Last week, People For the American Way Foundation launched a new report, “12 Rules for Mixing Religion and Politics,” which offers guidelines for policymakers and advocates seeking to bring faith into political debates.
Joining us at a launch party for the report and a discussion of the issues it raises were Minnesota Rep. Keith Ellison, the first Muslim in Congress; Sister Simone Campbell, director of the Catholic social justice group NETWORK; and Rabbi David Saperstein, director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism.
Here are some photos of the event from People For Foundation’s Dylan Hewitt:
Sister Simone Campbell talks with People For’s COO, Nick Ucci
People For President Michael Keegan, Rep. Keith Ellison, and Senior Fellow Peter Montgomery
Michael Keegan and Rep. Keith Ellison
Sister Simone Campbell and Rabbi David Saperstein
Rabbi David Saperstein
Rep. Keith Ellison and Minister Leslie Watson Malachi, director of People For the American Way Foundation’s African American Ministers Leadership Conference.
Washington, DC – The proper role of religion in American politics has been the subject of vigorous – and sometimes toxic – debate for over two centuries. Today, in the midst of campaign-season claims about America’s founding as a “Christian nation” and hyperbolic rhetoric about religious persecution, People For the American Way Foundation calls for a more constructive conversation with a new report, 12 Rules for Mixing Religion and Politics, authored by PFAW Foundation senior fellow Peter Montgomery with a foreword by journalist Bill Moyers.
"12 Rules" takes on a number of current debates, including those over required contraception insurance coverage, marriage equality, and the role of religion in the 2012 presidential campaign. This edition builds on earlier releases of "12 Rules" in 1984 and 1994.
The full report can be found online here.
“Religious liberty is at the heart of what it means to be an American, but it is also at the center of some of our fiercest debates,” said Peter Montgomery. “How do we balance the constitutional principles of free exercise of religion and the separation of church and state when they come into tension with each other? And how can people of faith bring their religious values into the public arena without turning religion into a political club? As our religious landscape becomes increasingly diverse, it is important that we grapple with these issues in ways that are more constructive than divisive. We hope these Rules for Mixing Religion and Politics will launch many constructive conversations around these topics.”
“Our political climate is being poisoned by inflammatory charges of anti-religious and anti-Christian persecution,” said Michael Keegan, president of People For the American Way Foundation. “We can look around the world to see what religious persecution looks like, and we think it’s wrong to cry wolf over political and policy disputes. We are strong advocates for First Amendment freedoms. But something can be legal without being wise. The principles in this report should be embraced by people of all religious and political beliefswho long for a more respectful and responsible debate in the public arena.”
This new edition of "12 Rules" will be launched at an event in Washington, DC featuring a discussion with Sister Simone Campbell, executive director of NETWORK, Rabbi David Saperstein, director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, and Congressman Keith Ellison of Minnesota, the first Muslim American elected to Congress.
Last weekend, People For the American Way’s Right Wing Watch captured video of prominent Louisiana pastor Dennis Terry introducing Rick Santorum at an event with an incendiary sermon in which he insists that those who don’t believe that America is a Christian nation “get out” of the country.
The video quickly went viral, and Santorum was forced to distance himself slightly from Terry’s remarks, saying “I didn’t clap when he said that.”
As PFAW Senior Fellow Peter Montgomery wrote in a column for the Huffington Post, the incident illuminates the Religious Right worldview that Santorum and supporters like the Family Research Council’s Tony Perkins – himself a parishioner of Terry’s – embrace:
While the media may understandably focus on Santorum's garbled economic message, his Sunday evening appearance is worth a longer look -- for what it tells us about Santorum and the Religious Right movement that is propelling his campaign.
The church at which Santorum appeared is Baton Rouge, La.'s Greenwell Springs Baptist Church, which Family Research Council President Tony Perkins describes as his home church. Perkins, in fact, was introduced at the event as a "dear friend" of Pastor Terry and as a church elder. Perkins, whose FRC has been designated a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center for relentlessly promoting false and malicious propaganda about LGBT people, said of Greenwell Springs Baptist, "there is not a better church in the United States of America than right here." So in Perkins's mind, there is no better congregation than the one that applauded wildly at Pastor Terry's "Christian nation" assertions and his seeming suggestion that people who do not worship Jesus Christ should find some other country to live in.
Peter discussed his column and the Religious Right movement behind Santorum’s candidacy in an interview with TruthDig radio in Los Angeles yesterday. You can listen to the interview here.
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Michael B. Keegan has extensive experience as a business executive, philanthropist and longtime board member of both People For the American Way and People For the American Way Foundation, beginning his tenure with the organizations in 1994. In that time, Michael has been an active participant on all of the key board committees overseeing the program activities of the organizations. He as shown a deep commitment not only to the institutions themselves, but to the values and guiding principles on which People For the American Way and People For Foundation base their missions. As President, he brings with him a unique wealth of knowledge about People For from his 15 years on the board.
Michael has a rich background progressive activism, particularly in the area of LGBT equality. He is a founding national board member of The Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD). Michael also serves on the board of the Los Angeles Public Library and as a trustee of the Muriel Pollia Foundation.
Mr. Keegan is a real estate investor and has worked in various capacities in the media and entertainment industries, at companies such as Columbia Pictures and at Act III Communications where he served as President of the 500-screen Act III Theatres Circuit. He received his MBA in International Business and Entertainment Management from Columbia University. He received his BA in American Studies from Vanderbilt University where he was President of the Student Body. He was awarded the post graduate World Trade Council Traveling Fellowship for travel to developing countries on four continents.
Marge Baker oversees People For’s policy and programmatic work, including its campaigns on the courts, nominations, LGBT equality, voting rights and elections. She has worked for nearly 30 years in various public service roles. Prior to her current position she was the Staff Director for the late Senator Paul Wellstone on the Senate’s Employment, Safety and Training Subcommittee. Ms. Baker is a graduate of Yale Law School, has served as a law clerk in the federal judiciary, as a counsel on the Senate Judiciary Committee, and as head of consumer protection for a state regulatory agency. Ms. Baker is married, and has three children, ages 24, 26, and 29.
Andrew Gillum is Director of Youth Leadership Programs. An alumnus of Florida A&M University (FAMU), former president of the Student Government Association, and FAMU's first student member of the Board of Trustees, Gillum became the youngest person ever elected to the four-member Tallahassee City Commission in February 2003. Gillum has held prominent leadership roles such as Mayor Pro Tem, ChairmanCapital Region Transportation Planning Agency and lead commissioner for the Long Range Community Based Target Issue Committee. In keeping with his mantra to uplift and build the collective community, Gillum has championed several community initiatives including the Nims Middle School Digital Harmony Pilot Program, the Landlord Tenant Mediation Program; the Code Enforcement Amnesty Program; and the creation of the Silver Lake Neighborhood Park. Gillum served as Field Organizer and statewide Director of the "Arrive With 5" program with People For the American Way Foundation. He organized the largest "Arrive With 5" get-out-the-vote campaign in Florida's history. He also worked as Deputy Political Director with the Florida Democratic Party. He founded PFAW Foundation's Young Elected Officials program, which unites elected officials age 35 and under in a network which supports them with leadership and personal development training and public policy support.
Drew Courtney is Director of Communications at People For the American Way where he oversees the organization’s communications and messaging. He has served as a spokesperson for print, television, and radio interviews, including appearances on Good Morning America, Politics Nation with Al Sharpton, CNN, and the BBC. Drew has helped to lead PFAW’s communications efforts surrounding the Sotomayor and Kagan confirmations, in addition to its work on LGBT equality, voting rights and combating right-wing extremism. Prior to joining People For, he worked in the office of Senator Blanche Lincoln, at an NGO dedicated to sustainable development in Africa, and as a public school teacher in rural Arkansas.
Peter Montgomery oversees People For the American Way Foundation’s research and writing on the Religious Right, as well as our work to help progressives understand and more effectively communicate with important constituencies, particularly the reachable religious middle. Mr. Montgomery is a spokesperson for People For the American Way Foundation on a range of issues, such as the Supreme Court, the Religious Right political movement, religion and politics, LGBT rights, public education, and free speech. Before joining People For the American Way Foundation in 1994, Peter Montgomery was associate director of grassroots lobbying for Common Cause, where he planned and directed grassroots lobbying campaigns, volunteer recruitment, and media relations strategy. He wrote and edited for Common Cause Magazine, an award-winning journal featuring investigative reporting about the federal government.
Diallo Brooks has over 15 years of non-profit management experience working with national and state leaders to enhance social justice missions through leadership development training, project management and technical assistance. In his current position as Director of Field Mobilization at the People For the American Way, Mr. Brooks works to engage PFAW’s various networks and membership in key program activities related to the organizations mission. Prior to joining PFAW, Mr. Brooks was the Field Director for The Education Trust, Director of Legislator Relations for the Center for Policy Alternatives and Client Services Coordinator for Millennium Communications Group. Mr. Brooks also has served as Co-Chair and national spokesman for Black Youth Vote (BYV!) and is a current executive board member of the National Coalition on Black Civic Participation. Mr. Brooks has provided trainings for numerous non-profits, state elected officials and other institutions in the areas of values baled leadership development and organization management. Mr. Brooks is also a founding partner at Momentum Strategies, LLC. a strategic consulting firm.
Leslie Watson Malachi is the Director of African American Religious Affairs for People for the American Way. She is the former National Policy Director for the Balm In Gilead and served for nine years as the Director of the Multicultural Programs Department of the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice where she managed and developed La Iniciativa Latina (LIL), the Women of Color Partnership Project (WOCPP), and the National Black Church Initiative (NBCI) which included annual planning of the National Black Religious Summit on Sexuality for African American clergy and laity. Leslie is co-author of two of the Coalitions faith-based sexuality education dialogue models for African American congregations, award winning and nationally recognized “Keeping It Real!” for teens, and “Breaking the Silence” for adults. Both curriculums are designed to strengthen communication betweens teens and adults in order to reduce teen pregnancy and the spread of sexually transmitted infections including HIV/AIDS. Leslie has served as the National Coordinator and Field Director for the National Rainbow/PUSH Coalition and the Coordinator of the Public Policy Institute of the Citizenship Education Fund, the 501(c)3 arm of the Rainbow. A Minister, she is also a master trainer and has been trained by several institutions including the National MultiCultural Institute for advanced training of trainers in “Building Cultural Competency in the Workplace” and “Teaching Skills and Cultural Competency”. Leslie has provided training in, among other areas, cross cultural communication, prejudice reduction, facilitation, effective collaborations, events and strategic planning, and issue campaigns for over 20 years.