Land Of (No) Liberty: Southern Baptist Official Drops Out Of Religious Freedom Group
Rob Boston printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Tue Jan 25, 2011 at 12:06:55 PM EST
Religious liberty is a fairly easy concept to grasp: All faiths have the right to exist, meet for worship, spread their ideas and build facilities. All must abide by certain laws, and the government must treat them equally.
There is nothing in our Constitution that says that certain groups will be denied these rights simply because some people don't like them. Yes, some groups have unpopular views and doctrines - but the First Amendment protects them too. It sometimes takes courage to stand up for the rights of groups deemed unpopular, but our Constitutions demands nothing less. (And, of course, you also have the right to join no religious group at all by being an agnostic, atheist or skeptic.)

You would think that a religious group once in the minority, a group whose members once faced persecution and unpopularity, would understand that. Sadly, that does not appear to be the case.

It has been reported that Richard Land, head of the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, has decided to resign from an interfaith group that was formed to support the right of Muslims to build mosques in America.

The group was pulled together by the Anti-Defamation League after some residents of Murfreesboro, Tenn., went to court in an effort to block construction of a mosque simply because they don't much like Muslims.

Land said he had to pull out of the group because some Southern Baptists got the wrong idea. They seemed to think he was promoting Islam.

"I don't agree with that perception but it's widespread and I have to respect it," Land told the Associated Press.

Let me get this straight: A top Baptist official - whose spiritual ancestors were often persecuted (and even imprisoned) in colonial America because their views conflicted with state-established churches - can't be bothered more than 200 years later to stick up for a persecuted minority? How quickly some forget their own history!

And where would today's Baptists have gotten the impression that it's all right to oppose a core freedom like allowing a religious groups to open a house of worship on land it bought? Maybe from Land himself. He opposed the so-called "Ground Zero" mosque in Manhattan, employing the nonsensical argument that allowing Muslims who had nothing to do with the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks to build three blocks from the World Trade Center site would somehow offend the families of those who died.

I should point out that right-thinking Baptists don't agree with Land on this. Don Byrd at the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty makes a good point, writing, "Where is the rule that says we have to respect widespread mis-perception? How about shining a light on the truth instead? And reminding those you represent of core Baptist principles?"

Preach it, Bro. Byrd! If some Baptists are confused about what religious liberty really means, Land's job is to educate them - not to give in to bigotry.

If he refuses to do that, Land should change the name of his group. I'd recommend the "Ethics & Religious Liberty (Except for Groups We Don't Like) Commission."

are abusing the Baptist title and founding principals. Time to give that name back to the real, pro-religious-liberty Baptists, SBC!

by NancyP on Tue Jan 25, 2011 at 12:58:57 PM EST

when they gain the majority somewhere.  

by mayfly on Tue Jan 25, 2011 at 05:30:07 PM EST
Native Americans, African Americans, and other minorities have known the Southern Baptists as extreme bullies for many generations - maybe almost as long as they've been here.  I've heard it said that a "Good Baptist" could lynch someone on Saturday night, and be singing in the choir and held up as an example on Sunday morning.  (Talking about areas of Georgia and Florida, and I admit that members of other churches probably participated in the persecution/lynchings too.)

I don't think it's due to being a persecuted minority (many never become bullies if they find themselves being in a dominant position).  I think it's more tied to the authoritarian structure that is so prevalent in many churches - and the more authoritarian, the more they behave like a bully.

by ArchaeoBob on Tue Jan 25, 2011 at 06:26:05 PM EST

The Religious Liberty for Me but not for Thee Commission.

by khughes1963 on Tue Jan 25, 2011 at 02:58:14 PM EST

One of the bright spots in President Obama's speech tonight was when he said that American Muslims were part of the American family.  I applauded him for that.  I am not Muslim and never will be, but I would much rather be in a Muslim country than in an area controlled by dominionists (most of all, I would rather be in a country where all are truly accepted and equal - and people don't force their religion on others).

I wish that Land could see the "Good Christians" that I observe all the time - their forcing of their version of Christianity on others, their persecution and harassment of those who don't think like them, and their backbiting hate towards the Other.  Those are the types that I hear constantly spouting vicious rhetoric and lies about Muslims and members of other religions.  Maybe he'd realize that his withdrawing support of American Muslims is catering to the sorts I'm used to.  Of course, he may be one of them and thus blind to what is going on.  Needless to say, their actions turn people off to Christ and give other Muslims a false idea of what Christians are like (their actions don't reflect the Christ I believe in).

Maybe he doesn't remember, but I DO remember the threats and attacks against Mosques and Centers that happened right after 9/11.  I was fully prepared back then to go stand at the local mosque along with a few people from the church we used to attend - to offer our support and what protection we could to fellow Americans.  Even then, when I didn't know a fraction of what I do now about cultures and religions: I knew that violence against Muslims in general was wrong and unChristian.  In my opinion, this move of his is just another version of that violence.

by ArchaeoBob on Tue Jan 25, 2011 at 11:23:43 PM EST

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