Written by Don Byrd
As the Senate confirmation hearings get under way this week for Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, the Baptist Joint Committee’s Associate General Counsel Jennifer Hawks writes him an open letter published at Baptist News Global to discuss the “wall of separation” between church and state. She makes the important case that it is a helpful concept in protecting religious liberty.
Here is an excerpt:
In reviewing your record, I was disappointed to learn that you think the metaphor of a wall of separation is “wrong as a matter of law and history.” Admittedly, all metaphors are imperfect; yet, good metaphors are one of the best ways to conceptualize an abstract idea. As a religious liberty advocate, constitutional attorney and ordained Baptist minister, I urge you to reconsider the metaphor you’ve disparaged.
Separating the institutions of religion and government ensures that the rights and responsibilities of citizenship do not rise or fall based on compliance with state-sanctioned religion. The institutional wall provided space for our dissenting religious ancestors to seek converts and pass their religious teachings down to current generations. It is up to the people, not the government, to teach our respective faith traditions to future generations. For faith to be vital, it must be voluntary and uncoerced.
Today, Senators on the Judiciary Committee made their opening statements. Tomorrow, the questioning begins. I would expect and hope that religious liberty topics will be addressed with Kavanaugh at some point. Stay tuned.