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Sunday, April 06, 2008

Black Baptist Leaders Release Religious Liberty Statement

From Sam Hodges of the Dallas Morning News:

Leaders of three major black Baptist denominations have released the following statement through the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty:

This is a joint statement of the presidents of three of the predominantly African-American Baptist denominations that relate to the Baptist Joint Committee, which is composed of 15 Baptist bodies. The groups included in the statement are the Progressive National Baptist Convention, Inc., the National Baptist Convention of America, and the National Missionary Baptist Convention. The Baptist Joint Committee is a 71-year-old, Washington, D.C.-based religious liberty organization that works to defend and extend God-given religious liberty for all, furthering the Baptist heritage that champions the principle that religion must be freely exercised, neither advanced nor inhibited by government.

Can politics still benefit from prophetic preaching?

Statement on the attacks on the pulpit and the ban on a religious test for
The Office of President of the United States
Released on April 4, 2008, 40 Years after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

During the 2008 race for the nomination for president of the United States, we have seen efforts to malign candidates that cross the line of fair campaigning and understanding a candidate's biography. Attacks on candidates based on their church membership threaten one of our treasured constitutional commitments - religious freedom, which includes the freedom to worship and the prohibition on any religious test for qualification for public office.

In a recent conversation with Dr. Gardner C. Taylor, president emeritus of the Progressive National Baptist Convention, Inc., in the wake of attacks based on select sermons by Sen. Barak Obama's pastor, Dr. Taylor emphasized the importance of our commitment as Baptist presidents of four major African-American conventions. We have long supported religious freedom, the freedom of the pulpit and the ban on a religious test for qualifying for the office of president of the Untied States. The following statement reflects the views of our Baptist faith community, in general, and our views as religious leaders of three of the major African-American National Baptist Conventions, in particular.


As Baptists we believe in the freedom of religion, the right to worship where one chooses and the right listen to whomever we please preach the Gospel. We also believe in liberty of conscience and the right of the individual to interpret Holy Scripture. We cannot now, or ever, allow the influence of negative media coverage, and insensitive critics to misrepresent the fundamental freedom of choosing one's church and worshiping, by trying to make it relevant to one's right to occupy office as an elected official. It is one thing to challenge a particular statement, but quite another to challenge the qualifications of a candidate running for office by continually bombarding the reading, watching and listening public by singling out a house of worship and denouncing the freedom of speech inherent in prophetic preaching. We now share our opposition to how some of the media are reporting on the suitability of a candidate for political office based on an attack on a religious community.

By questioning and challenging a candidate's religious affiliations, religious associations and views on the Scriptures as a test for suitability for elected office, especially the office of president, we run the risk of violating the words and spirit of our Constitution. According to Article II of the U.S. Constitution, Section 1: President and Vice President, Clause 5: Qualifications for Office, that there three things and three things only that qualify any America who wants to become the President and Vice President of the United States: (1) those persons must be a natural born citizen of the United States; (2) they are to be at least 35 years old; (3) inhabitants of the United States at least fourteen years (there is an assumption that the President and Vice Presidents respectively, shall be of sound body and mind). Nothing has been stated, suggested, or hinted at in the Constitution regarding race, religion, choice of a pastor, or local house of worship where one hears instructions from God's Word. Indeed, Article VI of the Constitution bans any religious test for public office.

Freedom-loving Americans should go to the polls in this presidential election cycle and vote for our president and vice president (and all other political offices up for a vote) based on what the Constitution of the United States says are the qualifications, and the evaluation of the candidate's policy positions.

Most recently, we have crossed into the negative campaign territory when Sen. Obama came under attack for being a member of the Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago, Ill., under the spiritual leadership of Trinity's Senior Pastor Dr. Jeremiah Wright. Where Sens. Hillary Clinton, John McCain, Barak Obama or any other candidate worships, how they interpret sacred Scripture, who they listen to preach the Good News of the Gospel, and their choice of denominational affiliation should not be at issue. They have the right to be members of any congregation of faith, worship where they choose, and listen to whomever they desire preach, without these things being used against them to take them out of the running for political office.

The Progressive National Baptist Convention, Inc., the National Baptist Convention of America, the National Missionary Baptist Convention, and other people in the faith community, regardless to religious persuasion and practice, condemn the idea that Senator Sens. Clinton, McCain and Obama, are not eligible for office unless they pass a religious test for office.

Freedom of religion, freedom of worship, freedom to hear whomever a person chooses is a fundamental right of all Americans. Attempts to make a candidate's religious affiliation relevant to the candidate's fitness for office should be viewed with skepticism.

The Rev. Dr. T. DeWitt Smith, Jr., President of the Progressive National Baptist Convention, Inc.

The Rev. Dr. William J. Thurston, President of the National Baptist Convention of America, Inc.

The Rev. Dr. C. C. Robertson, President of the National Missionary Baptist Convention, Inc.

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Blogger Cat's Dad said...

Again, more whining which misses the point: Wright's expressed sociology and political views--not his theology--and its influence or lack of influence on Obama is at issue. It is fair game for scrutiny.

If Wright simply preached the gospel without the social and racial stuff, or other candidates' religious leaders simply preached whatever doctrine or belief they held, then these well-meaning Baptists would be on target with their declaration.

10:07 AM

Anonymous Jeremy said...

Cat's Dad:

How can Wright's sociological and political views be separated from his theology?

How can Wright (or anyone, for that matter) preach the gospel without touching on social or racial "stuff"?

2:52 PM

Blogger Danny said...

Wright doesn't get a free pass for his remarks. If any other preacher had given such inflammatory remarks directed against a political candidate, he would have been scrutinized as well. It shouldn't be written off as part of a particular style of preaching.

5:37 PM

Blogger Cat's Dad said...


Perhaps I should have been more specific. Wright could preach the gospel without the anti-America social and racial stuff.

He would then deserve protection from undue scrutiny, like the other candidates' pastors.

As it is, it's like Wright operates with a big flashing sign on his back that says "Kick Me!"

9:46 AM

Anonymous Lee said...

Danny said:
Wright doesn't get a free pass for his remarks. If any other preacher had given such inflammatory remarks directed against a political candidate, he would have been scrutinized as well. It shouldn't be written off as part of a particular style of preaching.

Correction. If any other preacher who had a prominent member running for president had given such inflammatory remarks in public.....

I have heard, over the 30 years I have served as a Southern Baptist minister, a number of caucasian preachers in completely caucasian congregations make racial remarks about African Americans, Hispanics, and other minority groups, that were just as inflammatory, if not more so, than those of the Rev. Jeremiah Wright. In fact, considering the entire context of the sermon, and not just the sound byte quotes from Wright, perhaps more inflammatory, certainly calloused, and reflecting the fact that there is virtually not a white American alive who has anywhere close to the understanding of the African American experience in this country necessary to classify Wright's remarks as inflammatory.

The big difference is that none of them had a prominent member running for the Presidency. And I don't recall any minister in the church that George W. Bush belongs to being put under anywhere near the scrutiny that Wright has been subjected to. Maybe that's because Bush scarcely darkened the doorway of a church much before he became President, or becaue evangelical conservatives wanted to bury their heads in the sand about the fact that he belonged to a liberal church that had no problem ordaining gays and lesbians to the ministry, or that he regularly attends a gay-friendly Episcopal church in Washington. The influence (or lack of it) of these social and political views on W should also have been fair game for scrutiny, if this argument is to hold water. The fact that it was not is a clear indication of a right wing media bias regarding Barack Obama.

8:38 PM

Blogger Cat's Dad said...


Maybe the difference is that Bush's liberal church, as you describe it, preaches/practices "love" and inclusiveness while Wright, like Mrs. Obama, seems to not care much for America.

Your argument's best point might be the one you don't make--that Bush' relative conservatism seems to indicate his church's liberal theology didn't dictate his political views on homosexuality, etc.

This might give some folks some comfort that perhaps Obama won't hold Wright's, or his own wife's, anti-America views.

9:12 PM


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