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INTERFAITH ALLIANCE STATE OF BELIEF

RADIO MARCH 14, 2015


RUSH TRANSCRIPT: VALARIE KAUR
Click here for audio
[REV. DR. C. WELTON GADDY, HOST]: This past week, I noticed a
strident column in the conservative Washington Times decrying the
Federal Communication Commissions new rules on Net Neutrality as
an existential threat to religious freedom. Huh?
Joining me now to shed some light on this issue is a pioneer in online
faith-based activism, Valarie Kaur. Valaries the founder of the website
groundswell-movement.org, housed at Auburn Theological Seminary
in New York City, where she serves as a Senior Fellow. Valarie,
welcome again to State of Belief Radio!
[VALARIE KAUR, GUEST]: Its a pleasure to be back, thank you.
[WG]: For those of us further away from the digital frontier, would you
be kind enough to summarize whats involved in the discussion on
net neutrality?
[VK]: Absolutely. The first thing to understand is that the future of
religious life and interfaith cooperation in America depends on a free
and open Internet which means it depends on net neutrality.
Now, net neutrality can seem like a really confusing issue it was to
me before I really learned what was at stake but its really very
simple: its the idea that the Internet should remain a place where
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every person, no matter the color of our skin, the content of our
beliefs, or the size of our wallets should have an equal chance of
reaching people online. Whats happened is that large providers like
Comcast and Verizon they have a profit incentive to want to control
more of what happens online; to block or slow down sites, or charge
us fees in order to reach people faster. But this would essentially end
equality on the Internet as we know it.
So the good news is that in the last year, more than four million
people of all faiths and backgrounds made their voices heard;
submitted comments in to the Federal Communications Commission,
the federal agency responsible for rules governing the Internet. And
as a result just last month the FCC reclassified the Internet as a
public good as essential as water or electricity; and they adopted
strong, bright-line rules to protect the Internet as we know it. So this is
necessary for innovation, for economic growth, for democratic
discourse in America; its also vital for the future of religious and
spiritual interfaith life in the United States.
[WG]: So Valarie, how does the FCCs ruling impact faith
communities, specifically, and activists in general and are you
happy with it or worried about it?
[VK]: I am celebrating it! Its a fight that Ive been honored to take on
in the last year. One year ago, the vote for strong protections for the
open Internet seemed impossible; but it was thanks to a groundswell
in the last year that made this victory possible.
What we have to understand when we think about faith communities
is this: the Internet has become the prophetic platform of the 21 st
century. Were seeing a new generation of faith leaders progressive
and conservative connecting with their congregations; serving their
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communities; organizing for social change, all online. So, take


traditional religious life: churches, synagogues, mosques, temples,
gurdwaras, other houses of worship theyre all relying on the
Internet as part of their basic operations: hosting sermons and
bulletins; raising funds; building online communities. In a time when
many traditional religious communities have to innovate in order to
reach new generations, a free and open Internet the kind that the
FCC has voted to protect is essential for us to run our houses of
worship effectively and remain relevant in the 21 st century.
But as a millennial, I know that the future of interfaith cooperation in
America is also at stake in this issue. The open Internet right now is a
place where we can engage people who are different from us: a Sikh
or a Humanist or a Muslim we can hear their stories; we can
engage with them in ways that we cant in the real world at least we
can take those first steps online.
And millennials are driving entirely new online platforms for interfaith
engagement in bold new ways that include dialogue; service;
advocacy we can think of Interfaith Youth Core, or publications like
State of Formation. And as you mentioned, working with the team at
Auburn Seminary, I founded Groundswell a few years ago to do
exactly this to help give faith leaders online tools to fight for social
change. Groundswell has now become the largest multi-faith online
organizing community in the country and this simply would not have
happened without a free and open Internet. So think: if we had to pay
Comcast or Verizon special fees in order to reach people faster so
that they wouldnt encounter the spinning wheel of death when they
went to our site we wouldnt have even gotten off the ground.

So if we want to see more innovation in the future, especially in terms


of religious and spiritual life in America this vote is something to
celebrate.
In the last year alone, weve seen organizers use online tools to stop
deportations; to halt executions; to respond to hate-based violence.
Without the open Internet, the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson
would not have become a national story as quickly as it did; nor would
we have heard calls for justice through #BlackLivesMatter or, most
recently, #MuslimLivesMatter. In fact, every social issue we care
about in America today requires a free and open Internet as a
necessary tool for 21st century change.
[WG]: How was all of that threatened? What were your concerns as
the FCC was formulating its decision and rulings?
[VK]: Well, the FCC was listening closely to the needs of large
Internet service providers like Comcast, like Verizon, like AT&T. These
large providers wanted more control over what happens online. They
wanted the ability to be able to block or slow down certain websites
according to their needs, according to their desires to manage the
network; but they also wanted the power to charge access fees for
certain sites to reach people faster. So this means that commercial
providers - big companies like Netflix would be able to reach their
audiences faster because they could pay the fees. But essentially,
any non-commercial speakers so, educators, artists, activists, faith
groups, faith leaders, all of us would not be able to afford those
fees. It would mean that we would be essentially in the slow lane on
the Internet; in civil rights terms, we wouldnt be in the back of the bus
we would be on a whole separate bus down a dirt road.

So there was so much at stake for faith groups in the fight for net
neutrality, and yet so few faith communities really could understand
the issue enough to know what was at stake. So thats why my next
step after Groundswell was joining forces with Cheryl Leanza of the
United Church of Christ. Its a project coordinated by Stanford Law
Schools Center for Internet and Society and the United Church of
Christ Media Justice Ministry. And our work is to amplify the voices of
faith leaders on this issue.
You can go to our website, faithfulinternet.org to hear voices like Rev.
William Barber, on the streets of North Carolina. He said that right
now, the web is a place where all Americans have an equal voice. We
need to keep it that way, especially for our organizing of the Moral
Mondays Movement and other organizing around the country.
You can also hear the voice of Helen Osman of the US Conference of
Catholic Bishops, who says that Pope Francis inspirational message
could only be shared with millions of people because of the open
Internet.
You can also hear the voice of Congressman John Lewis, who says
that we need the Internet for this generation and for generations yet
unborn, for all the movements yet to come.
[WG]: There are voices claiming that the new rules open the door to
government censorship of Internet content for the first time. Do you
see any sign of that as something to worry about?
[VK]: These folks have it totally wrong. Its not that the FCC is
regulating the Internet; theyre regulating access to the Internet
which means that theyre ensuring that all communities have equal
access to the Internet. And so its really, really important to
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understand that many folks who are claiming that the FCC decision is
bad for America are folks who are listening closely to the profit
incentive needs of large Internet service providers. And on the other
side are four million Americans, dozens of lawmakers, entrepreneurs,
startups, artists, educators, innovators of all kinds who are, together,
claiming that this is actually something to celebrate and to defend in
the weeks and months to come.
[WG]: Valarie, you are, among so many other things, a visionary.
What are the next opportunities for using the Internet for good going
to be, in your opinion?
[VK]: When I think about my own life - as a lawyer, as a filmmaker, as
a Sikh activist - I realize that my entire lifes work would not have been
possible without the open Internet. I made my first film about hate
crimes after 9/11. No one would have ever heard about this work if it
werent for me blogging about it. And then every campaign since,
weve used it to tell our stories. Most recently, as you know, Welton, in
the aftermath of the mass shooting in Oak Creek that took the lives of
Sikh-Americans - it was the largest attack on a faith community since
the 1963 church bombing that took four little girls - and yet the media
trucks left all too soon. But we were able to keep the story alive
through social media, through blogging, through posting essays and
videos; we were able to organize to get the federal government to
change their policy on hate crimes in the United States.
I see that the future of Internet innovation really points to equipping
more communities like mine like the Sikh community; communities
that are historically less visible; communities that are marginalized
in bold new ways to tell our stories, to organize for social change, to
shape democratic discourse in the United States.

[WG]: Valarie Kaur is an award-winning filmmaker, activist, and public


speaker. Shes the founder of groundswell-movement.org at Auburn
Theological Seminary in New York City, where shes a Senior Fellow.
Shes also, I just found out today, a new mother.
I have to say to you, Valarie, Ive missed talking with you. You are so
knowledgeable on so many different fronts and so articulate in
helping us understand what we need to understand, and how to build
bridges instead of causing separation. Its always great talking with
you. Im confident that youre going to be as good a mother as you
are speaker, filmmaker, activist and so much more. Thanks for being
with us again on State of Belief Radio.
[VK]: That means the world to me, Welton. Thank you.

Valarie Kaur
Valarie Kaur is a civil rights lawyer, documentary filmmaker, and
interfaith leader who helps communities tell their stories and organize
for social change. She has made award-winning films and led
multimedia campaigns on a wide range of issues: hate crimes against
Sikh and Muslim Americans, racial profiling, gun violence, marriage
equality, immigration detention, and solitary confinement. Valarie is a
regular television commentator on MSNBC and opinion contributor to
CNN, NPR, PBS, The Washington Post, The Huffington Post, and
The New York Times. She has reported on the military commissions
at Guantanamo and clerked on the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Valarie founded Groundswell Movement of 100,000 members, the
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nations largest multifaith online organizing community known for


dynamically strengthening faith-based organizing in the 21st
century. A Senior Fellow at Auburn Seminary, she serves as a
national Sikh voice who teaches on movement-building for students,
organizers, and interfaith groups. She also works with the U.S. State
Department to bring these tools to activists around the world, most
recently traveling and teaching throughout Myanmar. She earned
degrees at Stanford University, Harvard Divinity School, and Yale Law
School, where she founded the Yale Visual Law Project to train future
lawyers to make films for social and policy change. She is currently
the Media and Strategy Fellow at Stanford Law School, where she
helps build the movement to keep the Internet free and open,
especially for under-served communities.
The Center for American Progress lists Valarie among 13 national
progressive faith leaders to watch. She has been called a standout
figure in the world of interfaith organizing and activism and one of
eight Asian American Women of Influence. A prolific public speaker
on college and university campuses, she was also the youngest to
deliver the Baccalaureate Commencement Address at Stanford
University.
Valarie lives with her husband and filmmaking partner Sharat Raju
and their baby boy Kavi Singh in Los Angeles. She believes that the
way we make change is just as important as the change we make.

Rev. Dr. C. Welton Gaddy


Author of more than 20 books, including First Freedom First: A

Citizens Guide to Protecting Religious Liberty and the Separation of


Church and State, the Rev. Dr. C. Welton Gaddy led the national nonpartisan grassroots and educational organization Interfaith Alliance
for 16 years, retiring in 2014. Dr. Gaddy continues his work with the
Alliance as President Emeritus and Senior Advisor. He serves as
Pastor for Preaching and Worship at Northminster (Baptist) Church in
Monroe, Louisiana.
In addition to being a prolific writer, Dr. Gaddy hosts the weekly State
of Belief radio program, where he explores the role of religion in the
life of the nation by illustrating the vast diversity of beliefs in America,
while exposing and critiquing both the political manipulation of religion
for partisan purposes and the religious manipulation of government
for sectarian purposes.
Dr. Gaddy provides regular commentary to the national media on
issues relating to religion and politics. He has appeared on MSNBCs
The Rachel Maddow Show and Hardball, NBCs Nightly News and
Dateline, PBSs Religion and Ethics Newsweekly and The Newshour
with Jim Lehrer, C-SPANs Washington Journal, ABCs World News,
and CNNs American Morning. Former host of Morally Speaking on
NBC affiliate KTVE in Monroe, Louisiana, Dr. Gaddy is a regular
contributor to mainstream and religious news outlets.
While ministering to churches with a message of inclusion, Dr. Gaddy
emerged as a leader among progressive and moderate Baptists.
Among his many leadership roles, he is a past president of the
Alliance of Baptists and has been a 20-year member of the
Commission of Christian Ethics of the Baptist World Alliance. His past
leadership roles include serving as a member of the General Council
of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, President of Americans United
for Separation of Church and State, Chair of the Pastoral Leadership

Commission of the Baptist World Alliance and member of the World


Economic Forums Council of 100. Rev. Gaddy currently serves on
the White House task force on the reform of the Office of Faith Based
and Neighborhood Partnerships.
Prior to the fundamentalist takeover of the Southern Baptist
Convention (SBC), Dr. Gaddy served in many SBC leadership roles
including as a member of the conventions Executive Committee from
1980-84 and Director of Christian Citizenship Development of the
Christian Life Commission from 1973-77.
Dr. Gaddy received his undergraduate degree from Union University
in Jackson, Tennessee and his doctoral degree and divinity training
from the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville,
Kentucky.

State of Belief Radio


State of Belief is based on the proposition that religion has a positive
and healing role to play in the life of the nation. The show explains
and explores that role by illustrating the vast diversity of beliefs in
America the most religiously diverse country in the world while
exposing and critiquing both the political manipulation of religion for
partisan purposes and the religious manipulation of government for
sectarian purposes.
Each week, the Rev. Dr. C. Welton Gaddy offers listeners critical
analysis of the news of religion and politics, and seeks to provide
listeners with an understanding and appreciation of religious liberty.

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Rev. Gaddy tackles politics with the firm belief that the best way to
secure freedom for religion in America is to secure freedom from
religion. State of Belief illustrates how the Religious Right is wrong
wrong for America and bad for religion.
Through interviews with celebrities and newsmakers and field reports
from around the country, State of Belief explores the intersection of
religion with politics, culture, media, and activism, and promotes
diverse religious voices in a religiously pluralistic world.

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