I read last week where Dr. Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberties Commission, had withdrawn his name from the Interfaith Coalition on Mosques that was established by the Anti-Defamation League.
Dr. Land has drawn fire for his decision to be one of few evangelicals on the Coalition’s roster this past year. His name came to prominence when he was listed as a part of that group’s involvement with the Murfreesboro law suit. The ICM came to the aid of a large Muslim group that wanted to erect a Mosque complex on 15 acres of land in the Murfreesboro, TN community.
In a letter to the Anti-Defamation League Dr. Land said that, “While many Southern Baptists share my deep commitment to religious freedom and the right of Muslims to have places of worship, they also feel that a Southern Baptist denominational leader filing suit to allow individual mosques to be built is ‘a bridge too far,’’. The ADL, founded in 1913, seeks to quell anti-Antisemitism through its programs and services,and with the formation of the InterFaith Coalition for Mosques, has found itself on the unusual side of supporting Muslim’s rights to build a Mosque when and where they please. Part of the reason this group’s influence became so prominent is because of the publicity surrounding the so called, “Ground Zero Mosque” and the controversy over it’s founders, location and timing.
“Baptists have been victimized by such religious discrimination in the past. We should always remember that if we allow the government to discriminate against one religion today, they can discriminate against any or all religions tomorrow,” Land continued.
Admitting he was surprised at some of the reaction from fellow Southern Baptists, he explained most of the negative responses at a minimum affirmed “everyone’s right to worship,” but drew the line at “denominational leaders filing suit in court to protect those rights when Muslims are the aggrieved party.”
At one time I wrote a very critical article about Dr. Land’s involvement with the ADL Coalition. I will now commend him for choosing to withdraw his name from affiliation with that same group.
However, he is withdrawing not as a matter of conscience, apparently, but because “he determined that it was best,” for him to discontinue his involvement with this group as a denominational leader of the Southern Baptist Convention.
In his withdrawal letter to the ADL, Dr. Land said he was pulling his name from support of the Coalition because he would try to be a responsive Leader to the feelings of the Southern Baptists that he serves. He was, however, clear that he personally disagreed with the prevailing view of those who opposed his involvement with the effort.
Dr. Land is to be commended for his great heart for protecting religious liberties for all religious practices in America. But contained within the very definition of “religion” we find part of the problem with Dr. Land’s positions regarding this particular protective stance.
No one, and Dr. Land has acknowledged this, disagrees with the liberty that even Muslims must have in this country to worship as they please. But the protections that the Coalition wishes to fight for on behalf of the Muslim community that would allow them to be unfettered in building Mosques wherever they wish, simply misses the point of his detractors that they have tried to express concerning his actions!
Religious liberties for all: YES! But, many Americans see problems with the Muslim community that go far beyond the simple liberties of building a Mosque in order to worship freely wherever they wish. It would appear that Dr. Land’s deep commitment to religious liberties has blinded him to those problems that the regular “Joe Southern Baptist” seems to have no trouble seeing.
The building of a new Mosque for many Americans is not the expression of the grand ideal of religious liberty. Instead, they see not a house of worship, but another center built for sleeper cell training; they see a platform for indoctrination of Sharia fundamentals. This is what most Americans fear invading their very communities when they rise up against massive 15 acre Mosques! They are not against the free expression of worship by anyone. But they do worry that free expression of worship by those Dr. Land made a choice to protect, might be more like the freedoms to organize, fund and direct anti-American actions.
I know of no American, no true American who is even remotely familiar with their national heritage, who has any honestly felt difficulty with anyone from any religious background having the freedom to worship as they please, unfettered by anyone’s prejudices.
But the report of individual terrorists who have passed through this Mosque or another particular American Mosque that causes pause. It’s the stories of the controversially, anti-American spouting Iman’s who travel abroad and raise funds from American hating countries and Islamic charities that will be used to build elaborate “houses of worship” in their small, Apple pie American communities. These are the things that scares the living dickens out of most people.
And NO ONE can deny that these Mosque abusing practices have occurred in many “houses of worship”! And yes, even the specific Mosque that Dr. Land’s former coalition has gone to court to protect in Tennessee.
So, with such prevalent incidences of anti-American Islamic practices which tend to characterize the American mindset of Mosques as “training houses” rather than “houses of worship”, it’s no wonder that the majority of Southern Baptists would have a problem with one of their Cooperative Program funded leaders going so far as to join a law suit on the side of an Islamic Mosque, being on the opposite side of a American community that feels strongly otherwise!
Dr. Land says he disagrees with the reasons that folks have for being against his involvement with the ADL Coalition. He says he believes that folks see his joining in with a law suit as a “bridge too far”. And frankly, as a former Southern Baptist minister, I’m sorry that he disagrees with that apparent reasoning of the majority of those who follow him. He went on to say that if the religious liberties of one group were ever taken, then they could be taken from all of us. Yes, Dr. Land. We all would agree with you on that point. And in complete like mindedness on this point, we would join you in the fight. Stay strong in the fight for religious liberty in this country!
But when has it ever been a practice of Southern Baptists that needed similar protections, to train anti-American terrorists that were connected with Jihadist? There are indeed, State Department reports of just such an individual or two that has moved through the Islamic group’s goings on in the Mosque that he ran to court to side with in Tennessee! Americans have NO problem with protecting the freedom of Worship for all Americans…..INCLUDING Muslims! But to run to the protections offered by the Constitution and promote them as also being protections of Jihadist implementation, simply because it’s an attached part of that one particular religion? And to promote the liberties of those who have been verified as an active part of anti, and hate American activities, and possibly partners with even those suspected of terrorism, is something that no red blooded American can easily stomach. They don’t see that as a part of the religious liberty issues offered the protection of the Constitution! And I’m not sure that any of us should.
Dr. Land was careful to stress that while he was stepping aside from continued named support of the ADL Coalition, he was not stepping aside from the continued fight for religious liberties in America.
For both actions, removing his name from the Coalition and continuing the fight for religious liberties, I heartily commend and am supportive of him.
But Dr. Land needs to try and look past his personal disapproval of those who’ve faulted his decision to be a part of the Coalition, and try to see the solid reasoning behind why they did.
One does not have to give up their stance FOR religious liberties by refusing to support and promote those who hate the very America that gave them those liberties.
Some of this blog was taken from the official letter of withdrawal
presented by The Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention,
and from a news release written by Dwayne Hastings, Jan. 14, 2011.