You are on page 1of 10



Click here for audio
years ago on January 15th, State of Belief aired for the first time on Air
America Radio. For me, personally, and as the leader of Interfaith
Alliance, the launch of this new initiative generated excitement,
commitment, hope, and anxiety. In retrospect, these ten years have
been marked by fulfillment, surprise, affirmation - and perpetual
struggles with the need for financial support.
I remember vividly sitting down behind the microphone in an Air
America studio for the first time, feeling a swarm of butterflies in my
stomach as I listened to sounds of brass from Aaron Coplands
Fanfare for the Common Man, with which the program begins, and
speaking my first words as the host of the show. Little did I now that I
was beginning an incredibly satisfying and meaningful long-term
relationship with a very faithful audience. My dear friend Walter
Cronkite, who meant so much to Interfaith Alliance, was my first guest
on State of Belief. Honestly, he seemed as excited as I felt. Given the
love and respect that Walter - known as the most trusted man in
America - evoked, our first recording session attracted a sizable
crowd surrounding our studio to see and hear this icon of integrity.
Interfaith Alliance had and has something important to say to America
- that was and is my conviction. I wanted this weekly program to
demonstrate a public voice of religion devoted to reporting objectively,
programming with inclusivity, and modeling civility. I felt it was

important to stand in the intersection of religion, politics, and

government and from that vantage point to speak of what we saw,
heard, and thought. In negotiating a contract with the officials at Air
America, I insisted on guaranteed independence for this show to
assure that from our microphone there would come no shouting,
anger, partisanship, or prejudice; rather information, inspiration,
conversations, and pluralism that could benefit the nation and
demonstrate the positive aspects of religion.
Diversity has been an essential value and a primary criterion in
programming for State of Belief. Our guests have come from a
variety of political perspectives, most religions that have a home in
the United States as well as atheists, nones, humanists, and
avowed secularists. Let me be specific.
More than once, I have spoken to Ted Kennedy and to Pat Buchanan
on State of Belief. Civil conversations have involved leaders from the
Religious Right, and spokespersons from the Secular Coalition and
the American Humanist Association. Representatives of the plethora
of world religions have been regular contributors to State of Belief.
Additionally, our passion for pluralism has taken us into the
international community as well as neighborhoods just down the
street. Our show has been strengthened and our vision broadened
by eyewitness accounts of crises from Vietnam, Ukraine, Russia, the
Vatican, France, Switzerland and Germany, among others.
Listeners to State of Belief reflect the diversity of the shows guests.
We hear regularly from fervent followers of religion; people who want
nothing to do with religion, though they know the important role that
religion plays in this nation; people angry at religion; and - to my
surprise - people who have left religion, but want to find a place at
which they can respect religion again.

Recently I was in Santa Fe, New Mexico to contribute to a panel

discussion on religious freedom. As I walked out of a restaurant in
town, a woman followed me to ask, Arent you Welton Gaddy? When
I said yes, she began to tell me about the importance of State of
Belief and the gratitude that she and her friends felt for this show.
Similarly, a man on a plane identified me by my voice and
encouraged me with his comments about his loyalty as a listener.
Not long ago, on a visit to the Smithsonian, a curator stopped me to
thank me for the gift of State of Belief. Such comments thrill as well
as humble all of us at State of Belief and give us energy and
encouragement sufficient to keep us doing what we do.
I must confess that sometimes compliments from our listeners have
stung me. I have a stack of mail from people who have written, I did
not know a minister could be reasonable; I have not been in a
church for over 20 years, but you make me want to try it again; and,
I listen to State of Belief every Sunday night while sitting in my hot
tub. Yes, I am glad that listeners trust the integrity of our show; but
such comments also make me aware of the bad reputation that
religion has among many people - and the assumption that a religious
leader will be biased, uncivil, and unhelpful. I am delighted that as
many people who have no religion as people who have some
relationship with religion appreciate State of Belief as a program that
cares about and seeks to address all of life.
Topics addressed on State of Belief literally cover the worlds of
tragedy and joy, celebrations and grief, conflict and peace, as well as
always always - the meaning and importance of religious freedom,
the cornerstone of our democracy and the best friend that religion in
the public sector has ever had. Consequently, the archives of State of
Belief contain comments that are profound, historical, shocking, and

incredible; they provide insights into the development of progressive

religion in our nation.
Do I have a favorite show? No, I just have an incredible collection of
great experiences. Memories of specific interviews tend to lodge in
my mind for very specific, though very different, reasons. Often,
because of the name of our radio show, some guests assume that
they are going on just another stereotypical religious radio show.
They are surprised to realize that our audience has little patience for
their narrow thoughts and offensive comments. Several times such a
situation has made for memorable interviews. In a conversation with
the chaplain of the United States Senate, I inquired about the nature
of his counsel to U.S. Senators struggling with critical votes. The
chaplain stunned me when he told me that he encourages senators
to do what Jesus would want them to do. When I asked how he
responded to senators who are not Christians, he explained casually
that he just sends them to another religious leader. Wow! On another
occasion my jaw dropped open when a leader from the Fellowship of
Christian Athletes insisted that Christian athletes have been proven to
be superior in their athletic skills to non-Christian athletes.
Strong emotions have pervaded some of our interviews and prompted
tears. After the shootings at Virginia Tech, we convened a panel to
talk about guns, death, grief, and more. While doing that show it felt
to me as if the airwaves were laced with compassion and grief and
comfort. Long before it was popular to talk about same-gender
marriage, we aired on State of Belief a conversation between
religious leaders who held very different opinions on this issue. I was
deeply moved by the civility with which that conversation unfolded
and gratified that our listeners were exposed to mutual
understanding, respect for differences, and support for equality and
justice. Silence and sobs were as powerful as the commentary in two

different conversations on State of Belief - one with Judy Shepard, a

mother whose gay son was murdered and a colleague with whom I
worked diligently to get Congress to pass a meaningful hate crimes
law, and later with my friend and superior business man Mitchell
Gold, whose book entitled Crisis documents the abuse inflicted on
young people in the GLBTQ community.
Lots of interviews have been enjoyable as well as meaningful - like
talking with Sr. Simone Campbell from her seat on the road during
her Nuns on the Bus travels. A sense of awe filled me as I spoke with
Ted Sorenson and verified his contribution to writing the speech on
religion and presidential decision-making for President John F.
Kennedy. Every interview with Jon Meacham has been inspiring as
well as enlightening. The same can be said about unforgettable
conversations with Emmy-Award winning actress Judith Light and the
popular country-music singer Chely Blitzer-Wright. And I remember
recording a show with Greg Lebel one evening about 11:30, riding in
the back seat of a rental car in Charlotte, NC, where we were
covering the Democratic National Convention.
At no point in this past decade has it been easy to finance this
important media endeavor. We could not have launched State of
Belief without the help of Alex Forger, a former board member of
Interfaith Alliance, who found donors interested in a radio broadcast
committed to protecting freedom, advocating civility, strengthening
democracy, and modeling religious integrity. Financial contributions
from our listeners continue to be a strong base of support for us. In
an extremely tight financial time, Auburn Seminary generously gave
us money to keep us on the air (the school uses State of Belief as a
model for people studying broadcast journalism). And, of course,
Interfaith Alliance has continued to budget money and devote staff
time to assure that this program stays alive. I am happy to tell you that

the new executive at Interfaith Alliance, Rabbi Jack Moline, shares

the same passion for State of Belief as that which fills his
But we can no more continue this show without listeners than we can
without sufficient financial support from our listeners. This tenth
anniversary of State of Belief is a good time for our faithful listeners to
demonstrate tangible support for this show so we can continue a
unique radio experience that in a society that now seems bent toward
negativity, screaming, and incivility offers a sane, civil voice that
promotes the kind of mutual understanding and respect that assure a
vibrant democracy and religion with integrity.
Obviously, I have written this piece from a first person singular
perspective. But surely you know that State of Belief is a collaborative
production - it always has been, and it always will be. For several
weeks prior to the launch of State of Belief, my good friend Thaler
Pekar, a superb consultant, along with the shows first producer
Isaac-Davy Aronson looked at every dimension of this new endeavor,
devoted to assuring a new public voice that would model the
message of Interfaith Alliance. Subsequent producers of State of
Belief - Brendan McDonald and Julie Mashack - have brought
impressive skills to our show, assuring continuation of a high quality
broadcast. Our current producer of State of Belief, Ray Kirstein, is
singularly committed to producing a radio show that is technically
sound and substantively educational, provocative, and inspirational a show that is characterized best by the descriptive terms that we
have used since our first days on the air: religion and radio done
Honestly, friends, over the past ten years, I cannot remember a time
when the microphone went live and we began to tape State of Belief

that I did not feel excitement and promise regarding the way in which
this radio show could make our country better. I am grateful for all
who give to us, listen to us, and provide encouragement to us. Its
great to be a part of a radio program that tries to do over air waves
what, at the end of every broadcast, I call on our listeners to do
through personal relationships: you all take care of each other . . . To
me, thats State of Belief.

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,

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.
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.
State of Belief Radio is a production of the Interfaith Alliance
Foundation, a 501c(3) charitable organization, and relies on listener
donations to amplify important voices in our national discussion on
religion, government and politics. Please visit
for information on making a tax-deductible contribution.
Since 2005, State of Belief has been broadcasting weekly across the

country. If the show is not available where you live, please let your
local stations know the program is available to them free of charge.
Complete information is available at