The BJC’s mission is to defend and extend God-given religious liberty for all, furthering the Baptist heritage that champions the principle that religion must be freely exercised, neither advanced nor inhibited by government.
What is the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty?
The BJC is a nonpartisan, nonprofit 501(c)(3) education and advocacy denominational organization that defends religious freedom and upholds the principle of church-state separation. While primarily supported by Baptists (denominational groups, churches and individuals), the BJC works for religious liberty for all, including Jewish, Muslim and a host of Christian and minority religious groups and non-religious groups who count on the organization for leadership.
The BJC is the only religious agency devoted solely to the principles of religious liberty outlined in the two religion clauses of the First Amendment: the Free Exercise Clause and the Establishment Clause. It leads key coalitions of religious and civil liberties groups striving to protect both the free exercise of religion and to defend against its establishment by government.
Who supports the Baptist Joint Committee?
The BJC is supported by 15 Baptist bodies in the United States and thousands of churches and individuals across the country. The BJC’s Board of Directors is composed of representatives of the 15 supporting Baptist organizations.
Its legislative work includes monitoring legislation relating to church-state matters, and its efforts often are coordinated with coalitions of other groups. On any particular bill, the BJC may analyze the legislation, join coalition efforts for or against the bill, lead congressional staff briefings on the need for or implications of a bill, or contact legislative offices directly on behalf of the BJC.
The organization also monitors church-state litigation, providing analysis of cases and participating in some of the more pressing matters affecting religious freedom. The BJC does not initiate litigation but participates primarily through coordinated amicus curiae (friend-of the-court) briefs at the U.S. Supreme Court and other courts. The BJC is often asked to join such efforts, as well as to contribute to the planning, writing and editing process, or to do outreach for additional support for amicus efforts.
In addition, the BJC is involved in ongoing education efforts, developing resources and leading educational programs. The organization often hosts groups in its Center for Religious Liberty on Capitol Hill, and staff members routinely are quoted in the media and speak in locations across the country, including churches, universities, seminaries and civic gatherings.
How does the Baptist Joint Committee help churches?
In addition to serving churches as a religious liberty watchdog agency in the nation’s capital, the BJC staff often leads educational programs in churches, including preaching sermons and teaching Sunday school, and publishes resources on religious liberty issues for congregational use. The organization also can be counted on if church leaders have particular church-state questions about which they would like to consult.
Why does the Baptist Joint Committee support church-state separation?
The separation of church and state, or the “wall of separation” talked about by early Baptist Roger Williams, framer Thomas Jefferson, and the U.S. Supreme Court, is simply a shorthand metaphor for expressing a deeper truth. Religious liberty is best protected when church and state are institutionally separated and neither tries to perform or interfere with the essential mission and work of the other.
When government and religion are merged, one of two things happens, and both are bad. At worst, consciences are violated, leading sometimes to persecution. At the very least, state-controlled religion – even in the hands of a benevolent government – waters religion down and robs it of its vitality.
Is the Baptist Joint Committee nonpartisan?
Yes. The mission of the BJC is focused solely on advocating religious liberty and its constitutional corollary, the separation of church and state. The BJC does not support or oppose candidates for elective office. The BJC pursues a balanced, sensibly centrist position on church-state issues, affirming both religion clauses in the First Amendment – no establishment and free exercise – as essential to guaranteeing our God-given religious freedom.
Does the Baptist Joint Committee speak for Baptists?
The BJC does not claim to speak for all Baptists, or for any Baptist on all issues. It speaks to Baptists and to others about what it means to be Baptist. In this sense, the BJC exists to serve Baptists by defending and extending freedom for all.
What is the history of the Baptist Joint Committee?
The BJC traces its roots to 1936 as the Southern Baptist Committee on Public Relations. After joining forces with American and National Baptists, the committee established offices in Washington, D.C., in 1946 and became the Baptist Joint Committee on Public Affairs. The BJC is now sponsored by 15 Baptist groups in the United States. In 2005, the BJC name changed to the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty to more accurately reflect its singular focus on religious liberty issues. Read more about our history or download our 75th anniversary booklet
How can I connect with the Baptist Joint Committee?
Sign up to receive our magazine, Report from the Capital, and email updates for the latest news. Follow our blog at BJConline.org/blog, and find us on Facebook, Twitter and Google+.
If you are planning a visit to Washington, D.C., learn more about visiting the BJC’s Center for Religious Liberty for an educational session. You can also inquire about bringing a member of the BJC staff to your church or community.
FAQ about Giving to the BJC