The Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty’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.
Religious Liberty for ALL
The Baptist Joint Committee works to improve the public’s understanding of our constitutional values by standing up for religious minorities and anyone being targeted solely because of his or her faith.
The BJC believes that a threat to anyone’s religious liberty is a threat to everyone’s religious liberty. From our coalition efforts with members of other religions to our work standing up for the right of all individuals to practice their faith freely (or practice no faith), the BJC defends both our fellow Christians and individuals whose beliefs differ from our own.
President Donald J. Trump’s Executive Order on immigration:
The travel ban first issued by President Donald J. Trump in January 2017 has been appealed and modified over time. The third iteration went before the U.S. Supreme Court on April 25, 2018, and BJC General Counsel Holly Hollman joined a brief explaining that it is unconstitutional. Read her statement here.
On January 27, 2017, the Baptist Joint Committee condemned President Donald Trump’s executive order that included a religious test for future refugees. BJC Executive Director Amanda Tyler said that action is a “back-door bar on Muslim refugees” and it sends the un-American message that there are second-class faiths. “A threat to anyone’s religious liberty is a threat to everyone’s religious liberty, and we as Baptists stand with those facing religious persecution around the world, regardless of their faith,” she said.
Click here for a list of BJC statements about this issue throughout 2017.
‘Know Your Neighbor’ coalition:
In 2015, the Baptist Joint Committee began its work with other organizations in the Know Your Neighbor coalition, which calls on all Americans to share their own beliefs as well as understand and respect those of others. The coalition believes that dialogue is desperately needed to reduce religious tensions and maximize the strength of our nation’s diverse heritage.
Examples of court cases:
Holt v. Hobbs, decided by the U.S. Supreme Court on Jan. 20, 2015. The BJC joined a brief defending a Muslim prisoner’s right to have a beard for religious reasons. A unanimous Supreme Court agreed, declaring that the prisoner can exercise his religious belief by adhering to certain religious grooming standards.
Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. Abercrombie & Fitch Stores, Inc., decided by the U.S. Supreme Court on June 1, 2015. The case centered on a woman who was denied a retail job because of her headscarf. The BJC joined a brief that says employers have a duty to reasonably accommodate the religion of employees and avoid discrimination against prospective employees. The Supreme Court agreed in an 8-1 decision.
Islamic Society of Basking Ridge v. Township of Bernards: The BJC joined a brief in the U.S. District Court for New Jersey in 2016 asserting that the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act prohibits different municipal rules for building a mosque than for a church. The court agreed that the denial of a permit for the mosque was unlawful.
Podcast: Know Your Neighbor
Learn more about this initiative from Gurwin Ahuja, founder of Know Your Neighbor and the National Sikh Cammpaign.
Why does this matter to everyone?
The American experiment in religious liberty has been successful in large part because it has been able to protect the religious freedom of “fringe” religions — from Baptists in colonial times to Catholics and Mormons in the 19th Century to Jehovah’s Witnesses and Christian Scientists in the 20th.
While helping to ensure our Constitution’s promise of religious liberty in a vibrant religious landscape, the BJC seeks to foster open discussion about religion and matters of faith.
For Further Reading
“Unprecedented” call to close U.S. borders to Muslims is un-American
Reaching out to our Muslim neighbors
By BJC Executive Director J. Brent Walker
Protect religious liberty: Reject false narratives, big and small; condemn violence, not religion
By BJC General Counsel Holly Hollman
Fear fuels anti-Sharia initiatives
By BJC General Counsel Holly Hollman
Religious liberty in America:
An enduring promise
By BJC General Counsel Holly Hollman and Hoda Elshishtawy from the Muslim Public Affairs Council
Distributed June 2013 by Common Ground News Service