Rev. Gaddy sent the following letter to Gov. Bobby Jindal (R-LA) following reports that he spent public funds to travel to church services by helicopter around the state of Louisiana.

September 1, 2009

Governor Bobby Jindal
State Capitol
P.O. Box 94004
Baton Rouge, LA 70804-9004
Fax: (225)342-7099

Dear Governor Jindal,

I write to you as both the pastor of Northminster Baptist Church in Monroe, LA and as the president of Interfaith Alliance, a national organization dedicated to protecting the boundaries between religion and government for the good of both institutions.  The Baton Rouge Advocate’s recent report on your official travel to church services around the state funded by taxpayer money is of great concern to me for several reasons.

If you were traveling to these churches to worship with the various congregations, you should have paid your own expenses to get there as did the other worshippers.  If you were traveling to these churches for the purpose of sharing your personal faith and encouraging faith in others, state funds absolutely should not have been used to pay your expenses.  Indeed, in that instance, your state-funded actions were a violation of the United States Constitution’s promise of religious freedom which has been a critical contributor to the vitality of religion in our nation.  If you were traveling to these churches for political purposes, you should not have been there in the first place, regardless of who funded the travel.

I know that you told the Advocate these trips were about providing you the opportunity to talk to citizens.  Why during a service of sacred worship?  And, why only in churches?  I believe you can find venues other than houses of worship to have official meetings, so that all citizens have an opportunity to hear from you – and for you to hear from them.

Governor Jindal, it appears that you owe the people of Louisiana an apology and the treasurer of the state a reimbursement of at least $45,000 in addition to whatever money was spent in the period not covered by the Advocate’s investigation.  No taxpayer money should have been used for your travel.

I am well aware of how elected officials welcome opportunities to make public appearances at houses of worship.  However, as I am sure you know, an invitation to a public official – sought or offered – to speak at a house of worship raises questions for both the official and, ultimately, for the house of worship.  Indeed, your use of a house of  worship for political purposes can jeopardize its legal identity. Federal tax laws place restrictions on what houses of worship can and cannot do in relation to politics.

As a person who cares deeply about the integrity of houses of worship and the influence of the Louisiana state government, I urge you to be careful about using your elected office as cover for an event that has more to do with politics than it has to do with governing.

For the sake of religion, please do not politicize houses of worship in Louisiana and rob those of us who minister there of the credibility that allows our faith to be a healing force in our state and across our land.

Sincerely,
Rev. Dr. C. Welton Gaddy
President, Interfaith Alliance
Pastor for Preaching & Worship, Northminster Church

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Showing 7 comments
  • T. Madere

    Please keep your noses out of Louisiana’s business. Your opinion is unappreciated and unwelcome here. We, the average citizens of Louisiana, recognize that your interest is purely political – you’re not fooling anyone! If anyone needs investigating for tax liability purposes, it’s organizations such as yours!

    Governor Jindal is the best representative of Louisiana’s citizens we’ve had in my memory of 60+ years. Where were you during the Edwards years, when we really were being “screwed over” by him and his political cronies? It’s organizations like yours that encouraged unenlightened people to keep electing those crooks, for fear of losing their subsidies.

    I have never held political office of any kind, and am not associated in any way with the Governor or anyone in his family, friends, or staff. Therefore, you can be assured my words are those of truth and sincerity.

  • Tabitha Basye

    Thank you and your organization for following the path of our forefathers who supported religious freedom and freedom from religion. I have no religious affiliation due to the ignorance of the majority of religious followers. I have no desire to associate myself with any religion or political party. The person who commented before me seems to have missed the fact that Jindal used government money to interfere with religion and uses religion to interfere with government. That is the issue apart from the hypocrisy of using Federal STIMULUS money to fund religious organizations. It is great to see Americans with intelligence and it restores my faith, at least a little, that perhaps religious people are not all like Beck, Hannity, Rush and Bush.

    Thank you for speaking out on this and many other topics. There will always be those who only see what they wish to see in your words but for those of us who can see both sides of an argument your views are appreciated.

  • Gene Garman, M.Div.

    Dr. Gaddy did his usual excellent job in addressing the obvious misuse of coerced tax money by Gov. Jindal for obvious political campaign stops in various churches. I would add only the obvious, the free exercise clause is not a license for anarchy, that is, not a license to violate the laws and principles of the land.

    As James Madison, Jr., “Father of the Constitution,” wrote: “Strongly guarded … is the separation between Religion and Government in the Constitution of the United States,” WMAQ 3:555. For those who may wish more background information about the legal issue of religion and government, I authored The Religion Commandments in the Constitution: A Primer.

  • Jean Riggs

    I didn’t know there were Baptist preachers like you anymore. As someone who is a member of my local Baptist church but who has not attended in years because I have been completely turned off of religion in the last eight years or so by the so-called “religious” right, I was heartend by seeing and hearing you on Rachel’s show. Thank you for at least partially restoring some of my faith in the religious community.

  • Marvin W. Chiles

    Rev. Gaddy, thank you for pointing out the obvious use of religion for political purposes. Your Govenor is clearly in error but never in doubt that the Constitution does not apply to his position as Govenor. What could any one say which would distract from his obvious intentions. His charm game and self appointed omnipotence is like falling on his own sword. To be the leader he aspires to be. he must first understand the Constitution of the United States of America. Dare we wait?

  • New Yorker

    All this fuss over a building? Are people of faith not his constituents? If his constituents want him to hear their concerns or have him express his goals and directions, are you saying it’s “ok” if it’s done in a building other than the church building?
    This is a vain argument, calculated to achieve your goals, I presume. I find it interesting that “the separation of church and state” has been so far removed from it’s intent, that it has become a ridiculous representation.
    You can no more remove a person’s faith from their politics than you can breath from an individual, unless, of course, you kill it. I don’t think you’re trying to separate church and state, I think you’re trying to kill the church.
    You can try, but it will never happen. You, of all people, should know this. Christ said, “I will build my church and the gates of hell will not prevail against it.” There is no interfaith, there is only one faith, and only by it will men really live.

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  • […] Jindal hit rough weather The Rev. Dr. Welton Gaddy, president of the Interfaith Alliance wrote a letter asking Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jendal questions about his use of state-funded helicopters to attend church, a […]

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