By Gudrun Schultz

  SAN JOSE, California, February 28, 2007 ( – A new campaign to force Christian influence out of the public sphere was launched last week in San Jose, California, in response to what is seen as a returning strength of religious organizations in American society.

  Led by members of the Interfaith Alliance, an organization dedicated to countering the influence of the conservative Christian Coalition on federal politics, the new campaign is designed to promote policies that would silence the political voice of the “religious right.”

  Called ‘First Amendment First’, the campaign has been billed as a defense of the separation of church and state, which organizers claim is threatened by religious organizations’ involvement in political lobbying and endorsement of candidates.

  Recommendations promoted by the campaign would see sweeping bans imposed on church activities affecting public policy, including a prohibition on church endorsement of political candidates. Research and health policies should not be founded on “religious doctrine”, the campaign states and a ban should be imposed on schools promoting a particular religion.

  As well, campaign petitions include an end to state funding of any charitable organization that “discriminates in its hiring” or requires people hold a particular faith to receive services.

  American news personality Walter Cronkite, a veteran of US media, endorsed the campaign, as did the Rev. Welton Gaddy, president of the Interfaith Alliance.

  Cronkite, now 90, served as anchor for CBS Evening News from 1962 to 1981.  He is the spokesman and honorary chairman of the Alliance, which includes multi-faith and atheistic members. In addition to opposing religious influence on politics, the organization is dedicated to promoting public acceptance of homosexuality, calling for an end to “discrimination based on sexual orientation.”

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