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Interfaith Alliance leader announces retirement

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WASHINGTON, D.C. (KNOE 8 News)  – Rev. Dr. C. Welton Gaddy announced today that he will step down as president of Interfaith Alliance at the end of 2014. Rev. Gaddy, who has led the organization since 1998, transformed Interfaith Alliance into a respected voice on religious freedom, and a leading advocate for protecting the boundaries between religion and government. His leadership of Interfaith Alliance is the culmination of a career in ministry that stretches back more than five decades. Interfaith Alliance’s Board of Directors has already launched the search for Rev. Gaddy’s successor who will inherit an organization strongly positioned to take on challenges to the historic understanding of religious freedom.

“It has been an honor and a privilege to lead Interfaith Alliance over the last 16 years as we have fought back against efforts to redefine religious freedom based on a narrow sectarian view,” said Rev. Gaddy. “Our work is not done – my work is not done – but it is time for a new leader to take up the mantel and continue to represent the millions of Americans who understand that religious freedom – our first freedom – is a foundation of our democracy that needs protection, but also understand that it is not meant to be an opt-out for any public policy with which one might disagree.”

In addition to his work at Interfaith Alliance, Rev. Gaddy is the Senior Pastor of Northminster Baptist Church in Monroe, Louisiana, and the host of State of Belief Radio. He currently serves on the Religious Advisory Committee of the Council on Foreign Relations and is a past member of President Barrack Obama’s Task Force on Reform of the Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, as well as the World Economic Forum’s Council of 100 leaders.

“Welton is a powerful and compassionate voice for all of us who care about the role of faith in America,” said Helio Fred Garcia, chair of the Interfaith Alliance Board of Directors. “We are so grateful for the many years of service Welton has given this organization, and with his help during this transition, Interfaith Alliance will continue protecting religious freedom. Working with the rest of the board, we are in the process of identifying candidates to lead Interfaith Alliance into the future.”

Born in Paris, Tennessee, Rev. Gaddy received his Bachelor of Arts from Union University in Jackson, Tennessee, before going on to the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky, where he received his master’s in theology in 1968 and his Ph.D. in 1970. Rev. Gaddy held pulpits and teaching positions across the southern United States before becoming a member of the Executive Committee of the Southern Baptist Convention. He left the SBC in the early 1980’s as it took a drastic turn to the right. Going forward, he aligned himself with the Alliance of Baptists, which he helped found, and eventually serving as the president of its board. Rev. Gaddy increasingly focused his ministry on the relationship between faith and public life. He joined the board of Americans United for Separation of Church and State and served as its president before leaving to lead Interfaith Alliance.

Since taking over Interfaith Alliance, Rev. Gaddy enabled the organization to become the leading non-partisan advocacy organization aimed at protecting religious freedom. During his sixteen-year tenure, Rev. Gaddy helped shape the way government and faith work with each other, and helped advance public policies that protect religious freedom for all Americans regardless of their faith or religious tradition. The highlights of his tenure include:

Exposing the errors and dangers of the Christian Coalition and local houses of worship distributing candidate scorecards on the Sunday prior to national elections. Ultimately, Interfaith Alliance introduced Election Guides for candidates and houses of worship in order to educate them on what they can and cannot do during election seasons. Strongly opposing efforts to change the IRS regulation that prohibits houses of worship from endorsing political candidates. Rev. Gaddy highlighted the fact that when candidates seek endorsements from faith leaders, it serves only to help the candidate and does nothing to strengthen faith, and in reality, often causes harm. Projecting a representation of faith in the media that differs from the divisive and sectarian views of the “religious right.” In addition to hosting State of Belief Radio, Rev. Gaddy has been a regular source and commentator in the national media. Opposing from the start the establishment of a “faith-based office” in the White House and ultimately working to reform the office to bring it more in line with the Constitution. Advocating in support of meaningful anti-hate crimes legislation for more than a decade. Rev. Gaddy led Interfaith Alliance’s grassroots efforts to build support for the legislation by holding vigils across the country that drew local and national attention. Early and vocal supporter of LGBT rights including marriage equality and employment non-discrimination. Rev. Gaddy authored the defining work: “Same-Gender Marriage and Religious Freedom.” Steadfast supporter for the rights of Muslim minorities as anti-Muslim bigotry became a growing problem. Interfaith Alliance co-authored the FAQ guide “What is the Truth about American Muslims?” – a resource aimed at dispelling myths and misconceptions about the Muslim community, a publication endorsed by nearly two dozen faith-based institutions.

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