A Baptist state newspaper editor criticized a Southern Baptist Convention official for defending the building of a New Jersey mosque, suggesting that Islam should not be given First Amendment protection.
Gerald Harris, editor of the Georgia Baptist newspaper Christian Index, wrote an editorial June 6 asking why the SBC Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission and the convention’s International Mission Board would join 18 other civil and religious organizations in a legal brief supporting a community of Muslims in New Jersey trying to build a mosque.
“While Muslims around the world and in our own country are shouting ‘Death to America,’ should we be defending their rights to build mosques, which often promote Sharia Law and become training grounds for radicalizing Muslims?” Harris asked.
In May the two SBC agencies joined groups including the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, National Association of Evangelicals, Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty and Jewish, Muslim, Krishna, Sikh and Unitarian Universalist organizations in a friend-of-the-court brief arguing that a Muslim mosque cannot be subjected to different land-use regulations than a Christian church just because local protestors oppose it.
On May 23 the ERLC sponsored an interfaith panel featuring Southern Baptist, Roman Catholic, Mormon and Muslim traditions explaining why they support universal religious freedom despite the differences in their beliefs.
Harris, a former pastor, said he believes “that Islam may be more of a geopolitical movement than a religion.”
“So, do Southern Baptists entities need to come to the defense of a geopolitical movement that has basically set itself against western civilization?” he asked. “Even if Islam is a religion must we commit ourselves to fight for the religious freedom of a movement that aggressively militates against other religions?”
Harris asked further if it is “biblically correct” for Southern Baptists to unite with non-Christians, quoting a Bible verse from 1 Corinthians: “What accord has Christ with Belial? Or what part has a believer with an unbeliever?”
“And on a more personal note for Georgia Baptists, why would Dr. Moore spend his professional capital to defend the religious liberty of Muslims in New Jersey to build a mosque and fail to exert the same energy to get involved in Georgia’s quest to pass religious liberty legislation earlier this year?” Harris queried, referencing legislation passed by the legislature in March but vetoed by Gov. Nathan Deal.
Harris said “that to Muslims, freedom of religion means practicing Islam only.”
“Freedom of religion in America is designed to protect the rights and dignity of different religious communities, so they can practice their respective rites and ordinances without fear and interference. However, religious freedom for Muslims means allowing them the right to establish Islam as the state religion, subjugating infidels, even murdering those who are critics of Islam and those who oppose their brutal religion. In essence they want to use our democracy to establish their theocracy (with Allah as supreme). Their goal politically is to destroy the Constitution with its embedded freedom and democracy and replace it with Sharia Law.
“When we engage in a crusade to grant political Islam all the rights and privileges of other religions, we are not engaged on a level playing field. We are not comparing apples to apples. The more leniency we give in the present to Muslims who may desire Sharia Law, the less freedom we will be giving in the future to ourselves.”
“Baptists live in a new era of the rising tide of Islam,” Harris warned. “With the growing influence of the Saudis and other political Islamists, we must first consider if a mosque that wants freedom of religion for themselves desires that same full freedom of religion for all others.”
“Americans kept Communism in check during the Cold War, guarding our borders against those who wished to dismantle our way of life,” he concluded. “Will we do the same when another political ideology endangers our future?”
At the interfaith panel discussion May 23, Moore said as a “genuine, creedal, evangelical Christian,” he believes “that no one goes to heaven except through explicit faith in Jesus Christ.”
“That’s the reason why I don’t think that we ought to be harassing our Muslim neighbors or marginalizing our Muslim neighbors,” he continued. “We can either love our Muslim neighbors and speak to them, or we can scream at them. We can’t do both of those two things at the same time.”
The Georgia chapter of the Council on American-Islamic relations responded to the editorial by inviting Harris to a Ramadan interfaith dinner at a Georgia mosque June 18.
“We welcome Dr. Harris to break bread with his Georgia Muslim neighbors so that he can recognize the common values that unite all Americans,” CAIR Georgia Executive Director Edward Ahmed Mitchell said in a press release. “Americans need not share the same religious beliefs as our neighbors in order to respect their constitutional right to worship God as they see fit.”