I gave Richard Land credit for being on the right side of religious liberty in supporting mosque construction (supporting it outside of Manhattan, anyway), so I am saddened and a bit puzzled to see the Southern Baptist leader now leaving the interfaith coalition, started by the Anti-Defamation League, that came together around that cause. AP reports :

Richard Land, the head of the SBC's Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, said he heard from many Southern Baptists who felt the work of the Interfaith Coalition on Mosques crossed the line from defending religious freedom to promoting Islam.

"I don't agree with that perception but it's widespread and I have to respect it," he told The Associated Press.

"My constituents, many felt, 'Yes. We certainly believe in religious freedom. People ought to have a place of worship. But it's a bridge too far not only to advocate for that, but to file suit,'" he said.

I'm a little confused. He's backing out because of pressure from constituents, who hold a perception he thinks is wrong? "I don't agree with that perception but it's widespread and I have to respect it"? Where is the rule that says we have to respect widespread mis-perception? How about shining a light on the truth instead? And reminding those you represent of core Baptist principles?

While I'm at it, how is it "a bridge too far" to defend the religious freedom rights of others in court? Shouldn't all of our voices be raised in that effort? After all, if the rights of any Americans are compromised, then the rights of all of us are placed in jeopardy. Baptists, above all, should recognize that. An attitude that says "you defend yours and we will defend ours" does not live up to true our heritage and experience. Leaders in the Baptist faith should educate, engage and oppose that insular temptation, not bow to it.