Southern Baptists Defend Marriage & Religious Liberty
June 25, 2012
Southern Baptist Convention headquarters in Nashville, Tennessee (Photo credit: Statesboro Herald)
Two resolutions passed at this year’s Southern Baptist Convention re-affirming the convention’s conservative positions on human sexuality and religious liberty. Though officially bi-partisan, the largest Protestant denomination’s resolutions are unquestionably aimed at the aggressive policies adopted by the Obama administration on issues related to the healthcare contraception mandate and the Obama administration’s adoption of the gay rights agenda.
With continued momentum and polls indicating that more Americans are approving of homosexual relationships, Southern Baptists passed a resolution titled “On ‘Same-Sex Marriage’ and Civil Rights Rhetoric.” The resolution expressly defines marriage as a “covenantal relationship and institution created by God” bound by the “exclusive union of one man and one woman.” The resolution goes on to condemn all un-wed sexual acts whether heterosexual or homosexual.
The resolution laments the Obama administration’s support of same-sex marriage, and its decision to not defend the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). It also gives recognition to the unique struggles that homosexual persons face. In a particularly bold move, the resolution denies that sexual orientation is of such distinguishing characteristics as race and gender and finds it regrettable that “homosexual rights activists and those who are promoting the recognition of ‘same-sex marriage’ have misappropriated the rhetoric of the Civil Rights Movement.”
The resolution calls for Southern Baptists to fight for the “civil rights of all people where such rights are consistent with the righteousness of God.” The document also condemns all forms of “gay-bashing, whether disrespectful attitudes, hateful rhetoric, or hate-incited actions toward” homosexual persons. Pastors are called on to preach the full council of Scripture on human sexuality and Churches are called to “engage in compassionate, redemptive ministry to those who struggle with homosexuality.”
Candace Chellew-Hodge, a lesbian United Church of Christ clergy and “recovering Southern Baptist” in South Carolina, complained in Religion Dispatches about the resolution: “While the SBC is to be commended for that move [electing its first black president], the civil rights vote reveals not just the hubris, but the incredible hypocrisy being exercised by this church body. I understand that the SBC wants to remain in the religious stone ages, not ordaining women and shunning gays and lesbians. But, to pass a resolution that fully acknowledges the discrimination against a group, then strips it of its language of liberation because the struggle is not the same, down to every last detail, is incomprehensible—and reprehensible.”
Rev. Dwight McKissic, one of the authors of the resolution on same-sex relationships, who himself is African-American, said after the vote to the Associated Press: "It's important to sound the alarm again, because the culture is changing." He warned: "They're equating their sin with my skin."
Southern Baptists also placed renewed calls for religious liberty in general, and in special regard to the Patient Protection Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) in particular. It states, in part:
WHEREAS, The First Amendment to the United States Constitution protects United States citizens from any interference by the Federal Government in their “free exercise” of religion; and
WHEREAS, The Department of Health and Human Services has determined that all health care plans under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) must provide free of charge contraceptives and abortion causing drugs and devices, even if such provisions violate the faith convictions of religious employers, health plan providers, and participants; and
WHEREAS, President Obama and his administration is requiring health plans under PPACA to maintain a separate abortion fund supported by a premium surcharge on health plan participants regardless of their religiously-informed convictions about abortion;
The resolution also calls for strengthened conscience protections for Southern Baptist chaplains in the United States military who are facing stiff policies that seek to normalize homosexual behavior.
Messengers adopted a phrase stating that the Southern Baptist Convention “steadfastly objects to the administration’s efforts to undermine the religious liberty of American citizens.” It goes on to say:
RESOLVED, That we call on President Obama to instruct the Department of Health and Human Services to withdraw its insistence that health care plans provide contraceptives and abortion causing drugs and devices and instead exempt from this requirement all religious organizations and people of faith, whether in their private capacity or as employers, who declare a religious objection to such coverage; and be it further
RESOLVED, That we deplore the provision in the PPACA that sets up a separate abortion fund in health care plans as well as the administration’s efforts to require United States citizens to pay for abortion through their health care premiums contrary to the dictates of their faith; and be it further
RESOLVED, That we declare our support for the Constitution’s recognition of the unique nature of the church and insist that the Justice Department retract its offensive, unconstitutional attitude toward the church; and be it further
RESOLVED, That we wholeheartedly support the ministry of chaplains in the United States military and call on the Obama administration to instruct our military leaders to ensure the freedom of chaplains to minister to members of the armed services according to the dictates of the chaplains’ consciences without fear or coercion; and be it further
RESOLVED, That we express our deepest appreciation for every person who serves in the armed services of our nation and call on the Obama administration to guarantee the right of those who have volunteered to serve to express their religious convictions about homosexual behavior without fear of reprisal; and be it further
RESOLVED, That we call on the Justice Department to cease its efforts to overturn the Defense of Marriage Act and instead engage in a vigorous effort to defend this law of the land from every challenge.”
The denomination’s stance on religious liberty follows the guidance of its chief policy spokesman, Richard Land of The Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, who has been a leading proponent for religious liberty not only within the denomination, but also as a national religious leader.