SCOTUS up angle1

Written by Don Byrd

I wrote yesterday about the Baptist Joint Committee’s brief filed with the Supreme Court opposing government funding of churches and supporting the right of states to exclude churches from grant programs to avoid church-state entanglements.

Baptist News Global’s Bob Allen reported on the brief, and included quotes from the BJC’s Holly Hollman during the recent Cooperative Baptist Fellowship Luncheon. Read the whole thing! But here is snippet that seems especially important:

“Religious liberty does sometimes mean treating religion differently,” Hollman explained at a recent luncheon during the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship General Assembly in Greensboro, N.C. “Sometimes that means something that almost seems like a special benefit. Sometimes it means it kind of feels like a special detriment — you don’t get everything that other people get.”

Hollman reminded 750 people at the BJC’s Religious Liberty Council Luncheon June 24 that the idea of no establishment of religion comes out of a particular period in American history “where establishment meant tax support for churches.”

“That’s our history. That’s what we’ve broken away from. So we shouldn’t take lightly challenges that would say treat churches like everything else, fund them like everything else.”

“If you fund them like everything else, you’re probably going to regulate them like everything else,” Hollman continued. “After a while the autonomy of the local church, the important special role that religious liberty plays in our society, is then hampered.”

This is an incredibly important point. What might feel like a detriment to churches (the inability to participate in certain government funding programs) is not necessarily a threat to religious liberty. Just the opposite. Separation from certain government benefits is in many ways the flip side of religious exemptions churches often enjoy from certain government regulations. It is part of the whole of the church-state relationship. As the BJC’s brief explains, such a ban on funding does not represent “hostility” toward religion. It is instead an important means of protecting religious liberty for all.

You can read more about the brief and the case at the BJC’s Trinity Lutheran resource page.