Should Christians Defend the Religious Freedom of Muslims?

At first glance, it may seem like inside baseball. But a feud among the Southern Baptist Convention regarding its Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) raises questions relevant to Christians everywhere.

The ERLC acted in solidarity with the Islamic Society of Basking Ridge when they joined an amicus brief in a lawsuit against a New Jersey township. The municipality had rejected an application to erect a new mosque in their jurisdiction. The Christian Post expounds:

At the SBC’s annual meeting held earlier this week in St. Louis, Missouri, some of the messengers called for action to be taken against the ERLC for joining the amicus brief.

Messenger John Wofford of Armorel Baptist Church of Armorel, Arkansas, requested a motion Tuesday calling for the firing of SBC officials who support the building of mosques.

“I move that all Southern Baptist officials or officers who support the rights of Muslims to build Islamic mosques in the United States be immediately removed from their position within the Southern Baptist Convention,” Wofford said.

Later during that same session Jerry Moss of South County Baptist Church in St. Louis proposed a resolution to have the ERLC remove its name from the amicus brief.

“God’s Word, the Holy Bible, states not to be unequally yoked to an unbeliever,” Moss said. “The union seems to be an equal to the building of a golden calf, found in Exodus.”

“The religion of Islam does not adhere to the same tenants and beliefs, or uphold the same freedoms as that of Christianity.”

While both motions received seconds, they were later ruled out of order because their application would have exceeded the authority of the SBC and its messengers.

The rationale behind these motions does not hold up under scrutiny. The exhortation to “not be unequally yoked to an unbeliever” has to do with spiritual enterprises, not secular or civil matters. At issue in the Islamic Society lawsuit is the right to freely exercise religion, not the veracity of Islamic doctrine. Supporting the right of a Muslim to worship does not support their beliefs. Assertions to the contrary do palpable harm to religious liberty.

Those who seek to suppress religious freedom frequently argue that allowing discrimination is the same as endorsing the reasoning behind that discrimination. They argue, in essence, that you cannot uphold the rights of others without endorsing how they exercise those rights. Those SBC members who raised these motions subscribe to the same logic. They claim that supporting the right of Muslims to worship is the same thing as supporting how they worship. That’s absurd.

If reasons exist for denying an application for the construction of a mosque, they must go beyond the fact that the applicants are Muslim. A group’s beliefs and how they worship are not legitimate considerations in determining whether they have the right to worship.