News Articles

Push for hate crime laws threatens religious freedom, Land contends

AUSTIN, Texas (BP)–The U.S. Constitution’s prohibition against government seeking to control its citizens’ freedom of conscience is in peril, Richard Land said in an address during the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission’s annual conference in Austin, Texas.
The recent push to broaden hate crime statutes relating to criticism of homosexual behavior is at the heart of the erosion of the constitutional right to free exercise, the ERLC president said during March 2 sessions at Great Hills Baptist Church.
“There are those who would argue that the establishment clause [of the Constitution] is in danger, but they are wrong,” Land said of the constitutional prohibition against government-established religion.
Rather, “The greatest threat to America’s liberty in the next 20 to 30 years … will be over governmental suppression of free exercise,” Land said. “If we are not careful, we are going to lose our right to preach what we believe and say what we believe in the public square.”
Recalling the early Baptist Thomas Helwys’ writings in 1612, Land said a person’s relationship with God “is so sacred that no one has a right to interfere with it, even a king.” Baptists’ peculiarly unique gift to the Reformation, Land noted, was this gift of a recovered biblical understanding of soul freedom.
Those who are attempting to normalize homosexuality and affirm it as a healthy lifestyle are intent on abnormalizing and stigmatizing those who stand for biblical truth, Land said, citing the recent push for strengthened hate crime punishments.
Land called hate crime legislation a euphemism for attempts to take away Americans’ faith-based rights to preach what the Scriptures clearly reveal. Homosexual activists are clamoring for hate crime legislation, Land said, as part of an overhaul of the nation’s laws to favor homosexual activity and to punish those who articulate what has been known as traditional morality for the past 19 centuries.
In Canada, it is already illegal to criticize homosexuality on the air, even in a sermon based on Scripture, Land stated. He also recounted reports from Madison, Wis., and Fairhaven, Mass., in which individuals were charged with hate crimes for expressing concern with homosexual behavior in their community.
“As for me, for my house, the United States government has no right and no authority to tell me I can’t quote Scripture and that I can’t explain Scripture whenever and wherever I want to do so,” Land said. “If they want to come and put me in jail, here I am. Here I will stay, and I will not be silenced.”
Baptists and Americans have a priceless heritage of soul liberty that is being threatened by those who don’t want to hear or heed the authority of God’s Word, Land continued. Throughout history Baptists refused to accept state authority over the church, he said, recalling Jesus’ command to render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s and unto God that which is God’s.
The First Amendment guarantee is in the Constitution because early American evangelist John Leland and his Baptist brethren said they were not going to vote for the Constitution because they did not want a federal church, Land said. So Leland and Madison got together and cut a political deal, he explained, with Leland agreeing to support ratification of the U.S. Constitution and Madison committing to an amendment which would forbid the state’s involvement in matters of faith. “That became the First Amendment to the Constitution,” Land said.
“It is time for us to stand up [and claim our heritage] and make it perfectly clear we will never tolerate any other lord than the Lord Jesus Christ,” Land concluded. “Governments come, governments go; civilizations come, civilizations go; but God and his holy Word endure forever.”

    About the Author

  • Dwayne Hastings