Evangelical Leaders Say Religious Freedom for All, Not Just Christians

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(Photo: Mud Productions / Stephen Elliot)Leith Anderson, president of the National Association of Evangelicals, speaks during the 2009 Evangelical Leaders Forum at First Baptist Church of Glenarden in Landover, Md., on Oct. 8, 2009.

In response to a survey about national security and civil liberties in light of terror attacks, a group of notable evangelicals are rejecting a view of religious freedom that prioritizes Christians over other groups.

According to the latest poll from the Associated Press and the NORC Center for Public Affairs Research out the University of Chicago, the vast majority of Americans agree that it's important to protect the freedom of religion for various religious groups in the United States.

Yet "while 82 percent of Americans say it is very or extremely important that Christians
are allowed to practice their religion freely in the United States, just 61 percent say the same about protecting religious freedom for Muslims."

"Another 80 percent of Americans say it is very or extremely important for people like them to be able to practice their religion freely, 72 percent say it is important to protect the religious freedoms of Jews, and 67 percent say it is important to protect the religious freedoms of Mormons," the report reads.

In an email to the Christian Post, the National Association of Evangelicals sent its Evangelical Leaders Survey from last month highlighting the words several prominent pastors and leaders asserting that religious freedom must apply equally across the board and not favor practicing Christians.

"The freedom to practice any religion — or no religion at all — is basic to religious liberty. When Christians advocate for religious liberty, we are not seeking a special privilege for Christians, but promoting a basic human right for all people," said Philip Ryken, president of Wheaton College in Illinois, in the release.

Leith Anderson, president of the NAE, added, "Evangelical leaders believe religious freedom is a basic human right for all people, and that protecting the religious freedom for people of other faiths is protecting their own freedom."

Founding pastor of Hosanna! Lutheran Church William Bohline, concurred, noting that "if religious freedom is not extended to other religions, then it is simply 'Christian freedom,' a narrow and exclusive 'freedom,' which is not freedom at all."

Steve Moore, president of nexleader, an initiative of the Association for Biblical Higher Education, asked: "How could we ask Muslim countries to grant freedom of religion to Jesus-followers in their country if we don't grant it for all religions in the United States?"

Their words echo those of Russell Moore at last years annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention amid controversy over his support for Muslims having the ability to build mosques where they choose to build in the United States.

"What it means to be a Baptist is to support soul freedom for everybody," said Moore, president of SBC's Ethics and Religious Liberty Commision, as The Christian Post reported on Jun. 16.

"When you have a government that says 'we can decide whether or not a house of worship can be constructed based upon the theological beliefs of that house of worship,' then there are going to be Southern Baptist churches in San Francisco and New York and throughout this country who are not going to be able to build," he said.

When asked, "Do you support the same religious freedom protection for people of non-Christian faiths as for Christians?" 100 percent of respondents to the Evangelical Leaders Survey answered "yes." 

The Evangelical Leaders Survey is an monthly poll of the Board of Directors of the National Association of Evangelicals that includes the CEOs of denominations and representatives of a wide range of evangelical organizations including missions groups, Christian universities, publishers and churches. It is not a representative sample of all evangelical leaders. The sample size was not reported.

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