A Southern Baptist college professor is running for Congress on a platform of religious liberty concerns he says emerged after last year’s Supreme Court ruling legalizing gay marriage.
Hunter Baker, a political science professor at Union University in Jackson, Tenn., announced March 7 he is seeking Tennessee’s Eighth District seat in west Tennessee. Baker, 45, joins a crowded field in a Republican primary race opened up by the unexpected decision by three-term Rep. Stephen Fincher to not run again in 2016.
Baker, a research fellow for the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, said he is not interested in becoming a career politician, but his concerns about what he described as the erosion of First Amendment rights since last summer’s U.S. Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage in Obergefell v. Hodges made him feel called to run.
“Religious liberty is already under attack, as Christians in the wedding trades are discovering, but see also nonprofit organizations such as the Catholic Little Sisters of the Poor,” Baker said in a blog announcing his bid for public office. “Without a vigorous defense, it is entirely possible that orthodox Christian organizations will be severely marginalized as part of the nonprofit sector in American life.”
“I think that result is wrong, because religious liberty helps us to live together in peace whereas the lack of it puts us into conflict with each other,” he continued. “It is also wrong because government should try to avoid putting its citizens into a crisis between God and Caesar. The state must not overreach.”
While he feels most strongly about religious liberty, Baker said when it comes to abortion he would be “an implacable foe to the agenda of Planned Parenthood.”
“While I recognize that people of good will believe strongly in abortion rights, we cannot escape the reality that the unborn deserve to be protected as members of the human race and not as merely a part of the mother,” Baker said.
Baker enters a crowded field of Republican candidates including Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell, state Senator Brian Kelsey of Germantown and former U.S. Attorney David Kustoff.
In an interview introducing Baker’s candidacy, Rod Dreher, senior editor of The American Conservative, said to his knowledge it is the first run for Congress to be inspired by a reaction to Obergefell.