Baptist Christian leaders condemn religious liberty report as 'moral disaster'

Albert Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, described the report as a 'bombshell'.

Leading Baptists have condemned a US report advocating peaceful co-existence between religious groups and "non-discrimination principles".

Albert Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, has described it as part of "a moral revolution that is taking place right before our eyes."

He ws referring to the latest and hardest-fought battle in the US "culture wars" – what has been described as the conflict between religious liberty and sexual liberty.

He warned the way "religious freedom" and "religious liberty" were written in the report, in "scare" quotes, was a clear indication that they will both be consigned "to the dustbin of history", regardless of the US Constitution. 

The report, from the US Commission on Civil Rights, published earlier this month, is titled: Peaceful Coexistence: Reconciling Nondiscrimination Principles with Civil Liberties.

It examines the balance between faith-based exemptions from nondiscrimination laws, and legal protections in nondiscrimination law, such as the right to marry.

The report says: "Religious exemptions to the protections of civil rights based upon classifications such as race, color, national origin, sex, disability status, sexual orientation, and gender identity, when they are permissible, significantly infringe upon these civil rights."

The commission, which is an advisory body to the President of the United States, judges: "Overly-broad religious exemptions unduly burden nondiscrimination laws and policies."

It urges courts, law and policy makers to "tailor religious exceptions to civil liberties and civil rights protections as narrowly as applicable law requires."

Commission chairman Martin Castro says in the report: "Our country was founded by those fleeing religious persecution. We must, therefore, always be vigilant to ensure that religion not be used as a pretext to persecute those whose civil rights and civil liberties should be protected."

He adds: "The phrases 'religious liberty' and 'religious freedom' will stand for nothing except hypocrisy so long as they remain code words for discrimination, intolerance, racism, sexism, homophobia, Islamophobia, Christian supremacy or any form of intolerance."

Russell Moore(Baptist Press)

Russell Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, described the language on religious freedom as a "logical, moral and political disaster."

"For this administration to argue that religious liberty is merely a euphemism for unlawful discrimination demonstrates how deeply entrenched our federal government is in a culture war mentality against religious dissidents," he told Baptist Press.

"Freedom of conscience isn't privilege or luxury: It is the first freedom, without which no other freedom can exist. This hostile attitude toward tens of millions of law-abiding Americans is tragic, and my prayer is that it would quickly give way to a recognition that soul freedom is worth defending for all."