Recently I came across a very conservative Baptist website denouncing a religious liberty initiative called the “American Charter on Freedom of Religion and Conscience,” which involved several IRD board members and other friends, and whose launch I gratefully attended. (In October a liberal website published this critique of the charter, ominously noting IRD ties, to which IRD writer Rick Plasterer responded.)
This very conservative Baptist website self-identifies as “The Most Trusted Source for Polemics and Discernment,” though it appears to be anything but. It claims this charter’s “goal is to promote a form of globalism by gutting America of its theological underpinnings, minimizing its Christian heritage and over-emphasizing its commitment to pluralism.”
This opening conveys the critic’s overall tone:
If you don’t think the American Evangelical Intelligentsia would sell their birthright for a bit of peace and prosperity, you don’t know them. They are sniveling, weak, effeminate men without spinal columns, courage, or guts. They are shells of humanity, with the good stuff taken out and replaced with cream puffery.
It goes on to say that the writer for many years has been following “progressive-liberal intellectuals who are subversively driving evangelicalism to the hard-left, [and] this might be the worst thing I have seen to date.”
If this religious liberty statement is “the worst thing” ever, this writer clearly hasn’t been around very long or seen very much. He describes this charter that was organized and supported by several IRD board members with other kindred spirits as having been orchestrated by a “group of evangelicals led by the SBC’s Russell Moore and the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE) president, Leith Anderson, joined with a group of non-Christians and cultists in the name of religious liberty. These include Seventh Day Adventists, Marc Stern of the American Jewish Committee, various Roman Catholics, Buddhists, Sikhs, and Hindus. Also partnering with Russell Moore and the NAE are President Sayyid Syeed of the Islamic Society of North America and Shaykh Hamza Yusuf, co-founder of Zaytuna College, Islam’s first accredited liberal arts college in America.”
The special target of this article is Russell Moore and his Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, which are accused of “subversively driving evangelicalism to the hard-left.” But the charter was mostly organized by Roman Catholics, including the several IRD board members. Note the writer deems Catholics to be in the category of “non-Christians and cultists” without specifying which. So perhaps both!
This collaboration with “non-Christians and cultists” for the American Charter on Freedom of Religion and Conscience “surrender[s] our rights to act according to our religion for the concession to merely ideologically hold to our religion. It’s nothing short of treasonous.” And it accuses the charter of asserting: “Make us do anything you want, as long as you let us believe what we want.”
The writer further claims: “I’ve read this document thoroughly, and let me tell you, there is a 100% reason to assume that the signers of this statement – from everything written therein – would support both gay marriage and abortion in the name of ‘religious freedom.’ Zero doubt…none.”
The writer clearly knows nothing about the main organizers of the charter and many of its leading signers, some of whom are the leading champions of both traditional marriage and pro-life causes. Additionally, the writer faults the charter as a “great betrayal of the grand American tradition,” and for not specifically crediting Christianity for human rights and morality.
This charter demonstrates, according to the writer, that “Russell Moore and the Evangelical Intelligentsia” will “hold hands with anyone and everyone in the name of living a little bit longer under an oppressive globalist regime they’re personally helping to empower.”
The writer and this website obviously have a Baptist axe to grind against Russell Moore and the ERLC for which “globalist” allegations must be crafted. But in reality, the American Charter of Freedom of Religion and Conscience was organized by the Religious Freedom Institute, headed by IRD board member Tom Farr, in collaboration with Baylor University’s Institute for Studies of Religion. Other IRD-affiliated signers were Robert George, the distinguished Catholic thinker at Princeton University, along with religious liberty expert William Saunders of Catholic University and RFI leader Kent Hill, my predecessor as IRD president. All of them are orthodox Catholics who are pro-life, pro-marriage and absolutely pro-religious liberty because of their deep Christian faith. IRD board chair and international religious liberty scholar Paul Marshall, also associated with Baylor, was present with me at the charter’s signing on November 29 at the National Archives.
Such Roman Catholic “cultists” obviously are offensive to this critic, as is apparently collaboration with any non-Christians, or any brand of Christianity not specifically of the critic’s preference. But in our democracy religious liberty and other worthy causes cannot be defended much less advanced if espoused by only a small subset of the population. Charter organizers invited signers from across the theological and political spectrum with hopes of restoring a consensus for maximum protections for First Amendment freedoms.
The critic implied the charter was the creature of squishy Christians, Islamists, and secularists. But other charter signers include former Congressman Frank Wolf, who has championed international religious freedom and global persecuted Christians for decades, and Alan Sears of Alliance Defending Freedom, which tirelessly litigates in defense of persons of faith in America under attack for their dissent from the prevailing secular zeitgeist, including bakers and florists who decline to cater same sex rites. Former Reagan era U.S. Attorney General Ed Meese is another signer.
Such details are apparently irrelevant to the critic, who prefers to imagine a globalist conspiracy. Maybe such absurd critiques are best ignored. But more social media readers may peruse this blog than read the actual charter, which is very lengthy and can be found here.
So I’m critiquing the critique, with hopes a few readers will actually explore the charter itself, and at risk of myself becoming further enmeshed in the alleged globalist miasma of cultism and treason!