Anyone who champions religious freedom should denounce Donald Trump's "reckless, demagogic rhetoric", Russell Moore has said in the wake of yet another controversial statement from the Republican Presidential candidate.
In a campaign statement released yesterday, Trump – who is currently the Republican frontrunner – called for "a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country's representatives can figure out what's going on".
The statement cited research claiming to have found that "there is great hatred towards Americans by large segments of the Muslim population".
"Where this hatred comes from and why we will have to determine," Trump said.
"Until we are able to determine and understand this problem and the dangerous threat it poses, our country cannot be the victims of horrendous attacks by people that believe only in Jihad, and have no sense of reason or respect for human life. If I win the election for President, we are going to Make America Great Again."
His remarks have been widely denounced, including by a number of his fellow candidates. Jeb Bush branded Trump "unhinged" while Lindsey Graham accused him of being "downright dangerous".
"He's putting at risk the lives of interpreters, American supporters, diplomats, & the troops in the region by making these bigoted comments," Graham said on Twitter.
A spokesman for the White House said Trump's statement was "totally contrary to our values as Americans."
In a blog on his website, Moore, the president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, said Trump was "a master at knowing and seizing a moment" by promising to crack down on extremism in the wake of the attack by Islamic radicals in California last week.
"At the same time, those of us who are Christians ought to stand up for religious liberty not just when our rights are violated but on behalf of others too," Moore said.
"The United States government should fight, and fight hard, against radical Islamic jihadism. The government should close the borders to anyone suspected of even a passing involvement with any radical cell or terrorist network. But the government should not penalize law-abiding people, especially those who are American citizens, for holding their religious convictions."
Moore warned about the possible repercussions curtailing religious liberty could have on Christians in America.
"Make no mistake. A government that can shut down mosques simply because they are mosques can shut down Bible studies because they are Bible studies," he said, referring to Trump's earlier announcement that he would "strongly consider" closing down some Muslim places of worship.
"A government that can close the borders to all Muslims simply on the basis of their religious belief can do the same thing for evangelical Christians. A government that issues ID badges for Muslims simply because they are Muslims can, in the fullness of time, demand the same for Christians because we are Christians."
Moore concluded: "We are in a time of war, and we should respond as those in a time of war. But we must never lose in a time of war precious freedoms purchased through the blood of patriots in years past. We must have security and we must have order. But we must not trade soul freedom for an illusion of winning."
Trump, who counts a large swathe of his support within the Bible Belt, has increased his negative rhetoric regarding Muslims in recent weeks.
He has refused to back down after insisting that he saw thousands of Muslims in Jersey City celebrate the 9/11 terror attacks in 2001, despite fact-checkers dismissing his claim.