Religious Liberty for ALL

The Baptist Joint Committee works to improve the public’s understanding of our constitutional values by standing up for religious minorities and anyone being targeted solely because of his or her faith.

The BJC believes that a threat to anyone’s religious liberty is a threat to everyone’s religious liberty. From our coalition efforts with members of other religions to our work standing up for the right of all individuals to practice their faith freely (or practice no faith), the BJC defends both our fellow Christians and individuals whose beliefs differ from our own.

Fighting Islamophobia

The BJC has consistently stood against attempts to target anyone for unfair treatment based on religion.

A travel ban first issued by President Donald J. Trump in January 2017 has been appealed and modified over time. When the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the ban on June 26, 2018, BJC Executive Director Amanda Tyler said, “We are deeply disappointed by the Supreme Court’s refusal to repudiate policy rooted in animus against Muslims.” The entire statement is available online. BJC General Counsel Holly Hollman joined a brief explaining that it is unconstitutional. 

On January 27, 2017, the Baptist Joint Committee condemned President Donald Trump’s executive order that included a religious test for future refugees. BJC Executive Director Amanda Tyler said that action is a “back-door bar on Muslim refugees” and it sends the un-American message that there are second-class faiths. “A threat to anyone’s religious liberty is a threat to everyone’s religious liberty, and we as Baptists stand with those facing religious persecution around the world, regardless of their faith,” she said.

Click here for a list of BJC statements about this issue throughout 2017. Learn more about the BJC’s efforts to counter Islamophobia here, and scroll down to the “Baptist-Muslim Dialogues” section of this page for additional information.

Standing up for our neighbors in the Courts

The BJC’s litigation work involves a variety of cases dealing with religious liberty. We participate directly in cases only through coordinated amicus curiae (friend-of-the-court) briefs at the U.S. Supreme Court and other courts.

Here are a few examples of our work specifically related to standing up for religious liberty for all people:

Holt v. Hobbs, decided by the U.S. Supreme Court on Jan. 20, 2015. The BJC joined a brief defending a Muslim prisoner’s right to have a beard for religious reasons. A unanimous Supreme Court agreed, declaring that the prisoner can exercise his religious belief by adhering to certain religious grooming standards.

Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. Abercrombie & Fitch Stores, Inc., decided by the U.S. Supreme Court on June 1, 2015. The case centered on a woman who was denied a retail job because of her headscarf. The BJC joined a brief that says employers have a duty to reasonably accommodate the religion of employees and avoid discrimination against prospective employees. The Supreme Court agreed in an 8-1 decision.

Islamic Society of Basking Ridge v. Township of BernardsThe BJC  joined a brief in the U.S. District Court for New Jersey in 2016 asserting that the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act prohibits different municipal rules for building a mosque than for a church. The court agreed that the denial of a permit for the mosque was unlawful.

Learn more about the BJC’s efforts to stand up for the rights of others in the court of law.

Know Your Neighbor Coalition

In 2015, the Baptist Joint Committee began its work with other organizations in the Know Your Neighbor coalition, which calls on all Americans to share their own beliefs as well as understand and respect those of others. The coalition believes that dialogue is desperately needed to reduce religious tensions and maximize the strength of our nations diverse heritage.

Learn more about this initiative from Gurwin Ahuja, founder of Know Your Neighbor and the National Sikh Campaign. Learn more about the BJC’s work with other coalition efforts here, or read on to get actionable ideas for taking action and welcoming your neighbors.

Baptist-Muslim Dialogues

The Baptist Joint Committee is committed to building bridges and engaging in interfaith conversations. In our May/June 2018 magazine, we focused on various efforts of Baptists standing up for our Muslim neighbors, and we highlighted some important work happening across the country. 

Click here to read more about the Third National Baptist-Muslim Dialogue, held in 2018 in Wisconsin.

Read a reflection from the Rev. Kyle Tubbs on the Baptist-Muslim Dialogue: Religious freedom, privilege and interfaith dialogue

Read a perspective on religious liberty from Maha Elgenaidi, founder and executive director of the Islamic Networks group.

Read previous articles regarding the BJC’s coverage and countering of Islamophobia below:

“Unprecedented” call to close U.S. borders to Muslims is un-American (December 2015)

Reaching out to our Muslim neighbors (May 2013)

Protect religious liberty: Reject false narratives, big and small; condemn violence, not religion (Winter 2015)

Fear fuels anti-Sharia initiatives  (February 2011)

Why should everyone care about religious liberty for all?

The American experiment in religious liberty has been successful in large part because it has been able to protect the religious freedom of “fringe” religions — from Baptists in colonial times to Catholics and Mormons in the 19th Century to Jehovah’s Witnesses and Christian Scientists in the 20th.

While helping to ensure our Constitution’s promise of religious liberty in a vibrant religious landscape, the BJC seeks to foster open discussion about religion and matters of faith. Read on to learn why religious liberty in America is an enduring promise.

When we partner with others, we don’t necessarily look for groups where we share the same theological beliefs, but groups that have the same principles. The Baptist Joint Committee has a long history of fighting for the religious freedom of all people, and that’s something that is a core principle of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.

Dwayne Leslie

Associate Director in the Department of Public Affairs and Religious Liberty and Director of Legislative Affairs, General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists

The Baptist Joint Committee has long been a leading voice — as well as the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism’s constant partner — in the work of protecting the First Amendment. In particular, the BJC’s leadership has been integral in advancing religious freedom for all people, regardless of faith or theology.

Rabbi Jonah Dov Pesner

Director, Senior Vice President, Union for Reform Judaism

The BJC is known as an organization that welcomes all people to the table and can build bridges between diverse groups. They gave us the space to host frank discussions that brought people with many different viewpoints together around a shared goal.

Gurwin Ahuja

Co-founder and Executive Director, National Sikh Campaign