A Baptist expert on religious liberty rebutted a Baptist state newspaper editorial suggesting American Muslims do not qualify for the free exercise of religion guaranteed by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
Brent Walker, executive director of the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty, said the the June 6 editorial which appeared in the Christian Index is “plainly wrong — morally, theologically, and constitutionally.”
“To deny Muslims the religious liberty that we claim for ourselves is un-American and contrary to more than 400 years of Baptist history,” Walker said in comments quoted June 9 by the BJC blog.
Christian Index Editor Gerald Harris wrote the editorial challenging the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission for joining with groups including the BJC in defending the right of Muslims in Basking Ridge, N.J., to build a mosque that was rejected by a township planning board.
ERLC President Russell Moore said in an article June 8 that someone told him this week “he had seen a Baptist writer question whether Muslim Americans qualify for religious liberty ‘benefits.’”
“Hearing that was honestly surprising, in that it would represent a direct contradiction of our confessional document and all of its predecessors,” Moore wrote under a headline “Is Religious Freedom for Non-Christians Too?”
Moore said the idea that religious freedom should apply only to Christians or to religious groups that are popular “is not only morally wrong but also self-defeating.”
“A government that can tell you a mosque or synagogue cannot be built because it is a mosque or a synagogue is a government that, in the fullness of time, will tell an evangelical church it cannot be constructed because of our claims to the exclusivity of Christ,” Moore said.
Harris told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution he is willing to meet with the Georgia chapter Council on American-Islamic Relations to learn more about Islamic views on religious liberty.
“I would like to know if they would be willing to have a Christian church built in Mecca,” Harris said. “That would be a demonstration of religious liberty, I think.”