NASHVILLE (BP) – As the Fourth of July approaches and Americans peruse festive tents that aim to help quiet neighborhoods sound like historic battlefields for one night a year, the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission is equipping churches to focus on religious liberty.
Sunday, July 2 is designated Religious Liberty Sunday on the 2023 SBC Calendar of Events.
“It is undeniable that religious liberty is one of the most important contributions Baptists have made to the American way of life. This cherished Baptist distinctive allowed our nation to more fully expand the definition of freedom for every person,” said Brent Leatherwood, ERLC president.
Miles Mullin, vice president and chief of staff for the ERLC, says when Southern Baptists set aside this important Sunday, they “honor the legacy of our Baptist heritage.”
“Baptists have always contended for freedom of conscience, believing that all people have a right to choose what they believe in religious matters, free from government compulsion,” Mullin said.
Leatherwood said the freedoms we enjoy should not be taken for granted and one way to protect them is to instill them in the next generation.
“Ensuring that individuals can both be guided by their deepest-held beliefs––and live them out on a daily basis––is a right that should never be taken for granted, and one that must be preserved for generations to come,” he said.
The ERLC has released several resources to help churches mark the emphasis Sunday:
- Religious Liberty Sunday video
- Religious Liberty Sunday bulletin insert
- ERLC articles:
Religious liberty is so important that it is included in the convention’s statement of faith, the Baptist Faith and Message, said Mullins.
“Our forefathers, like Isaac Backus and John Leland, argued that state-sponsored religion hindered true spiritual regeneration and political prosperity. It was neither good for the church nor the nation. Thus, they understood that religious freedom was essential in our new nation as a first principle, a principal enshrined in our own Baptist Faith and Message, Article XVII,” he said.
Leatherwood says the great value of the freedom is why Southern Baptists should mark the emphasis on Sunday.
“Given that history, it is appropriate we set aside a day on the SBC calendar to honor its significance––both for our churches and our nation.”