Written by Don Byrd

An NPR story that aired this morning offered some big-picture perspective on the nature of religious liberty in America today. Specifically, the report delved into the fracture in the bipartisan legislative coalition that came together 25 years ago to pass overwhelmingly the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA). In the interim, concerns over how religious freedom claims impact the civil rights of the LGBT community have turned that previous consensus around RFRA into a political wedge issue. 

What happened? And what can be done about it?

Among the experts interviewed for the piece was the Baptist Joint Committee’s Holly Hollman. Here is an excerpt from the transcript of the story:

GJELTEN: Meanwhile, groups that have seen themselves in the middle on the religious freedom issue, like the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty, are dismayed.

HOLLY HOLLMAN: When you say you work for the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty, they want to know, what kind of religious liberty?

GJELTEN: Holly Hollman is the group’s general counsel.

HOLLMAN: It is more difficult to get a broad coalition on religious freedom efforts now. People have a bad taste in their mouth about what they think the other side thinks of religious freedom.

GJELTEN: As to who’s to blame, Hollman is evenhanded.

HOLLMAN: It is unfortunate that some on the right will use religious freedom in order to advance a particular partisan issue. I think it is problematic on the left to cede arguments about religious freedom to just say people just use that now to advance an anti-LGBT perspective.

You can listen to the story here: “The Debate Over What Religious Freedom Means.”

For more on RFRA, see the Baptist Joint Committee’s RFRA Resource Page.