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Messengers OK resolutions on ‘life, liberty and family’

NEW ORLEANS (BP)–Messengers to the 2001 Southern Baptist Convention approved without any apparent opposition nine resolutions that focused on “life, liberty and the family,” as they were described by Resolutions Committee chairman Danny Akin.

The resolutions passed June 13 included opposition to human cloning, euthanasia and religious persecution, support for the religious freedom of military chaplains, freedom of political speech and the Covenant Marriage movement, as well as condemnation of pornography on the Internet.

None of the resolutions elicited verbal opposition from or discussion by messengers.

Akin said he was not surprised there was such overwhelming support for the resolutions and said he believed the resolutions were “reflective of the heart” of Southern Baptists.

In addition to a resolution expressing appreciation for the host city and local Southern Baptists, the measures approved by messengers expressed:

— Opposition to human cloning, both for reproductive and research purposes, and a call for Congress to pass a permanent ban.

— Repudiation of euthanasia and a request for the world’s countries to express “moral outrage” at The Netherlands’ recent legalization of euthanasia.

— Condemnation of the persecution and genocide sponsored by the militant Islamic regime in the African country of Sudan and support for direct aid to the victims.

— Endorsement of the Southern Baptist World Hunger Fund and the practice of gleaning, in which a person provides part of his abundant resources for the poor.

— Opposition to “unconstitutional treatment of Southern Baptist chaplains” and others by the United States military, as well as the encouragement of policies protecting free exercise of religion in the armed forces.

— Rejection of any federal campaign finance legislation that does not protect free speech.

— Endorsement of the Covenant Marriage movement and encouragement for Southern Baptist churches to observe Covenant Marriage Sunday.

— Support for laws that provide protection from Internet pornography and for policies by public libraries that protect their patrons from exposure to such material.

The resolution on campaign finance reform does not express opposition to such an effort but concern about its impact on free speech, said Akin, dean of the school of theology at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky. Some legislation “would limit certain organizations from being able to speak at particular times leading up to a vote,” he said. “Whatever kind of campaign finance reform takes place, [the SBC] is asking that free-speech issues be honored for all and that there be no free-speech limitations put on individuals or organizations.”

A bill sponsored by U.S. Sens. John McCain and Russell Feingold has received criticism for containing such objectionable elements.

Among the subjects of the 10 resolutions introduced on the floor of the convention on which the committee took no action were the church-state aspects of faith-based initiatives, repentance for the SBC’s failure to be pro-life in its initial response to abortion, civil unions for homosexuals, released time education and the North American Mission Board’s policy on speaking in tongues.

The committee chose not to report out a resolution on faith-based initiatives because the members “felt it would be premature,” Akin said. He said he does not think either the committee or convention “believe the faith-based initiative or charitable choice is unconstitutional,” but it also is “not clear yet how it would be done.”

The committee also chose not to act because of the “complexity of the issue,” he said. The resolutions presented to the panel before and during the convention were “lengthy” and “complex,” Akin said.

The faith-based initiative proposed by President Bush shortly after he took office this year has been one of the most hotly debated issues, especially among religious groups, in the new administration. The president’s proposal is designed to increase private giving to charities and to make available to such faith-based organizations government money to provide social services. The government-aid aspect has generated heated discussion because of questions about its impact on religious freedom.

The committee also decided not to report out a referral of a motion calling for the SBC president to write Bush commending him for not continuing President Clinton’s practice of recognizing June as Gay Pride Month and asking him to designate it as “Heterosexual Family Pride Month.”

The committee did not “feel the need to speak to it again,” Akin said, referring to numerous resolutions opposing homosexual behavior and rights.

“God loves homosexuals, and we should love homosexuals. And we can say to them we disagree [with their lifestyle] without using a sledgehammer,” he said. “We did not feel there was a need to do that, and indeed I don’t think we should ever do that.”

The other members of the committee were Robert Anderson of Maryland, Martha Atchison of Texas, Ed Balducci of Ark., William Blanchard of Ark., Ann Frazier of N.C., Frank Page of S.C., Pat Pajak of Ill., Tim Passmore of Fla. and Gary Smith of Texas.