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Land tells SBTC crowd ERLC speaks for majority of Southern Baptists


ARLINGTON, Texas (BP)–“No one presumes to speak for all Southern Baptists, but we do presume to speak for the majority of Southern Baptists,” stated Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission President Richard Land in speaking to the Feb. 6 Southern Baptists of Texas Convention’s Great Commission Partners in the Harvest Luncheon.

As the leader of one of the SBC entities that stands to gain from a special one-time offering being raised by the new state convention, Land described the responsibility he assumes in representing Southern Baptists on moral and religious liberty issues.

Reflecting on charges by moderate Baptists that he should not try to represent the views of Southern Baptists, Land said, “The ERLC would never get involved in endorsing candidates, but when it comes to cabinet members, we do [get involved] because you don’t have a chance to vote on them.” The recent confirmation hearing for Attorney General John Ashcroft was cited by Land as a particularly worthy opportunity for the ERLC to take a stand.

“What happened to John Ashcroft is religious profiling,” Land said.

Observing that Sen. Joseph Lieberman, an Orthodox Jew, attends a synagogue where men and women are seated on separate sides of the room, Land said, “Not one commentator has said to him, `Are you going to be biased in discriminating against women because you’re an Orthodox Jew?’ But they feel perfectly free to question all of John Ashcroft’s beliefs and say he won’t fulfill the law because of his beliefs.”

Land called such an attitude “anti-evangelical bigotry,” adding, “The only way it can succeed is if we cower into silence, and we are not going to be made to be quiet!”

Refusing to answer what Land regards as “blasphemous” questions by reporters asking if God is a Republican, he responded, “You can’t reduce God to any merely human construction, particularly a political party. But trust me — God is pro-life!” He drew from biblical testimony to recount the refusal of Jews to practice infanticide. “Jews didn’t do it because their God had told them in Psalm 139 that he knitted them and embroidered them together in their mother’s womb and all their parts were formed before any of them came to be.”

Land told the SBTC audience he was once asked by a reporter whether it is confusing to go to Washington and find the ERLC bringing “the Baptist perspective” while the Baptist Joint Committee on Public Affairs is also claiming to bring “the Baptist perspective.” In addition, the reporter said, the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship claims to represent the Baptist perspective.

“I find in Washington they’re less confused than anywhere else because everyone who holds office in Washington got there by holding an election. Not everyone in the district voted for them, just the majority,” Land explained.

He said the government representatives in Washington know that “the majority spoke for us for more than two decades,” referring to Southern Baptist Convention support for ERLC and its predecessor, the Christian Life Commission. “They know the ERLC speaks for Southern Baptists when the Southern Baptist Convention has spoken,” he said in a reference to resolutions and doctrinal statements approved by messengers.

Land attended the recent national prayer breakfast at which President George Bush spoke to the largest crowd ever gathered for such an event. “There was a standing ovation rolling across the entire audience when President Bush said, `We’re going to put the government on the side of the armies of compassion. The days of discriminating against institutions merely because they’re religious has come to an end.'”

Land continued, “We believe we have been asked by you in your stead, with your support, to stand in the gap and repair the hedge.” That support led ERLC to file a friend of court brief to state SBC opposition to requiring Boy Scouts to have homosexual scoutmasters, he explained. “That was a tremendous victory,” Land said of the Supreme Court decision, adding, “but only a five-to-four victory. We should be sobered and driven to our knees in prayer that four Supreme Court justices thought the Boy Scouts ought to be required to have homosexual scoutmasters. What the Supreme Court can tell the Boy Scouts to do today they can tell religious institutions to do tomorrow and the churches the day after that,” he warned.

In filing another brief on behalf of Southern Baptists to oppose partial-birth abortion, Land predicted, “We’re going to win that one yet!” Anticipating increased activity on the part of conservative evangelicals in Washington, Land said, “We’ve got a president who feels our pain, the pain of being mocked and ridiculed by the media and the cultural elites. You know, and I know, it’s a mighty healing balm when you’ve been ridiculed and mocked and caricatured by power elites of this culture for the president of the United States to stand up and say he’s on your side.”
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  • Tammi Reed Ledbetter