(Photo Credit: Danielle Thomas/Washington National Cathedral)
On October 23, religious leaders and community members gathered at the Washington National Cathedral for a multi-religious service called, “Beyond Tolerance: A Call to Religious Freedom and Hopeful Action,” followed immediately by a press conference introducing the Religious Freedom Pledge (text below). Washington National Cathedral and Shoulder to Shoulder co-hosted the religious service.
The service, keynoted by Rabbi David Saperstein, the U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom, focused on the call from each of our faith traditions to commit ourselves to caring for one another, moving beyond mere tolerance of the other in our multi-religious society. The community gathered together celebrated religious freedom in the United States as a good in and of itself to be cultivated and protected, and as a model of robust religious freedom for communities and countries across the globe.
During the press conference that followed the service, a diverse group of religious leaders endorsed the Religious Freedom Pledge and called on public officials to demonstrate their commitment to religious freedom by signing the pledge. A number of religious leaders spoke about why they believe in the values of the pledge, and why they in turn call on public officials to sign it:
Rabbi Jack Moline, Executive Director of Interfaith Alliance, called on public officials to sign the pledge because “religious freedom is our first freedom, and none of us is free to follow any faith or philosophy unless all of us enjoy the same protections of the Constitution and its First Amendment.”
Dr. Isma Chaudhry, President of the Islamic Center of Long Island, added, “I support the value of this Pledge. Religious freedom is an inherent right that ensures humanity, dignity, peace, respect, and harmony. Let’s combat ethnic phobias, and irresponsible politics and leadership by standing together shoulder to shoulder as one people under God with liberty, justice, and freedom for all.”
Sandy Sorenson, Director of the United Church of Christ Washington office, added, “God calls us to be agents of reconciliation, breaking down walls of division nationally, culturally, racially and religiously. In the United Church of Christ we take seriously God’s clear commandment to love our neighbors—all our neighbors—as ourselves, and are committed to standing against any and all actions that are contrary to this call.”
Rev. Dr. Richard Cizik added, “One hallmark of evangelicalism is freedom of religious conscience for all. When we deprive it from others, can we not expect that it will someday be denied to us?”
Brent Walker, Executive Director of the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty, added his support for the values of the pledge by stating, “I believe religious liberty is a gift from God and that governments should seek neither to advance nor inhibit religious choices. Individual citizens and religious bodies should exercise their faith responsibly and fully respect religious beliefs of their neighbors. Governments throughout the United States, and all Americans, must model these values for the world.”
Rabbi Gerald Serotta, Executive Director of the InterFaith Conference of Metropolitan Washington, said, “I support the values of this pledge because people of faith need to stand up publicly and urgently when these very same values are under attack by political and media personalities whose bigoted words subvert American ideals and undermine the fundamental dignity and equality of every human being, created as every one of us is, in God’s image.”
The Pledge: A Commitment to Religious Freedom
I pledge and commit to the American people that I will uphold and defend the freedom of conscience and religion of all individuals by rejecting and speaking out, without reservation, against bigotry, discrimination, harassment, and violence based on religion or belief.
Additionally, the United Church of Christ ran a piece on their website about Washington office director Sandy Sorensen’s role in the Beyond Tolerance event.