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Declaration Of Human Rights

Preamble: Human rights is a major moral issue of our time. It has captured the attention of the world. Introduced into the political equation, it has threatened world peace on the one hand and engendered new hope for the oppressed on the other. Widespread abuses of human rights have helped create a rising tide of concern for the poor, for minorities, for dissenters, and for political prisoners. Baptist churches have a stake in the issue of human rights, for our own Baptist history and heritage have been formed in a crucible which has both demanded and produced human rights.

Definition: Southern Baptists believe that humanity is created by God in God’s own image (Genesis 1:26-27). We believe that in Jesus Christ, God “so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). We believe, as our nation’s founders said in the Declaration of Independence, that all persons “are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.” And we believe with the framers of the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights that human rights include freedom from involuntary servitude, arbitrary arrest and imprisonment, torture, unfair trial, cruel and unusual punishment, and invasion of privacy; rights to family life, property, work, and equal pay for equal work as well as food, shelter, health care, and education; and freedom of thought, speech, assembly, religion, movement, and participation in government.

Biblical Basis: Southern Baptists stand for the worth of the individual, the priesthood of the believer, freedom of conscience, and the sanctity of life. We hold that these human rights are the gift of God. We believe that they spring from the Bible’s revelation that all persons are made in “the likeness of God” (James 3:9, RSV). We believe that they are vitally related to Christ’s life and work and death and resurrection whereby, “having slain the enmity” (Ephesians 2:16) by bringing alienation and hostility to an end, He brought into being a new humanity oriented toward “new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness” (2 Peter 3:13). We believe that they coincide with the Bible’s teachings in support of justice, mercy, peace, and righteousness. We believe that every human being has basic human rights which may not rightly be relinquished, abridged, or denied. Moreover, we believe that Jesus Christ revealed His own support for human rights when He declared, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord” (Luke 4:18-19, RSV).

Scope: Today we are confronted with abuses of human rights at home and abroad. As in the days of the prophets, God has looked for justice among the people of the earth and too often has found exploitation; He has looked for peace and too often has found bloodshed; He has looked for righteousness and too often has found the cry of the poor, the hungry, the orphaned, the widowed, and the oppressed (Psalm 10:18; Isaiah 1:23, 3:14-15; Amos 26-7; James 1:27-2:1-9). We are gravely concerned about the widespread denial of human rights at the hands of our political allies as well as our political adversaries. Our concern for tortured, unjustly imprisoned, and politically oppressed persons abroad is matched by our concern for the rights of women, blacks, ethnic minorities, the poor, the aging, the sick, and abused children in our midst. Christians are obligated not only to provide in Jesus’ name cups of cold water for individuals whose human rights have been violated, but also to deal in a forthright and corrective way with social structures which abuse and violate human rights. We are determined not to take our own rights and freedoms so lightly that we ignore the rights and freedoms of others no matter how far away or how small or weak they are; and we are determined to be courageous defenders of human rights who will not be deterred in the fight to make all people free.

Call to Action: We therefore issue this call to action on behalf of human rights.

Let Southern Baptist citizens be committed to political action on behalf of human rights at home and abroad, responsibly involving ourselves as God’s salt, God’s light, and God’s leaven in the whole political process.

Let Southern Baptist pastors, knowing that “where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty” (Corinthians 3:17), preach the Word of God without fear or favor as it highlights human rights.

Let Southern Baptist churches be boldly involved in championing justice for the oppressed, providing food for the hungry, supporting changes in those laws and systems which abuse the poor while providing loopholes for the rich, doing the things that make for peace, and effecting change where change is needed to support basic human rights.

Let Southern Baptist agencies demonstrate by words and deeds an unswerving loyalty to Christ issuing in uncompromised and uncompromising commitment to human rights.

Let Southern Baptists not be weighed and found wanting in commitment to God-given and Bible-based human rights. Let us heed Jesus who said, “I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, and I was naked and you clothed me. I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me . . . As you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me” (Matthew 25:35-36, 40, RSV).

Recommendations: The Christian Life Commission recommends the adoption of this Declaration.