The Religious Liberty Committee of the Baptist General Association is highlighting Religious Liberty Day, January 16. The following resolution passed by messengers at the November 2017 Annual Meeting affirms Virginia Baptists’ historic leadership regarding religious liberty for all. It is hoped that you will find this useful in your congregation concerning the ongoing struggle for religious liberty.
RESOLUTION ON RELIGIOUS LIBERTY
WHEREAS religious liberty is a fundamental right bestowed by God on all humans;
WHEREAS it is guaranteed to Americans in the First Amendment of the United States Constitution;
WHEREAS it is a cornerstone of American life that serves to unify a diverse and often divided people;
WHEREAS religious liberty means freedom from laws discriminating for or against religion, particular religions, any religious beliefs or practices, or any persons/groups on account of their religion;
WHEREAS any legislation on religious matters, other than to protect religious liberty, threatens the integrity and vitality of the Christian faith;
WHEREAS among Americans today there is widespread confusion about the meaning and value of religious liberty, which has resulted in its sometimes being violated or misapplied;
WHEREAS Baptists, and Virginia Baptists in particular, have historically been champions and defenders of religious liberty; and
WHEREAS the Virginia Statute for Establishing Religious Freedom became law on Jan. 16, 1786, and Presidents have declared Jan. 16 of each year to be Religious Freedom Day;
THEREFORE, we, the messengers to the 2017 meeting of the Baptist General Association of Virginia, call on all our member churches to:
- Commit themselves explicitly, publicly, and officially to upholding religious liberty, especially as it was understood by early American Baptists and their ally, James Madison;
- Ensure that religious liberty, especially as understood by early American Baptists and Madison, is regularly discussed and studied by their members, and their youth in particular;*
- Place special emphasis on religious liberty on the Sunday preceding or closest to Jan. 16, Religious Freedom Day; and
- Speak out against threats to and violations of religious liberty, if and when they occur in their own communities.
*A bibliography of sources is available upon request from the Chair of the Religious Liberty Committee and is also posted on the website of the Baptist Joint Committee on Religious Liberty.