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Land, Pressler headline conference on religious liberty

FORT WORTH, Texas (BP)–Religious liberty will be examined by some of Southern Baptists’ most outspoken public policy advocates and brightest historians at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary’s first annual conference on key Baptist doctrines.

Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission and one of the Sept. 8-9 conference’s speakers, noted that “religious liberty, particularly the free exercise right under the Constitution to express our faith according to the dictates of our own consciences, is under sustained and unrelenting assault by radical secularist groups, often aided and abetted by the nation’s courts.”

Land, who will speak on the role of religious liberty in the founding and development of America, warned, “Unless we understand and vigorously defend our religious freedoms, we stand in grave danger of seeing them significantly diminish in America in the near future.”

Judge Paul Pressler, one of the architects of the conservative resurgence in the SBC, will address contemporary issues of religious liberty facing judges in America’s courtrooms. Pressler was appointed to the Texas Court of Appeals in 1978 and served as a justice there until his retirement in 1992. Before that, Pressler was a state district judge for eight years. A popular speaker on constitutional issues, Pressler serves on the boards of Salem Communication Corporation and Free Market Foundation.

Malcolm Yarnell, director of the Southwestern Center for Theological Research and assistant dean for theological studies at Southwestern Seminary, will present a lecture on the beginnings of Southern Baptist political ideology. He said his presentation will enable pastors and laymen to reflect on the political theology that informed the foundation of the SBC in 1845, helping them critique their own understanding of what God demands of politics.

“We believe attendees will come away with, first of all, an appreciation for their Baptist heritage,” Yarnell said. “Second, they will come away with a renewed approach to exercising their civic responsibilities in a God-honoring manner.”

Other speakers will include Southwestern Seminary President Paige Patterson; Russell Moore, dean of the theology school at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky.; and Emir Caner, dean of The College of Southwestern.

Patterson will examine the intersection of religious liberty and the preaching of salvation exclusively in Jesus Christ, while Moore will address the dangers and consequences of viewing religion principally as a cultural concern. Caner, a former Muslim, will speak on the prospects for religious liberty in Islamic nations.

Other speakers will focus on topics such as religious liberty in a time of war, the differences between religious liberty and religious autonomy, the role of ministers in contemporary political discourse and the relationship of natural law and religious liberty.

“The First Freedom: A Conference on Religious Liberty” is co-sponsored by Southwestern’s Center for Leadership Development and the Southwestern Center for Theological Research.

The conference will be held in the seminary’s Center for Leadership Development in Fort Worth, Texas.

“There are special rates available for church groups and college, seminary and law school students,” said Thomas White, director of the Center for Leadership Development. “Anyone interested can’t afford to miss hearing these Baptists leaders express their understanding of religious liberty and related topics.”
Registration information is available online at www.swbts.edu/conferences.

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  • Gregory Tomlin