distinct bills moving through statehouses across the country with the same name, but different levels of discrimination allowed in the language of each bill. Kevin Eckstrom, Editor-in-Chief of Religion News Service, will join us to discuss the challenges of providing national coverage these pieces of legislation.

A Prom in Louisiana
Prom season can be nerve-wracking for many reasons: finding a date, finding the right tuxedo or dress, negotiating a reasonable curfew. In Louisiana, school officials told start student Claudetteia Love, who identifies as lesbian, that she couldn’t go if she insisted on wearing a tuxedo. Friends rallied to boycott the prom, and her family turned to the National Center for Lesbian Rights for help. The Center’s Asaf Orr, joins us to discuss the unexpectedly happy ending to this story.

Going Viral: #EveryoneOnly
Citizens across the nation are standing up in solidarity in an effort to counter numerous right-to-discriminate religious freedom laws. And businesses get much of the credit for pressuring lawmakers in Indiana, Arkansas and elsewhere to rethink misguided policies that could lead to discrimination. Rabbi Jack Moline, Executive Director of Interfaith Alliance, will join us to introduce the #EveryoneOnly campaign, which makes it easy for any business to boldly say “no” to discrimination.

Intersection Awards
We’ll wrap up the show with some mentions, honorable and otherwise, of recent news stories from the intersection of Religion, Government and Politics.


State of Belief - April 4th 2015

April 4, 2015

“Greatest Hits” for the Holiday Weekend

It’s been a big week in the news, with “religious freedom” legislation passed in Indiana and Arkansas making headlines for their potential to be used as vehicles for discrimination. At State of Belief, we take seriously the need for freedom from bias and discrimination, and so we ask our listeners to check out and get involved in the new Interfaith Alliance campaign, Everyone Only asks business owners to stand up for genuine religious freedom and equal rights for America’s LBTQ community – ask your favorite shops and restaurants to participate today!

This week on State of Belief, Interfaith Alliance’s weekly radio show and podcast, we take a pause for the Easter and Passover holidays to revisit some of our favorite segments from shows past.

The Congressional Prayer Caucus: Alternative Thoughts
Up first, we’ll travel back in time eight years to listen to a segment taped during a conversation between host Welton Gaddy and Rep. Charlie Rangel of New York. When the segment first aired in 2007, there was a great deal of attention being placed on the newly formed Congressional Prayer Caucus, which – controversially – focused solely on a Christian expression of faith. Among other topics, the pair talks about the caucus and the role of religion in political and public life. Finally, as a bonus, you’ll also get to hear the Congressman’s prediction for the outcome of the then-upcoming presidential primaries, including his take on then long-shot candidate for the presidency: Senator Barack Obama.

What Your Minister Isn’t Telling You
The April 2007 edition of State of Belief also featured a conversation between Welton and Rev. Oliver “Buzz” Thomas. Oliver, a Baptist minister, author, educator, attorney and community leader, had just published a book entitled, 10 Things Your Minister Wants to Tell You (But Can’t Because He Needs the Job). It’s invaluable to hear the challenges faced by faith leaders who find themselves required to exhibit absolute certainty while at the same time feeling pressure to avoid addressing some of the most pressing issues in their congregants’ lives.

A Reflection (and Update) on Omaha’s Tri-Faith Initiative
State of Belief then takes you back to April 11, 2009, when the show first brought listeners the fascinating story of the Tri-Faith Initiative in Omaha, Nebraska. The TFI, a nonprofit organization, brought together members of the three Abrahamic faiths in a commitment to create an interfaith center to facilitate learning and respect. After looking back on the history of the group and its mission, we’ll bring you an update on the construction of the Tri-Faith Center, which is now slated to begin in 2016 with the campus completed in 2017.

In Brief: Section Snippets from the Past
We’ll also hear a couple of shorter segments from past episodes. In the spirit of the Easter and Passover holidays this weekend, State of Belief reprises some of Welton’s thoughts on the intersection of those holidays from a 2007 broadcast. Listeners will also hear a few minutes from a 2010 interview with Dawn Kepler, the founding director of Building Jewish Bridges, on holidays and interfaith families. Finally, we’ll air a discussion with the now sadly deceased Rev. Dr. Forrest Church, in which he and Welton discuss his book, So Help Me God: The Founding Fathers and the First Great Battle Over Church and State, in a conversation that is as timely today as it was seven years ago.


State of Belief - March 28th 20115

March 30, 2015

Learning From Other Religions, Feminism and Passover, and LGBT Inclusiveness & Book Deals

Gaddy speaks with Rabbi Lauren Holtzblatt about her experience partnering with Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on a feminist commentary on the Passover Story. Welton will also sit down with the Rev. Dr. J. Philip Wogaman about his latest book, What Christianity Can Learn From Other Religions. Lastly, we hear from Brandan Robertson, founder of the Revangelical Movement, about his advocacy for more inclusiveness in Evangelical life for LGBT persons of faith.

Learning From Other Faiths
In an increasingly diverse world, it is clear that we need to learn about each other in order to understand our differences. Religious conflicts often stem from a lack understanding of faith differences and an unwillingness to learn from one another. Rev. Dr. J. Phillip Wogaman, author of What Christianity Can Learn From Other Religions joins us in the studio to speak about the challenge of various religions not merely learning about one another – but learning from each other.

The Notorious RBG and a Feminist Passover

As we head into the season of Passover, there are a multitude of opportunities for deep reflection and contemplation. The story of the Exodus of the Jewish people from slavery in Egypt frequently focuses on the heroism and leadership of men like Moses. While the actions of Moses and other men in this story were undoubtedly valiant, the heroic and visionary women of Passover are often left out of the Exodus story. This week, Welton sits down with Rabbi Lauren Holtzblatt about the need for a feminist reading of the Passover Story, and her collaboration with Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg to highlight the women often left in the dark in the Passover Story.

The Steadfast Call for LGBT Inclusiveness in Evangelical Communities
Brandan Robertson, founder of the Revangelical Movement
joins us again to speak to us about his forthcoming book Nomad: Not-So-Religious Thoughts On Faith, Doubt, And The Journey In Between. As a public advocate of LGBT inclusiveness in Evangelical communities, Brandan faced challenges in the publication of Nomad due to his advocacy. Brandan’s story of losing his book deal due to his sexuality is not the first like it we’ve heard – but characteristically, Brandan has found wisdom and even inspiration in the experience.


State of Belief - Mardch 21 st. 2015

March 21, 2015

Utah’s “Compromise” on LGBT Rights, and is Politics Trumping Policy, the Need for Jewish Visibility in Europe

This week on State of Belief, Interfaith Alliance’s weekly radio show and podcast, host Rev. Welton Gaddy will dive into some of the hottest and most interesting issues in religion and politics today. We’ll hear from Terry Swartzberg, a Jewish activist in Germany, about the risks of overreacting to reports of growing anti-Semitism in Europe. We’ll also sit down with Greg Lebel of George Washington University to discuss alarming developments in the age-old “politics versus policy” question, and look at recent “Religious Freedom Restoration” laws at the federal and state level with Interfaith Alliance’s executive director Rabbi Jack Moline.

How to Challenge Europe’s Rising Anti-Semitism: Jewish Visibility
In the wake of increasing political anti-Semitic rhetoric and violence throughout Europe, including the deadly hostage situation at a Parisian kosher supermarket and the murder of four at a Jewish museum in Brussels, many Jewish Europeans are asking if there is still a place for them on the continent. As many as a third of them, according to a 2013 survey, have already left or are considering leaving. This week, Welton sits down with Terry Swartzberg, a Jewish activist in Germany who says that it’s essential to be visible – even though many in his community are afraid to be.

Politics > Policy?
Many observers of Washington and the state of our national political system today are concerned about the lack of important legislation passed by our elected representatives in Congress. Are politicians more concerned with funding their reelections and avoiding negative sound bites than with doing their jobs and helping the people they swear to serve? To help think more deeply about this question, State of Belief welcomes Greg Lebel, Assistant Professor of Political Management at George Washington University to talk about whether politics are trumping policy in matters of vital significance to the United States.

The “Utah Compromise” and Religious Freedom
Rabbi Jack Moline
, Executive Director of Interfaith Alliance, joins Welton in the studio to talk about the “Utah Compromise” on gay rights. The compromise, heralded by the Mormon leadership, bans discrimination against LGBT individuals in employment and housing, while extending the same exemptions granted religious employers under state law allowing discrimination on race, religion and gender. Is there a middle ground? Jack will consider this question and share some of his thoughts of the latest crop of “religious freedom restoration” laws from across the country.

And Welton has some thoughts about this year’s conflicts over LGBT participation in St Patrick’s Day parades. Is this, finally, just another chance to dishonestly claim violation of “sincerely held religious beliefs” – or is it the green beer talking?


State of Belief - March 14th 2015

March 15, 2015

Looking Back at Marches Past, Looking Forward To the Next Generation of Internet Faith-Based Activism

This week on State of Belief, Interfaith Alliance’s weekly radio show and podcast, host Welton Gaddy will dive into some of the hottest and most interesting issues in religion and politics today. We’ll hear from Rev. Dr. Jacqui Lewis, recently returned from the 50th anniversary commemoration of the march in Selma, Alabama. Valarie Kaur of and founder of Auburn Seminary’s Groundswell project will talk to us about Net Neutrality and its importance for religious freedom. And Bassle Riche will share his fascinating project “#Muslims4Lent,” helping to bolster Christian-Muslim relations during the Lenten season.

Back to Selma, Still Fighting for Civil Rights
Last week, on the 50th anniversary of the march for voting rights in Selma, Alabama, the nation’s religious and political leaders descended on the town to reenact and remember that historic march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge. One of those leaders was the Rev. Dr. Jacqui Lewis, a prominent activist and Senior Minister at Middle Collegiate Church in New York City. Rev. Lewis will discuss her trip to Selma last weekend, the continued struggle for voting rights, and the role her faith communities continue to play in our ongoing work for civil rights and equality.

What Net Neutrality Really Means For Religious Freedom
When the FCC announced recently that it would adopt new regulations for the Internet – regulations commonly known as Net Neutrality – the announcement was widely cheered by champions of free speech and denigrated by those who feared this was government overreach. One columnist went so far as to say that Net Neutrality would let the government monitor religious leaders and their communications. But many religious freedom advocates, like activist Valerie Kaur of, know that Net Neutrality will bring incredible positive benefits to religious communities and religious freedom. Tune in to find out what she thinks Net Neutrality really means.

We at Interfaith Alliance know that interfaith action and solidarity take a variety of forms: from standing together in support of policies that benefit us all to working to defend a particular faith group under siege, from sharing our religious traditions with each other to ensuring that everyone has the right to practice their own private faith. But sometimes the most powerful acts of interfaith solidarity come when one group joins another in their religious practice – something Bassle Riche is attempting with his new campaign #Muslims4Lent. Welton and Bassle will talk about what he hopes to achieve with this innovative project, what response he’s gotten and what the campaign’s next steps might be. Bassle’s interfaith outreach also includes the website


State of Belief - March 7th 2015

March 8, 2015

Mapping American Values, the Fight for Human Rights, and Talking With Our Friendly Atheist

This week on State of Belief, Interfaith Alliance’s weekly radio show and podcast, host Reverend Welton Gaddy will speak with Dr. Robert P. Jones of the Public Religion Research Institute about a new online map that will change the way we look at America’s religious landscape. We will also hear from Hemant Metha, author of the blog The Friendly Atheist, on the issues facing non-religious Americans in the 21st century. Finally, Rev. Canon Albert Ogle joins Welton in the studio to talk about the global fight for human rights, and the role local faith leaders have in fighting oppression in their communities.

A Friendly Talk With the Friendly Atheist
One of State of Belief’s favorite resources on issues related to America’s sizeable atheist and humanist population has long been the “Friendly Atheist” blog on the Patheos online community. This week, we welcome its author, Hemant Metha, to talk about the blog’s inception, his goal when writing the book, The Young Atheist’s Survival Guide, and how he manages to stay friendly in the face of overt anti-atheist hostility. Finally, Hemant and Welton talk about the importance of conversation and community involvement around these issues.

Exploring the Possibilities of the Atlas of American Values
Welton sits down with Dr. Robert P. Jones, Founding President of the Public Religion Research Institute and a frequent guest of the program, to gain insight into the landscape of American values, opinion, diversity and trends. With Robby is back to talk about the recent unveiling of PRRI’s interactive Atlas of American Values, which he gave us a sneak peak at a couple months ago. Specifically, Robby talks about the ways in which researchers and curious members of the public alike will be able to use the Atlas’ vast banks of data to better understand the religious landscape in the United States.

The Role of Faith in the Fight for Global Human Rights
State of Belief is proud to welcome back Rev. Canon Albert Ogle, an Anglican clergyman who has served as a leader in the struggle for human rights – women’s rights and LBGT rights in particular – around the globe for many years. This week, he’ll talk about the Riverside Coalition, a group composed of several major faith traditions working to end human rights violations through interfaith dialogue and understanding. He’ll also discuss the role that local faith leaders play in countering the oppression of minorities, particularly in conservative communities and countries.


State of Belief - Feb 28th - 2015

February 28, 2015

This week on State of Belief, Interfaith Alliance’s weekly radio show and podcast, host Rev. Welton Gaddy will speak with award-winning filmmaker – and founder of the Washington Jewish Film Festival – Aviva Kempner, about her latest film, “The Rosenwald Schools,” and the film festival’s 25-year run in the nation’s capital. We will also hear from Todd Whitley about the work his organization, Equality Texas, is doing to oppose bigotry, homophobia, and hate throughout Texas. Later in the show, the first legally married same-gender couple in Texas, Sarah Goodfriend and Suzanne Bryant, will join us to discuss their family, their struggle for equality, and the challenge to their marriage by Texas State Attorney General Ken Paxton.

Aviva Kempner and Jewish-Themed Cinema
A careful look at the films from the past year shows a large number of Christian-themed films – often released and supported through outside-the-multiplex methods like church screenings. Jewish-themed cinema is also reaching a growing audience, thanks in part to film festivals like the Washington Jewish Film Festival. This year, the festival is celebrating 25 years of sharing groundbreaking Jewish cinema. Founder of the festival, award-winning writer, director and producer Aviva Kempner, will join us to discuss her latest film, “The Rosenwald Schools” and the impact the film festival has had over the past 25 years.

Fighting For Equality in Texas
The struggle for social justice in Texas has deep roots in immigration and religious freedom. In the Lone Star State, advocates for equal rights must combat the common mis-perception that professed religious faith grants a mandate for bigotry and exclusion. Organizations across Texas are continuously fighting anti-gay initiatives and laws imposed by the state government. Welton will discuss the fight for equality and justice throughout Texas with Todd Whitley, communications manager of Equality Texas.

The First Legally Married Same-Sex Couple in Texas
While political leaders in Texas have been hostile to marriage equality, one Austin couple – Sarah Goodfriend and Suzanne Bryant – became the first and only legally married same-sex couple in the state on February 19, 2015. The couple is facing a challenge to the legality of their marriage by Texas State Attorney General Ken Paxton. Sarah and Suzanne will speak with Welton about their lives since their wedding day, the actions taken by Attorney General Ken Paxton to challenge their marriage and the role the faith community is playing in fighting for equality for LGBT people in Texas.


State of Belief - Feb 21st 15

February 25, 2015

Countering Violent Extremism, Bibi's Visit to DC & Growing Up Gay in the South

This week on State of Belief, Interfaith Alliance’s weekly radio show and podcast, host Reverend Welton Gaddy will speak with Ron Kampeas, Washington DC Bureau Chief of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, about Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s upcoming address to Congress. We will also hear from Brandon Wallace, author of Straight Face, about his book and his experience growing up as a Gay Christian in the South. But first, Glenn Katon, Legal Director of Muslim Advocates will return to the show to discuss his impressions of the White House summit on countering violent extremism.

White House Summit on Violent Extremism
This week, a diverse group of community and faith leaders – including Interfaith Alliance executive director Rabbi Jack Moline – and global activists convened at the White House for a three-day summit on efforts to counter violent extremism. Islam has been a point of inordinate focus in discussions surrounding violent extremism. Sow how’d the White House do? Glenn Katon, Legal Director of Muslim Advocates, attended the summit and will share his reactions on the initiatives discussed at the summit and President Obama’s address to those assembled.

The Israeli Prime Minister’s Visit to Washington
When it was announced that Speaker of the House John Boehner invited the Israeli Prime Minister to address congress without consulting the White House, quite a controversy arose. The visit may have been coordinated for its optics, as it represents the extreme partisanship in the United States and Israel; however, there may be political implications of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s March 3rd speech to the U.S Congress. Welton speaks to Ron Kampeas, Washington DC Bureau Chief of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency about the tensions the address is causing and the religious component of his visit.

Growing Up Gay in the Deep South
In the wake of the refusal of some Alabama judges to grant marriage certificates to same-sex couples this past week, the narratives of many Southerners who identify as gay have been shared on a national level. Brandon Wallace, an author and educator, wrote Straight Face about his experience growing up in the Deep South as a Gay Christian. Brandon will join us in the studio to discuss his book and the role organized religion has played in his life.

A Circle of Protection in Norway
Welton comments on the ‘Circle of Protection’ grassroots initiative in Oslo, Norway. A 17-year-old Muslim activist organized a human chain to help the local synagogue’s members feel secure at last week’s Shabbat services. 1300 turned up to stand for mutual respect and safety.


State of Belief - Feb 14th -15

February 15, 2015

One Nation, Under Gods - a NEW BOOK

This week on State of Belief, Interfaith Alliance’s weekly radio show and podcast, our host Rev. Welton Gaddy will speak with writer and activist Rabbi Jay Michaelson about marriage equality in Alabama and President Obama’s remarks at the National Prayer Breakfast. We will also hear from Rabbi Jack Moline, executive director of Interfaith Alliance, about the organization’s priorities and agenda for the year. Later in the show, Welton will examine the role that religion has played throughout American history with Peter Manseau, author of One Nation, Under Gods: A New American History

Reading Peter Manseau’s One Nation, Under Gods

American history revisionists insist on ignoring the vast array of religions that have been significant in our national history, in favor of a Christian-focused retelling of our origins. Award-winning author and speaker, Peter Manseau, presents a “New American History” in his new book, One Nations Under Gods. The book lays out the religious diversity found throughout American history, and why it’s so important to remember. Peter will join Welton to discuss this rich, pluralistic, historical legacy.

Marriage Equality and the National Prayer Breakfast
A battle between the state of Alabama and the federal judicial system on same-sex marriage ensued this past week as Alabama’s anti-marriage amendment was deemed unconstitutional and a federal judge ordered Alabama to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Is Justice Roy Moore’s rebellion a sign of backlash, or last gasp, for culture warriors opposing marriage equality? And earlier this month, President Obama’s remarks at the National Prayer Breakfast on the history of religious violence garnered criticism and condemnation from many pundits for allegedly failing to label terrorists as Islamic. Rabbi Jay Michaelson, a writer and activist, will discuss both marriage equality in Alabama and the President’s remarks.

Interfaith Alliance’s 2015 Priorities
A glance at today’s headlines is sufficient evidence of the crucial need for interreligious cooperation in our country and throughout the world. Interfaith advocacy is essential to protecting true religious freedom for all our nation’s citizens. Interfaith Alliance Executive Director Rabbi Jack Moline will be with us to discuss the progress that Interfaith Alliance is making in its mission of defending faith and freedom, and the priorities and issues that he plans to focus on this year.


State of Belief - Feb 7 - 15

February 7, 2015

Vaccinations and Personal Liberty, Divine Magic, and Living Without God

This week on State of Belief, Interfaith Alliance’s weekly radio show and podcast, our host, Rev. Welton Gaddy will examine the intersection of science, public health, government and personal liberty in the current debate around mandatory vaccinations. Kara Loewentheil, Director of the Public Rights/Private Conscience Project at Columbia Law School, will join him. We’ll also hear from philosopher and author Peter Rollins on his latest book, The Divine Magician: The Disappearance of Religion and the Discovery of Faith. Later in the show, Welton will speak to Ryan Bell, a former longtime pastor, and learn about his “Year Without God” experiment.

Mandatory Vaccinations & Personal Liberty
Mandatory childhood vaccinations have made a splash in national headlines this past week as politicians, pundits, and presidential aspirants seemed compelled to pick sides in this debate of public health and personal liberty. After an outbreak of measles at California’s Disneyland, the role of personal liberty – religious and otherwise – in parents’ choices to vaccinate their children has been challenged due to public health concerns. Kara Loewentheil, the Director of the Public Rights/Private Conscience Project at Columbia Law School, will join us to discuss this delicate balance – private rights versus public welfare – and the key issues at stake in this debate.

Reading Faith in Peter Rollins’ Newest Book
Attempting to uncover the authentic core of belief has been the object of theologians for centuries. Challenging Christian dogma and continually pushing the boundaries of traditional religious expression, author and philosopher Peter Rollins will discuss his latest book The Divine Magician: The Disappearance of Religion and the Discovery of Faith with Welton. How can frozen doctrines serve as an obstacle to spiritual maturity – and how can that be overcome?

Ryan Bell’s Year Without God
The jury is still out on Ryan Bell’s life-changing decision to live, in his own words, “A Year Without God.” Especially for a seminary instructor and Seventh Day Adventist pastor. Burned out and disillusioned, Ryan took a sabbatical from faith – and today, with those jobs gone, identifies as Atheist. A disarmingly earnest seeker, Ryan is a popular public speaker who has found that his openness about his journey has tapped a deep vein of pain and frustration among many other people of faith who are struggling both with faith – and with the taboo of struggling with faith.


State of Belief - Jan 31 2015

January 31, 2015

This week on State of Belief, Interfaith Alliance’s weekly radio show and podcast, our host, Rev. Welton Gaddy will explore the role religion is playing in national politics as the 2016 campaign cycle intensifies. We’ll hear from Peter Montgomery of People for the American Way who attended Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal’s “The Response” prayer rally in Baton Rouge, and we’ll talk to investigative journalist Sarah Posner, who has written extensively about the political action of the religious right. Later in the show, Welton will commemorate Holocaust Remembrance Day and the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Poland’s Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp with Shana Penn of the Taube Foundation for Jewish Life and Culture.

Religious Right’s Influence on National Politics
In addition to “The Response,” the religious right organized a host of political events and rallies across the nation last weekend. Ranging from a march against reproductive rights, to the Iowa Freedom Summit, to an initiative to elect 1,000 pastors to political office to get this nation right with God – it’s important not to dismiss these initiatives as merely fringe efforts. Investigative Journalist Sarah Posner will join us to discuss this movement of the religious right and the implications these actions will have on America’s secular democracy. She’s reported on several of the recent events for Religion Dispatches Magazine.

A Response to Governor Bobby Jindal’s “The Response”
Although the 2014 election cycle ended a few short months ago, it (sadly) is not too early to start thinking about 2016 campaign politics. Especially when several nakedly theocratic potential candidates pander to “values voters” with an outright dismissal of democratic values in favor of “rebuilding” a “God-centered” nation. Is a large religious base a shortcut to unlimited campaign dollars? We’ll hear from Peter Montgomery, Senior Fellow at People for the American Way and Associate Editor at Religion Dispatches Magazine. He described attending Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal’s “The Response” prayer rally, which drew thousands of attendees in person and online, for The Huffington Post.

Observing the 70th Anniversary of the Liberation of Auschwitz
70 years after the Allies liberated one of the most infamous death camps, Auschwitz/Birkenau in Poland, it is imperative that the lessons learned following the Holocaust be kept relevant for generations to come. Even today, we see a growing movement in parts of Europe to demonize vulnerable minority groups as responsible for economic and social ills. Shana Penn, Executive Director of the Taube Foundation for Jewish Life & Culture, will join Welton to discuss the events around the observance of the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, the importance of remembrance, and lessons learned from that period.


State of Belief - January 24th 15

January 24, 2015

This week on State of Belief, Interfaith Alliance’s weekly radio show and podcast, our host, Rev. Welton Gaddy, speaks with his successor at the organization, Rabbi Jack Moline, the new executive director of Interfaith Alliance.

Welton will speak with Duke University’s Bruce Lawrence about a “Christian” backlash that led to the cancellation of a planned campus call to Muslim Friday prayers from the chapel tower.

We’ll also hear from Holly Hollman of the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty and Aaron Sarver of the Campaign for Southern Equality about important cases in the current session of the Supreme Court.

An Eye on the Supreme Court
Nationwide marriage equality at last? The Supremes have agreed to hear four cases that analysts say could lead to just that. The Campaign for Southern Equality is the plaintiff in a current Fifth Circuit appeal on the issue, and Communications Director Aaron Sarver joins Welton to discuss possible outcomes. What about the religious freedom cases on the high court’s docket – is there a Hobby Lobby 2.0 on the way? Holly Hollman, General Counsel at the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty joins us to look at them, and analyze the unanimous guns-in-beards Holt v. Hobbs decision.

Outcry in Durham
The announcement of a planned three-minute broadcast of the Muslim call to Friday prayers on the campus of Duke University was met with ugly fearmongering and bigotry. Franklin Graham, who has a long history of divisive anti-Muslim rhetoric, even called on Duke alumni to withhold support from Duke over the inclusive gesture. Welton is joined by Rev. Dr. Bruce B. Lawrence, who has been at Duke for 40 years and founded the Islamic Studies Center at the University.

Meet Interfaith Alliance’s New Executive Director
Welton is joined by Rabbi Jack Moline, the new executive director of Interfaith Alliance. Jack will be a regular presence on the show, and this week we’ll focus on his background in interreligious activism as well as congregational ministry. Rabbi Moline recently represented Interfaith Alliance at the White House during the President’s State of the Union address, so we’ll get his firsthand impressions on both the tone and substance of a speech that included an encouraging focus on religious freedom.


State of Belief - Jan 17th

January 17, 2015

This week on State of Belief, Interfaith Alliance’s weekly radio show and podcast, our host, Rev. Welton Gaddy continues to wrestle with the responses to the tragic attack in Paris earlier this month. We’ll talk to religion scholar Dr. Mark Juergensmeyer who argues that these attacks were not about religion, and we’ll hear from our show’s producer, Ray Kirstein, who participated in a rally against Islamophobia in Germany last week. But before we go abroad, we have to check in on the state of our union as Americans continue to challenge racial inequality and injustice as we observe Dr. Martin Luther King Day.

Commemorating MLK Day After A Tough and Inspiring Year
As 2014 – the year that saw tragic deaths and demonstrations from Ferguson, to Staten Island, to Cleveland – came to a close, we knew that 2015’s commemoration of MLK Day would be particularly poignant. Listeners will remember Rev. Michael McBride of PICO National Network’s Live Free Campaign from the inspiring and unsettling stories he shared with us about his time in Ferguson earlier this year. This week he joins us to talk about how PICO is honoring MLK day and using Dr. King’s legacy to help drive today’s movement for justice in America.

The View from Leipzig
The tragic attack in Paris earlier this month reignited perennial debates – constantly bubbling below the surface – about immigration and Islam in Europe. The past weeks have seen massive protests against immigrants and the Muslim community, and even larger demonstrations of support for a community that is inclusive for all faiths and nationalities. Our show’s producer – Ray Kirstein – was in Leipzig, Germany last week and participated in the largest of these pro-immigration demonstrations. He’ll come on air this week and discuss with Welton what the view from Leipzig was this week, what was behind this demonstration, and where he thinks Europe is going from here.

“Religion Was Not The Reason For The Paris Attacks…”
As simple as they sound, these words have been incredibly controversial over the past weeks. So we welcome back Dr. Mark Juergensmeyer, who wrote a recent article making that very argument in Religion Dispatches. Don’t miss his conversation with Welton this week about the role that religion did not play in the attacks at Charlie Hebdo’s Paris office, and why understanding that is crucial for preventing future lone wolf terror attacks.