Written by Don Byrd

Americans are at our best – and, I would argue, Christians are too – when we look for common ground and opportunities to bring each other together across diverse faith traditions; when we respect each other’s religious differences; when we acknowledge that a commitment to religious pluralism enriches our faith and makes real the promise of religious liberty. 

That’s why I’m proud that the Baptist Joint Committee is a leader in the Know Your Neighbor campaign, an interfaith initiative designed to foster dialogue across religious and cultural lines. And that’s also why people of all faiths should decry any effort to widen cultural divisions along religious lines, whether it’s promoted by fringe activists, religious fundamentalists, or government leaders, including the President of the United States.

Those who would target Muslims, Jews, or adherents of any faith, with fear, hatred, and mistrust undermine fundamental principles of religious liberty and diminish the ideals of a free conscience. Using religious identity as shorthand for criminality and a threat to security has a long, shameful history as the purest and most despicable form of religious bigotry. What do we stand for as people of faith who believe in liberty if we are not willing to stand against it?

As is often said, when the religious liberty of anyone is threatened, the religious liberty of all of us is in jeopardy. Our capacity to caricature, demean, and scapegoat one another, to point an accusatory finger at an entire faith tradition, making more fearful a simple act of worship or religious expression, is as dangerous a threat to religious liberty as any.

In a powerful column critiquing President Trump’s re-tweets earlier today of videos posted by the leader of an anti-Muslim extremist group in Britain, Yair Rosenberg writes “In the space of a tweet, a vibrant faith is recast as a mendacious monolith. It is all too easy to fall into the Trump trap when it comes to stereotyping other religious communities.”

Jesus taught that the second greatest commandment, right behind loving the Lord God with all our heart, is to love our neighbor. (Mark 12:30-31). Preserving constitutional and human rights for all calls on us to uphold the fundamental dignity of all, with respect, understanding, and yes, love. We should strongly condemn those who would encourage us otherwise.