Bobby Paragon



State of Belief - Oct 24th - 2015


Utah Hosts Two Different Global Gatherings

On this episode of State of Belief, Interfaith Alliance’s weekly radio show and podcast, Rev. Welton Gaddy takes a closer look at two global gatherings taking place in Salt Lake City, Utah over a span of just two weeks. Last weekend, 10,000 representatives of 50 different faith traditions travelled to the Parliament of the World’s Religions in Salt Lake City for a global discussion on interfaith initiatives. This weekend, the World Congress of Families will also hold a global gathering in Salt Lake City, but instead will be meeting to promote an exclusive, discriminatory vision of religion. Eric Ethington of Political Research Associates join us to address how PRA works to expose the ways in which the religious right, including the World Congress of Families, regularly undermines civil society and human rights. Later, Rev. Mark Luens, Board Chair of Interfaith Alliance of Long Island, New York, will speak about his experience at the Parliament of the World’s Religions. Also on the show, we will talk with the newly appointed editor-in-chief of Religion News Service, Jerome Socolovsky, focusing on his experience with religion journalism and how it has prepared him for this new role.

World Congress of Families to Preach Hate and Intolerance at World Gathering A so called pro-family entity, the World Congress of Families, will meet this weekend in Salt Lake City, Utah. Labeled a “hate group” by the Southern Poverty Law Center, the WCF has promoted hate in a number of foreign countries, especially towards the LGBT community. Non-profit organization Political Research Associates has long kept its eye on the WCF. Eric Ethington joins us to discuss the work of the WCF in its undermining of human rights around the globe. He’ll discuss the WCF’s global gathering this weekend, which is being held in the U.S. for the first time, and some of the resources that PRA and the Southern Poverty Law Center have assembled to help educate Americans about this dangerous group and their destructive agenda.

Religion News Service Appoints Veteran Journalist and Broadcaster as Editor-In-Chief RNS has been a vital resource for us since the start of the show. In an age when a religion is present in so many events around the world, it is more important than ever to have a religion news source that is resolutely secular, objective, and non-sectarian. The appointment of Jerome Socolovsky as editor-in-chief of RNS is exciting news for our community. Jerome is an award-winning veteran religion correspondent for Voice of America Radio, who has also worked for NPR and the Associated Press. Jerome joins Welton to discuss this recent announcement, his career so far, and his priorities for fostering excellence in religion journalism.

Parliament of the World’s Religions Embraces Different Countries and Faiths The Parliament of the World’s Religions offers a different perspective on faith than does the World Congress of Families who are preparing for their own gathering this weekend. The individuals at this gathering represented 80 different countries, and an equally diverse group of faiths. The Rev. Mark Lukens, a pastor in the United Church of Christ and Chairperson of the Board of Directors at Interfaith Alliance of Long Island, joins us on State of Belief this week to discuss his experience at the gathering in Salt Lake City. Mark will discuss the goals of the Parliament of the World’s Religions, and the activities that he was involved in at the gathering.

State of Belief - Oct 17th - 2015


Debates, Division & Documentary his week on State of Belief, Interfaith Alliance’s weekly radio show and podcast, Rev. Welton Gaddy returns to explore religion in three very different settings: the presidential debates, as a fault line in the Vatican, and in a documentary from Oprah Winfrey. Investigative journalist Sarah Posner, will discuss the role of religion, or lack thereof, in the first Democratic debate. The Most Rev. Francis Quinn, the retired Catholic Bishop of Sacramento, also joins the program to share his views on progressive issues as they currently stand in the Vatican. And finally, David Shadrack Smith comes on to preview the major new documentary miniseries titled, “Belief” airing all this week on the OWN Television Network.

Political Polarization of Religion? Following the Democrat debate this past week, who better to sit down and talk to us about religion and politics, than investigative journalist Sarah Posner? Was the focus on substantive issues, but the exclusion of religious liberty as a topic, a disappointment? We’ll also explore the role of religious liberty in future debates, the GOP candidates’ emphasis on religion, as well as notable debate moments. Sarah is the author of God’s Profits – P-R-O-F-I-T-S – Faith, Fraud and the Republican Crusade for Values Voters.

Internal Vatican Tensions: Conservative v. Progressive Currently, Catholic Bishops are back at the Vatican for Part Two of the Synod on the Family. To discuss the internal tensions between conservative and progressive members of the Church hierarchy from the perspective of his 68 years in the priesthood, we’ll be joined by his Excellency Bishop Francis Quinn. Bishop Quinn was installed as the Roman Catholic Bishop of Sacramento, California in 1979. Since retiring in 1993 he remains active in progressive causes. Bishop Quinn recently published a New York Times op-ed calling for a far more progressive agenda than anything likely to be discussed during the Synod.

Oprah + Religion = Belief OWN Television Network will be premiering a seven-night documentary mini series called “Belief” beginning on Sunday, October 18th. This documentary combines prime television, leading documentary filmmakers, world religious history, and Oprah Winfrey to search for commonalities among what we believe across the globe. Executive Producer David Shadrack Smith joins us to discuss the conception of the series, what viewers should expect from the experience, as well as how working on the project affected him personally.

State of Belief - Oct 3rd - 2015


Electoral Politics in IOWA! On this episode of State of Belief, Interfaith Alliance’s weekly radio show and podcast, Rev. Welton Gaddy takes a closer look at electoral politics through the lens of the upcoming caucuses in Iowa, focusing on how local organizations are attempting to prepare for them. Donna Red Wing, executive director of OneIowa, the state’s leading LGBT organization, joins us to address her advocacy work in Iowa in the context of the caucuses, as well as her recent meeting with President Obama. Later, Rabbi and author Jay Michaelson will speak about his brand new book The Gate of Tears: Sadness and the Spiritual Path, and will offer some advice regarding living a better life. And, finally, we’ll take a look back in our archives and listen to part of Welton’s 2007 interview with the late Senator Edward Kennedy, followed by a conversation with Judy Shephard, mother of Matthew Shephard, who appeared on the show just weeks before the passage of the Matthew Shephard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, a historic piece of legislation that Senator Kennedy advocated for before his death.

Iowa Caucuses Enter the National Spotlight The Iowa Caucuses are just months away, and are the first real- life test for presidential candidates as they prepare for the general election later in 2016. Traditionally, Iowa gets a significant amount of national media attention around the time of the caucus, accompanied by visits from the candidates themselves. OneIowa, the state’s leading LGBT organization, takes advantage of this spotlight every year to promote its advocacy work. Executive director Donna Red Wing has been closely following these electoral politics as the Iowa caucuses near, and recently met with President Obama. Donna joins our show to discuss the importance of her work in Iowa, and the nature of Iowa voters.

Rabbi Jay Michaelson’s new book offers a fresh perspective on spirituality and happiness The work of Rabbi Jay Michaelson has been discussed a number of times on State of Belief. Fortunately for us, Jay has been willing to unveil a number of books from his diverse body of work on our show, and has an exciting new perspective to share in his latest work The Gate of Tears: Sadness and the Spiritual Path, which has been called, “A Stunning antidote to the plethora of ‘get happy’ guides.” Today on the show Jay will discuss his new book, and will offer his thoughts on the relationship between happiness and spirituality in our everyday lives. Tune in to hear Jay’s enlightening perspective on these topics!

A Look Back: An Interview with Senator Ted Kennedy As we get closer to the 10th anniversary of State of Belief, we are revisiting some of our favorite interviews. This week, we rewind to a powerful interview with the late Senator Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts.  In the beginning of October 2007, the Senator appeared on this program as part of his long-term advocacy for a federal hate crimes law. It was less than a year later that Ted Kennedy was diagnosed with an incurable brain tumor.

Senator Kennedy was a tireless fighter for a federal Hate Crimes Act. The final time that he was able to sponsor this legislation in 2009, he lived to see its passage in the Senate – but passed away before President Obama signed the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act into law on October 25, 2009. Just weeks before that historic moment, Judy Shepard, the mother of Matthew Shepard was on State of Belief, and you’ll hear part of that October 3, 2009 conversation.

State of Belief - September 26th 2015


Pope Francis Goes To Washington

From Pope Francis’ first visit to the U.S. to Ben Carson’s comments about American Muslims, the celebration of Eid al Adha to the observance of Yom Kippur – this was the type of week that us interfaith junkies live for. On this episode of State of Belief, Interfaith Alliance’s weekly radio show and podcast, Rev. Welton Gaddy takes a look at everything that’s been going on. Bishop Gene Robinson will share what he saw at the Pope’s reception at the White House on Wednesday and respond to the outrage of the Religious Right that LGBT leaders were invited to receive the Holy Father. Rabbi Jack Moline, Interfaith Alliance’s executive director, will talk about the week in religious freedom – from Pope Francis’s speech to Congress to Ben Caron’s offensive comments. And, finally, we’ll take a look back in our archives and listen to Welton’s 2010 interview with acclaimed country singer/songwriter, and LGBT equality advocate, Chely Wright.

Pope Francis Goes To Washington The streets of our nation’s capital were packed this week as Pope Francis began his first ever trip to the United States. As part of this historic visit President Obama welcomed the Holy Father to the White House at a reception that – to the chagrin of Religious Right activists – included prominent LGBT faith leaders, including our good friend Bishop Gene Robinson. Bishop Gene joins our show to describe what he witnessed at this once in a lifetime experience.

An Unusual Address to Congress and All Too Usual Rhetoric From Politicians This week saw a Pontiff address a joint session of Congress for the first time in our nation’s history. This week also saw politicians doubling down on unnerving rhetoric about the role of American Muslims in our nation and political system. Welton invites on Rabbi Jack Moline, Executive Director of Interfaith Alliance, to walk us through the week in religious freedom. What church-state separation issues did the Pope’s speech evoke? Why has religious freedom skyrocketed to the forefront of the 2016 campaign? What can listeners do to make sure candidates for public office respect the rights of all Americans? Tune in to hear Rabbi Moline’s take on these questions and more!

A Look Back: An Interview with Chely Wright As we get closer to the 10th anniversary of State of Belief, we’re revisiting some of our favorite interviews. This week, we rewind to a powerful 2010 interview with out Lesbian Country singer/songwriter Chely Wright.  Earlier that year, she had made public that she was gay. Since then, Chely has married and given birth to twins; has devoted herself to protecting LGBT youth; and this month, is back in the studio working on her 8th album.

State of Belief - September 125, 2015


Facets of Faith, from the Courtroom to the Bus This week on State of Belief, Interfaith Alliance’s weekly radio show and podcast, Rev. Welton Gaddy will looks at faith on the bus and in the courtroom. We will hear from NETWORK’s executive director, Sister Simone Campbell, as the nuns get back on the bus. Then, Welton turns to journalist Sarah Posner to discuss the politics of religious faith and presidential candidates rushing to stand with Kim Davis in Kentucky. Finally, with an uplifting closing segment, we will turn to Rabbi Brad Hirschfield to discuss Rosh Hashanah, and the hopes for the Jewish New Year.

Social Justice, Religion, and a Bus This week, Sister Simone Campbell, executive director of NETWORK, a national Catholic social justice lobby, returns to our program to discuss the newest tour of Nuns on the Bus. Under the banner of, “Bridge the Divides: Transform Politics,” the sisters are undertaking a 13-day tour leading up to Pope Francis’s visit to the United States. The bus tour left St. Louis on Thursday and will travel to 7 states before concluding in Washington, DC on September 22 – just in time or the Pope’s arrival. Sister Simone spoke to us just as she was boarding the bus for this latest trip for faith-inspired social justice.

The Only Religion Question Reporters And Debate Moderators Should Ask Presidential Candidates Kim Davis, the Rowan County, Kentucky clerk who was jailed for refusing to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples and interfering with other clerks doing so, continues to make headlines. Welton had hoped he could avoid the conversation on Kim Davis, but then he read a column titled The Only Religion Question Reporters And Debate Moderators Should Ask Presidential Candidates (Kim Davis Edition). After that he couldn’t resist inviting Sarah Posner of Religion Dispatches back on the show to talk about how candidates taking sides on this controversy tells us a lot about where they truly stand on the US Constitution.

A Sweet New Year (and some timeless lessons) Sundown on Sunday night marks the start of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. With so much turmoil in the world, holida

State of Belief - September 5, 2015


Labor Day and Looking Back

This week on State of Belief, Interfaith Alliance’s weekly radio show and podcast, Rev. Welton Gaddy sits down with several special guests to talk about the role of faith in political and public life. We’ll hear from Interfaith Alliance Executive Director Rabbi Jack Moline about the potential dangers of mixing government and religion for political benefit. On a warmer note, a Rabbi and former President Carter staffer shares how 39’s faith helped – and continues to help – him through troubles and tough times. Finally, in the spirit of the holiday (and time off work!) we’ll hear two excerpts from Labor Day broadcasts of years past, and spend some time reflecting on how the world has changed – or not– in the years since those segments first aired.

The Religiosity of Politics and the Politicization of Religion At the end of September, Pope Francis will travel to the United States, a trip that features a stop in Washington, D.C. where he will address a joint meeting of Congress. And the conference put on by ACT for America, the notoriously anti-Muslim organization, will feature the participation of at least 14 members of the House of Representatives. This week, Rabbi Jack Moline, Executive Director of the Interfaith Alliance, joins us on the program to talk about the bad things that can happen when religion and politics are used in the service of one another.

The (Podcast) Ghosts of Labor Days Past As this weekend marks both Labor Day and another week counting down to State of Belief’s tenth anniversary, we’ll look back at what we were talking about on Labor Days past. First, we’ll revisit September 2007, when Welton spoke to Mary Kay Henry of the Service Employees International Union about the urgency of expanding workers’ access to health care. There was a presidential candidate running on a promise of universal health care that year: Barack Obama. Then, we’ll listen to a piece of a September 2009 conversation between Welton and Prof. Bethany Moreton, author of the book To Serve God and Wal-Mart: The Making of Christian Free Enterprise, on the confluence of Evangelical Christianity and free market capitalism.

The Passion and Faith of President Carter The world was shocked last month when President Jimmy Carter stepped up to the microphone and calmly explained his cancer diagnosis. In the years since he left office, President Carter has worked tirelessly for change in the world, and his dedication to justice and peace has made him seem ageless. Welton is joined this week by Rabbi Gordon Tucker, who served as a White House Fellow during the Carter Administration, where he was able to see firsthand the forces the president called upon during times of trouble. Rabbi Tucker offers listeners a powerful, intimate look into President Carter, and on what we can learn about life and its challenges from the way he brings faith into play in his own life.

Intersection Awards: September 2015 This week, we’re excited to announce another edition of the Intersection Awards, where the Interfaith Alliance risks life and limb at the intersection of religion, government and politics to flash a green, yellow or red light at some of the latest near-misses and collisions at this always-busy, always-dangerous crossroads. This week? The new “hero” of the anti-gay movement, Kim Davis, the lack of international action to help the thousands of refugees worldwide, and the notorious “Alliance Defending Freedom,” a giant nonprofit legal outfit that looks to inject itself to seemingly every mean-spirited culture war on offer.

State of Belief - August 29th - 2015


The Struggle for Religious Freedom Goes South

From the Deep South to Southern Europe, struggles for religious freedom are sending ripples across our communities. This week on State of Belief, Interfaith Alliance’s weekly radio show and podcast, Rev. Welton Gaddy takes a look at three different conflicts facing religious communities. We’ll hear about Texas Freedom Network’s fight to keep Christian education out of public schools. We’ll check in with our friend Suhag Shukla at the Hindu American Foundation on the latest debate about adding a Hindu monument to the Ten Commandments monument at the Arkansas State House. And Catherine Orsborne, director of the Shoulder to Shoulder campaign, will tell us about how anti-Muslim bigotry stops us from helping those refugees most in need.

What Did you Learn In School Today? Across the country the Religious Right and their allies in Congress, state legislatures and local school boards, have waged a quiet campaign to bring religious teachings into public schools and to funnel public money to private schools. As they say, everything’s bigger in Texas, including the Religious Right’s agenda. Dan Quinn, communications director at the Texas Freedom Network, will join Welton this week to fill us in on the most recent struggles around religion in school and what the implications are for the rest of the country.

The Very Dire Consequences of Islamophobia We all know that anti-Muslim bigotry takes a serious toll on our country. We see it in our political debates, in protests against mosques and community centers, and in policing and national security. But have you ever thought about how it changes our debate about refugees and immigration? This week Catherine Orsborn of Shoulder to Shoulder will discuss how anti-Muslim bigotry has stopped the U.S. and countries across Europe from adequately addressing the refugee crisis in Syria, Sudan and across the Middle East.

The Statues and Statutes of Religion Freedom When we debate religious freedom in America, we usually debate the statues and laws that govern religious practice in our nation. But, increasingly often these days, we’re talking a lot about statues. The Arkansas State Legislature has just mandated a memorial to the Ten Commandments on the capitol grounds. So a group of Hindus petitioned the state to add a Hindu statue to the display, a request that has garnered surprisingly broad interfaith support. Tune in to hear from Suhag Shukla, co-founder and executive director of the Hindu-America Foundation, talk about why the work to make these public displays of religion more inclusive is so important.

State of Belief - August 22nd - 2015


August 22, 2015 – Remembering Julian Bond, Interpreting Donald Trump and Exposing Christian Reconstructionists

Donald Trump may not seem share a lot in common with the average preacher (at least not our host Welton Gaddy), but both could end up shaping the political landscape in 2016. This week on State of Belief, our host Rev. Welton Gaddy, examines the Trump phenomenon with Prof. George Lakoff, one of America’s leading linguists. But Trump isn’t the only giant looming over our political scene, Dr. Julie Ingersoll joins us to discuss the work of Christian Reconstructionists to put 1,000 fundamentalist pastors on the ballot next November. But first, Welton invites Rev. Dr. Amos T. Brown to help us remember the life and mourn the loss of longtime civil rights champion Julian Bond.

Remembering a Titan of Civil Rights and Religious Freedom Last Saturday we said goodbye to Julian Bond, the former president of the NAACP, co-founder of the Southern Poverty Law Center, and a tireless champion for freedom and equality for all. Both Welton and Interfaith Alliance were proud to call Julian an ally and friend. He leaves a powerful legacy to remind us that racial justice, LGBT equality and religious freedom are part of the same struggle. This week we’re joined by a longtime friend of both Julian Bond’s and Welton Gaddy’s, the Rev. Dr. Amos C. Brown, to help us understand that legacy, and what Julian Bond can still teach us about the work for civil human rights and equality.

So… Trump? When there’s something going on in our politics or culture that we can’t make heads or tails (or hairpieces) of, we call Prof. George Lakoff, a world-renowned expert in cognitive linguistics. Well, we don’t understand what’s going on with Donald Trump (Rasmussen just released a new survey showing 57% of likely GOP voters expect The Donald to be their nominee!), so we’re inviting Prof. Lakoff on this week to see what he has to say. He’s also got an exciting new training program gearing up to engage progressives in refining their messaging skills, called Reframe America.

Building God’s Kingdom… on the 2016 Campaign trail? The doctrine of Christian Reconstruction, birthed by the late R. J. Rushdoony, may seem to be a fringe fundamentalist set of beliefs left far behind by social and political progress. But Dr. Julie Ingersoll argues that the tentacles of those committed to building a bible-based America reach into more mainstream conservative initiatives. Her new book – 30 years in the making – is Building God’s Kingdom: Inside the World of Christian Reconstruction.

State of Belief - August 15th - 2015


Race, Religion and Reproductive Rights on the 2016 Campaign Trail

As the 2016 elections heat up across the country, things are heating up on State of Belief, Interfaith Alliance’s weekly radio show and podcast, as well (and not just because it’s 104 degrees in Welton’s home town of Monroe, LA). This week we check in with several experts about the religious dimensions of the race for the White House. Noted Catholic historian and author Patricia Miller will join us to talk about the latest fights in access to contraception and women’s health. Veteran religion journalist Kim Lawton of PBS Religion & Ethics Newsweekly shares her observations from the 2016 campaign trail. And theologian Rev. Dr. Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite comes back to talk to us about the #BlackLivesMatter movement and what it means for America’s religious and political landscape.

Whatever Happened to Hobby Lobby? As religious conservatives sound the alarm about Planned Parenthood, the quieter fight over the contraceptive coverage included in the Affordable Care Act continues. While last year’s Hobby Lobby decision blew the law – and, with it, our constitutional understanding of religious freedom – the onslaught has continued from a range of religiously affiliated colleges, hospitals and organizations. But the fate of these cases in court, at least so far, just might surprise you. This week Welton’s joined by Patricia Miller a historian and author deeply familiar with Catholic doctrine and history and women’s health and contraception who will fill us in on these latest developments.

Why Is This Election Different From All Other Elections? It feels like the 2016 election really launched last week with the first Republican Primary debate, and already religion is playing a controversial role. From candidates seeking an audience with the Southern Baptist Convention to Fox News asking politicians whether God speaks to them directly, there’s no escaping religion on the campaign trail. Tune in to hear veteran religion reporter Kim Lawton, managing editor and correspondent for PBS’ Religion & Ethics Newsweekly, discuss what she’s seen so far in this election, as well as the challenges and rewards of religion journalism more broadly.

White America: What is Your Stake in Black Lives Matter Rev. Dr. Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite is a professor at Chicago Theological Seminary. She’s also one of our go-to guests when the trials our nation faces calls for a more sophisticated approach to theology. That approach is exactly what she offers in her latest piece at The Huffington Post, White America: What is Your Stake in Black Lives Matter? She’ll talk to Welton about the Black Lives Matter movement, and the vital connection between issues of race, gender – and the environment.

State of Belief - August 1st -2015


August 1, 2015 – Our Ugly Political Landscape, the Eternal Religious Freedom Debate, and Nuclear Scientist Clergy?

This week on State of Belief, Interfaith Alliance’s weekly radio show and podcast, host Welton Gaddy offers a couple of particularly though-provoking segments. He’ll talk with an Atlantic writer about the tricky issues surrounding religious freedom and civil rights. We’ll also examine the state of affairs in this cycle of presidential politics – and whether rhetoric is “Trumping” policy in our discussions of the 2016 race. Finally, we’ll talk with a rabbi about whether or not she – and other religious leaders – has a role in talking with her congregation about controversial political issues such as the Iran deal.

Trust, Leadership and the Iran Deal

As debate continues in TV studios and on Capitol Hill alike on the groundbreaking nuclear deal between the United States and its partners and Iran, so much of our conversation has broken down into one key issue: trust. Yes, we have the often-heard questions over Iran’s trustworthiness and whether we can trust politicians to put the nation’s interests above their political motivations. However, faith leaders have also been wondering if and how to engage their constituencies on tough subjects like the Iran deal, worrying that any action will lead to a loss of trust among those looking for faith-driven guidance. Rabbi Jill Jacobs, executive director of T’ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights, returns to State of Belief to discuss her recent article in the Washington Post, which talked about the need for faith leaders to rise above this fear and trust the need for their place within the conversation.

The Ugliness – Already! – of 2016

In the wake of another round of problematic sound bites from this year’s batch of presidential candidates, you don’t have to be a great cynic to get the feeling that these days, with election season comes political grandstanding, fear mongering and a general lack of civility. Greg Lebel, Assistant Professor of Political Management at George Washington University, joins Welton to talk about the state of campaign ugliness. He’ll also talk about the dynamics of the presidential race, the “Trump factor” and the role of Christian rhetoric in these early months – specifically, whether any candidates are going too far in their invocation of sponsorship from above.

Equality: A Zero-sum Game?

Listeners of the show will know that we at State of Belief are big believers in discussing the balance between equal rights and religious liberty, both abroad but especially in the United States. This week, we’ll hear fromEmma Green of The Atlantic, who has written a compelling piece, Gay Rights May Come at the Cost of Religious Freedom delving into some of the concerns around this very issue.

State of Belief - July 24th 2015


Undoing Religious Liberty, The Right’s Subversion of America’s Oldest Institution

This week on State of Belief, Interfaith Alliance’s weekly radio show and podcast, Welton looks into the latest developments in religious freedom – and the Right’s attempt to subvert it – in America today. We’ll take a look behind the infamous Planned Parenthood videos and the Religious Right’s campaign against reproductive health services. We’ll hear from Tulsa Interfaith Alliance’s leader on Oklahoma’s recent refusal to remove a statue of the Ten Commandment from the State Capitol grounds. And, finally, Sally Steenland from the Center for American Progress will fill us in on the newest attempt to ban anti-gay discrimination and how an unexpected community has supported it.

Behind Those Planned Parenthood Videos The recent undercover videos released showing Planned Parenthood representatives speaking frankly about the difficult topic of fetal tissue donations caused a furor on the Religious Right. Rev. Donna Schaper, Senior Minister at the historic Judson Memorial Church in New York City joins Welton to discuss what she sees as the hypocrisy in the Religious Right’s rhetoric and the truth behind the videos themselves. In a strongly-worded article in Religion Dispatches, Rev. Schaper did not hesitate to point out the sexism in the Right’s attacks, and question the merits of videos released by an organization formed solely to ruin Planned Parenthood and to put an end to the valuable services they offer to women, especially low-income women, in the United States.

“Thou shalt not touch the monument.” The monument depicting the Ten Commandments outside the Oklahoma State Capitol has been ruled to be in violation of the state’s constitution by the state supreme court – but the governor has refused to remove it. Rev. Bob Lawrence, Executive Director of the Tulsa Interfaith Alliance joins Welton this week to discuss the separation of church and state and the ways in which the Right has fought to blur the lines between them. And what about the Satanic Temple’s role in the case?

Discrimination is Bad for Business, and Businesses Agree A recent survey of small business owners revealed that, despite the best efforts of the anti-gay lobby to argue the contrary, small businesses do not wish to discriminate against LGBT individuals on claims of religious freedom – and they recognize that denying customers service for any reason is bad for business. Sally Steenland, Faith and Progressive Policy Director at the Center for American Progress, joins Welton to analyze the poll results and break down the different types of responses gathered: from bakers to photographers, and liberals to conservatives. Steenland and Welton will also discuss the Equality Bill, just introduced in Congress.

State of Belief - July 18th - 2015


From Charleston to Pluto: Looking To The Heavens and Close To Home

This week on State of Belief, Interfaith Alliance’s weekly radio show and podcast, Interfaith Alliance Executive Director Rabbi Jack Moline is filling in for Welton Gaddy as host. We’ll check in with PICO National Network’s Pastor Mike McBride about his organization’s broad response to the tragedy in Charleston. We’ll hear from Celene Ibrahim-Lizzio about a new training program for the next generation of interfaith leaders. And Jack and Rabbi Elliot Dorff will reflect on NASA’s mission to Pluto and our spiritual connection to the stars. Finally, Jack leaves us with some thoughts about the American flag and the historical role of religion in American public life.

Faith in Times of Tragedy When tragedy struck Chattanooga, Tennessee this week, too many of us had still not healed from last month’s tragic shooting at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina. Miraculously, though, the struggle to move forward has manifested itself not in hatred, blame, or anger, but, instead, in a new sense of community and support. We have taken the Confederate battle flag down from the South Carolina statehouse and approached the discussion of racism across the country with new, more understanding, eyes. Today the Director of PICO Network’s LiveFree Campaign and pastor of “The Way” Christian Center in West Berkeley, CA, Pastor Mike McBride, joins us to discuss PICO’s activism since Charleston, the meaning of activism, and how to bring faith-based messages to more secular communities.

The Necessity and Future of Diversity in Belief Exciting interfaith initiatives have sprung up all over the world as we grow to more fully respect the diverse beliefs in our global community. Nowhere is this newfound necessity more clearly understood than in programming at Newton Andover Theological Seminary and Hebrew College in Boston, Massachusetts. We’re joined today by Islamic Scholar-in-Residence, Celene Ibrahim-Lizzio, to talk about the history of collaboration between these two institutions, and a new interreligious leadership degree program that seeks to meet the need for a new generation of interfaith community.

How and Why We Decide Who and What to Believe In This week marked an exciting discovery as NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft became the first mission to reach the dwarf planet, Pluto. In light of this new innovation in the scientific community, we ask ourselves what it is about the sky and stars that inspires so much belief and questioning. We’re joined by Rabbi Elliot Dorff, professor of Jewish Theology at the American Jewish University, to ask what we really are looking for when we look up to the sky, the celestial aspects of Jewish teaching, and the relevance of new space discoveries to faith leaders and scholars.

American Christianity: Our State Culture, If Not Religion In the final part of our show, we will reflect on Christianity in America. Though it is officially stated that, “the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion,” there is no denying the presence of a Christian culture in American society. However, how does that change when America’s openness towards new definitions of equality, freedom, and accessibility translate into openness towards new, diverse sets of faith in our culture? Rabbi Moline will discuss Christian culture in America’s history and why it is so important to celebrate the diversity of faith in American society.

State of Belief - July 11th -2015


A Look Back at Our Best Discussions on Civil Rights and A Conversation on the Politics of Christian Fundamentalism

This week on State of Belief, Interfaith Alliance’s weekly radio show and podcast, host Rev. Welton Gaddy has the week off. So we’ll revisit a couple of memorable past interviews on the history of the Civil Rights movement and the call to engage LGBT activists in the fight for racial justice. We’ve also been eager to share a recently-recorded interview with the author of Superchurch: The Rhetoric and Politics of American Fundamentalism, Dr. Jonathan Edwards, which sheds light on the history of Christian Fundamentalism in the United States and its effects on our political system.

Realizing the Inextricable Link Between Racial Justice and LGBT Equality Two years ago, following the Supreme Court’s striking down of DOMA and concurrent gutting of the Voting Rights Act, Welton spoke with two Unitarian Universalist leaders, Rev. Meg Riley and Rev. Rosemary Bray McNatt. They discuss the value of black allies to the LGBT rights movement and vice versa, and the ways in which all social justice movements are inextricably intertwined. Rev. McNatt powerfully explains her concern for the fate of democracy and the interview is just as relevant today, following the Supreme Court’s decision bringing nationwide marriage equality at the same time the nation mourns nine victims of a race-motivated shooting in South Carolina, as it was when first recorded.

Congressman John Lewis Reflects on the Legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the Significance of Barack Obama’s Presidency Georgia Congressman John Lewis marched with Martin Luther King Jr. and continues to be a voice for Civil Rights, most recently around the removal of the Confederate Flag from South Carolina’s capitol and other government buildings. He joined Welton two and a half years ago to discuss the second inauguration of President Barack Obama, the birthday of Martin Luther King Jr., the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington and the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation. As a member of the first march from Selma to Montgomery, Lewis says, “I never, ever thought that I would live to see a day like we’re witnessing now.” He acknowledges the steep hill yet to be climbed before equality is achieved, but also celebrates the progress that has been made.

Fundamentalist Christians are Hugely Influential in Today’s American Politics: A Look at How They Got That Way Dr. Jonathan Edwards has extensively studied fundamentalist Christianity and the worldview that ties this community of Americans together. He joins Welton to define fundamentalism and explain its effect on both individuals and the country as a whole. In his book Superchurch: The Rhetoric and Politics of American Fundamentalism, Dr. Edwards strives to bridge the understanding gap between fundamentalists and everyone else, while speculating on the future of the relationship between the two groups.

State of Belief - July 4th - 2015


Independence for All – Marriage Equality and What It Means For Our Country

This week on State of Belief, Interfaith Alliance’s weekly radio show and podcast, host Rev. Welton Gaddy, celebrates the Supreme Court’s decision on marriage equality. The Rt. Reverend Gene Robinson, the first openly gay Bishop in the Episcopalian Church, and Rabbi Jack Moline, the Executive Director of Interfaith Alliance, will talk about their reactions to the Supreme Court’s decision and their predictions for the future. Also, Amy Kittelstrom, a professor at Sonoma State University, will share her thoughts on the relationship between religion and government. Finally, Welton addresses some extremist responses from different public figures in the wake of the Obergefell decision, proving that a battle has been won, but not the war.

Predicting the Impact of the Recent Obergefell Decision Exactly two years ago, the Supreme Court ruled in two cases that dramatically expanded marriage rights in America, and paved the way for the rapid advance of marriage equality. Now, in Obergefell vs. Hodges, the Supreme Court has sealed the deal, declaring marriage to be a right that cannot be denied to same-sex couples across the nation. Rt. Reverend Gene Robinson, as the first openly gay man to be installed as a Bishop in the Episcopal Church, knows a little something about history-making moments in the struggle for LGBT equality. This week he’ll join Welton to talk about the long road to this moment, and how a contentious issue can instead be turned to help bring us together.

LGBT Acceptance and Understanding: Rabbi Jack Moline Discusses the Importance of Interfaith Partnerships For Interfaith Alliance, a decision like the one in Obergefell v. Hodges is long overdue. Under Welton’s leadership, Interfaith Alliance worked with a diverse team of religious groups, coalitions, and parties to advance marriage equality. Rabbi Jack Moline, the organization’s current Executive Director, will speak about his experiences with other religious advocates leading up to this case and his reaction after the decision. Rabbi Moline will also share the role he believes this issue will play in the upcoming election as well as how Interfaith Alliance intends to continue to support LGBT rights – particularly as others try and coopt the language of religious liberty to undo this progress.

An Honest Look at America’s True Religious History As we celebrate our nation’s birthday, one particular brand of Christianity continues to try to co-opt our history, alienating many more moderate people of faith in the process. After 15 years of exhaustive research, Amy Kittelstrom, a professor of Modern U.S. History and Transnational Intellectual Culture at Sonoma State University, delves deeper into the complex relationship between religion and our origins using texts from nineteenth-century thinkers. Yes, religion played quite a role in our nation’s founding – but a very different one than is being promoted by today’s revisionists. Her book is titled The Religion of Democracy: Seven Liberals and the American Moral Tradition.

Finding a Comfortable Balance between Religion and Government is an Uphill Battle In the week since the Obergefell decision was handed down, many people throughout the country have rejoiced, and even many of those who may feel their religion is at odds with this decision have greeted it with respect. However, there are people and organizations that do not stand with the LGBT community and have vocalized their (hyperbolic) concerns about the downfall of the United States. In this final segment, Welton responds to several conservative leaders who want you to think the sky is falling.

State of Belief - June 27th 2015


Racism in Our Nation and LGBT Rights Around the World

This week on State of Belief, Interfaith Alliance’s weekly radio show and podcast, host Rev. Welton Gaddy reflects on the mass shooting earlier this month in Charleston, South Carolina. He’ll speak with Anthea Butler, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania, for analysis of the language being used to report on the tragedy. We’ll also hear from th Rev. Ed Kosak and Cookie Washington for a spiritual perspective from Charleston. Finally, while marriage equality changes the contour of LGBT rights in America, Welton checks in with two advocates about the evolving nature of LGBT rights around the world.

The Unconscious Racism in Our Words and on Our Screens While many of us struggled to find some sense, some understanding in the murders in Charleston, Dr. Anthea Butler wrote an incisive commentary in the Washington Post. In a piece titled “Shooters of color are called ‘terrorists and ‘thugs.’ Why are white shooters called ‘mentally ill’?” she discusses the racist bias, whether conscious or unconscious, that she sees pervading our language and the mainstream media today. Butler, a Contributing Editor at Religion Dispatches and a professor of religion and Africana studies, will join Welton this week to expand on her article and to share her thoughts on symbols of racism such as the Confederate flag.

Reflecting on the Strength of Faith and Forgiveness in the Aftermath of Charleston Shooting When nine African-Americans were shot and killed in their place of worship last week, many felt angry and vengeful, but the members of the Emanuel AME Church immediately began making statements of forgiveness. The Rev. Ed Kosak and Cookie Washington, who jointly led an interfaith vigil in remembrance of the victims last Saturday at their faith community – Charleston Unity Church – join Welton to discuss the strength of the faith community in Charleston and the ways in which people from different faith backgrounds have been able to come together in support of each other. Washington and Kosak will also share opinions on the discussion of racism and other issues that have surfaced following the shooting.

Gay and Muslim: Parvez Sharma Discusses his Journey to Mecca Widely recognized as a leader in both the progressive Muslim and LGBT communities, filmmaker Parvez Sharma has just released his latest documentary, titled A Sinner in Mecca, and he will be joining Welton to talk about his experience while on his religious pilgrimage to the holiest city of Islam. While Islam is known for its strict guidelines on sexuality, young, progressive Muslims are working to evolve within their religion. Sharma will share his impactful journey and his hopes of its effects on the future.

What happens at a Pride Festival in a Former Member of the Soviet Union? State of Belief’s own Ray Kirstein attended the Europride festival in Riga, Latvia last weekend, and will share the experience of attending LGBT seminars and a pride parade that had been threatened with violence in a country not known for its tolerance of LGBT people. Ray will discuss the origins of the most pernicious anti-gay attitudes in Eastern Europe, and talk about the most important things he took away from his time in the former Soviet republic.

State of Belief - June 20th - 2015


Religious Freedom, Torture and our Environment

This weekend on State of Belief, Interfaith Alliance’s weekly radio show and podcast, Welton Gaddy is joined by Senator Chris Coons of Delaware; Rev. Ron Stief, the executive director of the National Religious Campaign Against Torture; and Jack Jenkins, Senior Religion Reporter at ThinkProgress, to discuss new, important political, cultural, and scientific events affecting America’s religious community.

Chris Coons: Christian, Senator, and Defender of Religious Freedom As election season nears, it is impossible to avoid the relentless, conservative pandering from the religious right. We are lucky to be joined by Senator Chris Coons of Delaware, whose openness to people of all – and no – religious backgrounds provides a refreshing change to these officials and candidates who have the wrong idea about “religious liberty” in our country.

McCain-Feinstein: the End of American Torture? Earlier this week, the Senate passed the McCain-Feinstein Amendment to Prevent Torture, which forbids the United States to subject people to the “enhanced interrogation techniques” that we saw used as a tactic in the aftermath of 9/11. Indeed, the amendment is one of many important turning points in America’s long, controversial history with torture, which culminated recently in the release of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence Report on CIA Interrogation Techniques. Rev. Ron Stief, Executive Director of the National Religious Campaign Against Torture, returns to State of Belief to answer questions on the amendment, what it means for America’s stance on torture going forward, and the role of faith-based organizations in the fight against torture.

The Process and Potential of Pope Francis’ ‘Praised Be’ The Vatican finally published Pope Francis’ long-awaited environment-focused encyclical this past Thursday. Highlighting the importance of climate change, poverty and how one affects the other, Francis’ document has already been regarded as one of the most influential encyclicals ever released by a Pope. This week, Welton is joined by Jack Jenkins, Senior Religion Reporter at, to discuss the possible effects of the encyclical, how the leak of the encyclical earlier in the week influenced world reaction, and how Catholics are responding to the Pope’s controversial and progressive stance.

As we join the nation in mourning the tragic loss of lives at the Emanuel AME church in Charlotte, SC, Welton shares his thoughts on this brutal violation of a sacred space.

State of Belief - June 13th - 2015


The History of Papal Advocacy, a Rabbinic Letter on the Climate Crisis, the  “Hydra of Homophobia"

This week on State of Belief, Interfaith Alliance’s weekly radio show and podcast, host Rev. Welton Gaddy will discuss Pope Francis’ much-anticipated encyclical on the environment with scholar Kevin Lowe. He’ll talk to Rabbi Arthur Waskow, Founder and Director of the Shalom Center in Philadelphia about the Rabbinic Letter on the Climate Crisis, which has been signed by more than 300 Jewish faith leaders. And finally, Welton will explore what one governor’s attack on his state’s courts might portend for the long-awaited Supreme Court decision on marriage equality – and what threatened defiance to that might look like will react with the Brennan Center’s Matthew Menendez.

Right Wing Bucking the (Judicial) System After state courts in Kansas ruled against Governor Sam Brownback’s drastic cuts to education funding, he has threatened retaliation: defund the courts! Has this ever happened before? What does it mean for Kansans? And more broadly, are there implications for another judicial ruling – this time by the Supreme Court – that Brownback’s fellow conservatives expect being unhappy with? With a federal decision on same-sex marriage due by the end of the month, and a new poll by the Public Religion Research Institute showing supporters and opponents of marriage equality alike expecting the Court to recognize marriage as a constitutional right, what might the “defiance” threatened by opponents look like? Welton speaks with Matthew Menendez, Counsel at the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law.

Vatican Activism and “Leaving Science to the Scientists” According to Catholic presidential hopeful Rick Santorum, the Pope’s upcoming encyclical on the environment is beyond the Church’s area of expertise, and he should just “leave science to the scientists.” (Santorum conveniently forgot that the Pope studied Chemistry before entering Seminary.) However, Santorum is also forgetting the long history of formal papal involvement in global affairs and politics. Scholar Kevin M. Lowe, who’s written on the history of papal advocacy in Religion Dispatches, joins Welton to discuss the Pope’s encyclical, the Catholic voices of opposition, and ways the Vatican has historically impacted global affairs.

The Making and Effect of the Rabbinic Letter on Climate Crisis Religious figures tackling important— if political— problems isn’t limited to the Pope. 300 rabbis have recently signed the Rabbinic Letter on the Climate Crisis. Welton will be joined by Rabbi Arthur Waskow, longtime environmental activist and an instrumental force behind the letter. The two will discuss the origins of the letter, caring for the earth as a Jewish mandate, as well as its intentions, expectations, and the effect of uniting rabbis from all different denominations in hopes of a healthier planet.

The Hydra of Homophobia Even with relentless progress in the area of LGBT rights – and a widely-anticipated positive Supreme Court decision on marriage equality anticipated later this month – it’s not hard to find instances of religious and legislative efforts to demonize gay people and somehow portray fundamentalists as the victims. The problem of inequality is far from solved in this country and beyond. Welton shares a few thoughts about why this really matters.

State of Belief - June 6th -2015


America’s Changing Religious Landscape, the Helms Amendment & SCOTUS

This week on State of Belief, Interfaith Alliance’s weekly radio show and podcast, host Rev. Welton Gaddy will discuss recent important events confronting America’s religious communities. He’ll speak with a Princeton University History Professor whose new book, One Nation Under God: How Corporate America Invented Christian America, details the forging of an alliance between the Christian Right and corporate America. Later, we’ll talk to Rev. Harry Knox about his latest work to mobilize religious leaders to reform the Helms Amendment. And finally, Welton will share his own thoughts on the Supreme Court’s recent latest ruling on religious freedom and why it’s different (and better) than Hobby Lobby.

Where America’s Religiosity Began, and How it’s Changing Now A recent poll from Pew confirms the growing number of Americans that now consider themselves to be religiously-unaffiliated. While many register surprise with America’s declining religiosity, few understand where that religiosity really began. Joining Welton this week will be Dr. Kevin Kruse, author of One Nation Under God: How Corporate America Invented Christian America. Welton and Kevin, a Professor of History at Princeton University and member of the Executive Committee of the Center for the Study of Religion, will discuss the “consecration” of President Eisenhower, the big business motivations behind rebranding America as a “Christian Nation,” and how their campaign’s success continues to affect our culture and politics to this day.

The Helms Amendment and Religious Ideology in U.S. Foreign Policy Next, Rev. Harry Knox, President and CEO of the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice will join Welton in the studio to talk about the widely misused Helms Amendment. Created in the wake of the Roe v. Wade decision, this law blocks U.S. funds from supporting pregnancy termination as a form of family planning. Because it’s been applied way beyond its original scope, as Rev. Knox and the religious leaders he’s mobilizing point out, this stops the U.S. from helping ISIS’s and Boko Haram’s victims of rape and abuse. Tune in to hear what these religious and secular leaders are doing to change this policy.

EEOC v. Abercrombie & Fitch: How Religious Freedom Complementing Civil Rights in a Way Hobby Lobby II Did Not On Monday, the Supreme Court released their decision in the religious freedom case, EEOC v. Abercrombie & Fitch. Many had feared a repeat of last year’s disastrous decision in Hobby Lobby, but the ruling – which defended the right of a Muslim woman to wear a hijab on the job – was remarkably positive. Welton ends our show this week by sharing his thoughts on what the Court got right about religious freedom this year, and what they missed last time around.