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On Religious Liberty

WHEREAS, We, as Southern Baptists, hold that the Scripture is the inspired and inerrant Word of God and the supreme standard by which all human conduct, creeds, and religious opinions should be tried; and

WHEREAS, We join millions of other evangelicals in affirming the exclusive claims of Jesus Christ as God and the only Savior and in affirming the necessity of personal faith in Him (John 14:6), truths which are at the very heart of the Christian faith; and

WHEREAS, Genuine faith, by definition, cannot be coerced or legislated; and

WHEREAS, Southern Baptists and other evangelicals have been subject to intense criticism for our insistence that a faith, which engenders or encourages religious persecution or interferes with free exercise of religion, is not consistent with the revelation of God; and

WHEREAS, Southern Baptists and other evangelical Christians have in recent months been increasingly portrayed by the media and by international government sources as intolerant and even dangerous because of our commitment to Christ as the only way of salvation; and

WHEREAS, The basic human right of religious liberty was formulated in America originally by freedom-loving activists, many of whom also cherished the confidence that only in Jesus could one know God; and

WHEREAS, It has become apparent that many in government and media have forgotten or willingly misrepresented the long history of Baptists as determined advocates of freedom, especially religious liberty; and

WHEREAS, There is a growing movement to label the preaching of the Christian gospel a “hate crime”; now, therefore, be it

RESOLVED, That the messengers to the Southern Baptist Convention meeting in Phoenix, Arizona, June 17–18, 2003, call upon the media, government, and society at large to recognize that Baptists have been and continue to be ardent advocates of religious liberty; and be it further

RESOLVED, That we call on all social orders professing to desire the best for their citizens to embrace absolute religious liberty as a basic and essential human right; and be it further

RESOLVED, That we remind the international community that religious liberty is not merely the right to remain in the religion of one’s birth, but includes the right of anyone to change his religious loyalties without fear of persecution; and be it finally

RESOLVED, That we call on the government of the United States of America not only to continue the most vigorous support of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution at home, but also to protect this most basic and essential liberty of people around the world by openly advocating this freedom for all and by considering candidates for government assistance on the basis of their willingness to protect their citizens against all forms of religious discrimination and persecution.