The Anti-Defamation League agrees with the baseline of The Advocate’s recent editorial on the right of the American Family Association to host a prayer rally at Louisiana State University. However, a key point was underplayed in the editorial and deserves to be discussed more fully.
We have deep concerns regarding Gov. Bobby Jindal’s official involvement in the daylong assembly of prayer. ADL believes that prayer is extremely valuable and holds a sacred place for many individuals in our community. However, our core concern is with Jindal’s official encouragement of citizens and fellow elected officials to attend and participate in a sectarian Christian prayer meeting. Instead of joining Americans together, his leadership of the event will result in being exclusionary and divisive.
As a staunch advocate for religious freedom, ADL has long urged elected officials at all levels to respect the separation of church and state and to refrain from endorsing or promoting religion.
Official statements and proclamations which divide Americans along religious lines are not a productive way to address the problems our society needs to confront.
In his official capacity as governor, Jindal is being referred to as the leader of the AFA event. He has encouraged protesters to join the prayer rally. Unlike a private citizen, Jindal is not able to wear two hats in this situation.
The governor is using his political office to encourage participation in Christian prayer. His invitation to join in a Christian prayer meeting suggests to non-Christians that they are outsiders. Coming from someone elected to serve a religiously pluralistic constituency, it is misguided and deeply insensitive. As the political head of Louisiana, Jindal was elected to represent all Louisianans of all religious backgrounds as well as those who chose to refrain from any religious affiliation.
There is no question that many Louisianans and indeed many Americans are facing serious challenges. However, these individuals and families come from a wide range of religious and cultural backgrounds. It is perfectly appropriate for a minister, priest or other religious leader to call for members of a congregation to look to their theological deity for guidance, but it is a religiously divisive and inappropriate message coming from an elected leader.
ADL’s concern is in no way based on hostility toward religion. Rather, it is based on a deep belief in religious freedom. The best way to safeguard religious liberty for all Americans is for our government to keep its distance.
We urge Jindal to reconsider his participation in and involvement with The Response event.
director, South-Central Region of the Anti-Defamation League