Mission & History
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.
Primarily an education and advocacy organization, the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty is a leading voice in Washington, D.C., fighting to uphold the historic Baptist principle of religious freedom. It stands guard at the intersection of church and state, defending the first freedom of the First Amendment by protecting both the free exercise of religion and defending against its establishment by government.
Composed of representatives of 15 national, state and regional Baptist bodies in the United States and supported by thousands of churches and individuals across the country, the BJC is the only faith-based agency devoted solely to religious liberty and the institutional separation of church and state. We often combine our efforts with a wide range of religious and civil liberties groups to provide education about and advocacy for religious liberty.
The BJC fights for religious liberty for all, working with other Christian groups as well as with groups that represent Jewish, Muslim, Hindu and other religious and non-religious perspectives.
For more, visit our frequently asked questions page or view our handout titled “Religious liberty is a gift from God.”
Baptists have valued religious freedom and separation of church and state because they suffered the hard lessons of history. From jail cells in England to stockades in Massachusetts Bay to whipping posts in Virginia, early Baptists experienced firsthand the pain of persecution — the heartache and bloodshed caused by religious zealots armed with the coercive power of government.
The separation of church and state, or the “wall of separation” talked about by Colonial Baptist Roger Williams, early American leader 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. Separation has been good for both church and state.
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 September 2004, the BJC board of directors voted to change the organization’s name to the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty to more accurately reflect its singular focus on religious liberty issues.