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Mohler: Judicial filibusters show religious liberty is at stake


LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP)–Believers must exercise their Christian citizenship beyond the ballot box to halt activist judges and secularist senators who are robbing Americans of their religious liberty, R. Albert Mohler Jr. told a nationwide audience April 24 during “Justice Sunday” at Highview Baptist Church in Louisville, Ky.

Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, was one of several speakers at the event, which was designed to mobilize Christians to action against judicial filibusters, which Democrat senators have used to block 10 of President Bush’s appellate court nominees. In most of the cases, senators objected to the nominees’ pro-life views.

The event was broadcast across the nation via Christian television, radio and Internet. Hundreds of churches viewed it during their Sunday evening service.

Mohler said that the use of a Sunday evening service for the discussion of the federal judiciary was out of the ordinary for Highview. The central message the church seeks to communicate is not of a political nature, he said.

“This a little unusual for our church on Sunday night,” he said. “… This isn’t what we do on most Sunday nights. Why? Because this is a Gospel church. This is a church that is established upon the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.

“Our main message is salvation through grace alone, by faith alone, through Christ alone. The main message that we want to communicate is we want to see all persons come to know the Lord Jesus Christ as Savior. We want to communicate to all that we are not calling persons merely to be moral; we want them to be believers in the Lord Jesus Christ.”

But to be faithful followers of Christ, believers must take seriously their duties to engage contemporary issues in the public square, he said.

“For far too long Christians have been concerned to elect the right people to office and then go back home,” Mohler said. “We have learned the importance of the electoral process and yet we are also discovering that that third branch of government, the judiciary, is so very, very important.”

Critics have lampooned organizers of “Justice Sunday,” which was sponsored by Family Research Council Action, labeling them “intolerant,” and charging them with seeking to establish a theocracy in America. But Christians, when active in the public square, are merely following the mandate of Christ to bring the salt and light of the Gospel to bear on the culture, Mohler said.

“As evangelical Christians, our main concern is the citizenship that is ours in heaven that has been purchased by our Savior,” Mohler said. “But we also understand that we have a responsibility here on this earth so long as we are alive, until the Lord returns, to show God’s love and to contend for God’s righteousness and to tell this world that through His law and through His Word, God is trying to tell us something for our good, for our health and for our holiness.

“We as Christians need to be active in the public sphere, not just to impose some kind of worldview or ideology, but to be salt and light … that is not my idea, that is how we are commissioned by the Lord Jesus Christ. We need to speak as Christian citizens. What we demand is an up or down vote on the floor of the Senate. It is nothing less than cowardice for a minority of the Senate to block these people from the vote they so richly deserve.”

Mohler singled out two pivotal cases from the past 35 years: the 1973 Roe v. Wade case, which established a “constitutional right” for abortion on demand, and the 2003 Lawrence v. Texas case, in which judges overturned anti-sodomy laws.

“[Roe v. Wade] was a wakeup call for Americans to say, ‘Now wait a minute; there is nothing in the Constitution about abortion.’ By no stretch of the imagination did the founders of this nation and the framers of that document intend for anyone to be able to read those words and find a right to kill unborn children,” he said.

“… [And] does anyone believe that the framers of our Constitution intended for [a constitutional right to practice sodomy] to be there? By no means. If it’s not there, how did the court decision get there? By reading into the Constitution what they wanted to find, which isn’t there but is constructed there by expanding the Constitution by reinterpretation.”

Mohler said that Christians, above all people, should understand the importance of a strict interpretation of the Constitution because of the way in which some have twisted the Bible to “say what it doesn’t mean.”

“We have seen that pattern (of distorting Scripture),” he said. “God’s people have had to learn to discern and say ‘no, the text is the inerrant and infallible Word of God. It is what God said it is.’ But now there are judges who are using the same exercises of interpretation to find in the Constitution of the United States what is not there.”

Mohler asserted that concerns by the Senate Judiciary Committee over the “deeply held beliefs” of potential judges is nothing more than a veiled effort to keep off the bench men and women who hold biblical convictions on issues such as the sanctity of life and the definition of marriage.

While critics have accused evangelicals of being partisan, Mohler said he will welcome the day when Christian voters are forced to decide between one candidate who is a pro-life Democrat and another who is a pro-life Republican.

Among the event’s speakers was retired Judge Charles Pickering Sr., whom Bush nominated to the 5th Circuit of Appeals in New Orleans. Democrats used the filibuster to block Pickering’s confirmation.

Mohler pointed to Pickering as a chief example of the anti-religious bias that exists among the senators using the filibuster.

The Senate Judiciary Committee thought Pickering was radical because he believes Christians should base their worldview on the teaching of Scripture, Mohler said. Senators who opposed Pickering focused on comments he made while serving as president of the Mississippi Baptist Convention.

“That (Pickering’s view) is normative Christianity,” Mohler said. “That is what it means to be a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ and to be a Christian incorporated into the body of Christ and to be a faithful believer in the church.

“He (Pickering) was speaking as a Christian to fellow Christians about our Christian responsibility, but in the views of some radical secularists, that invalidates him from serving on the federal bench. And we as Americans had better hear that as a wakeup call because if it is judge Pickering now, it will be you and me tomorrow.”
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  • Jeff Robinson
    Jeff Robinson is director of news and information at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.Read All by Jeff Robinson ›