Baptist Faith and Message
XVII. Religious Liberty
God alone is Lord of the conscience, and He has left it free from the doctrines and commandments of men which are contrary to His Word or not contained in it. Church and state should be separate. The state owes to every church protection and full freedom in the pursuit of its spiritual ends. In providing for such freedom no ecclesiastical group or denomination should be favored by the state more than others. Civil government being ordained of God, it is the duty of Christians to render loyal obedience thereto in all things not contrary to the revealed will of God. The church should not resort to the civil power to carry on its work. The gospel of Christ contemplates spiritual means alone for the pursuit of its ends. The state has no right to impose penalties for religious opinions of any kind. The state has no right to impose taxes for the support of any form of religion. A free church in a free state is the Christian ideal, and this implies the right of free and unhindered access to God on the part of all men, and the right to form and propagate opinions in the sphere of religion without interference by the civil power.
Genesis 1:27; 2:7; Matthew 6:6-7,24; 16:26; 22:21; John 8:36; Acts 4:19-20; Romans 6:1-2; 13:1-7; Galatians 5:1,13; Philippians 3:20; 1 Timothy 2:1-2; James 4:12; 1 Peter 2:12-17; 3:11-17; 4:12-19.
I am not an attorney, however our perception is that the Louisiana Senate Bill 606 “Preservation of Religious Freedom Act” clarifies for state courts the confusion we see and experience on the Federal bench. On the Federal bench there appears to be a strict separationist/revisionist philosophy at odds with the historical accommodation of religious expressions in the public square. President Obama’s nomination of Elena Kagan to serve as Supreme Court justice is a further expression of the friction that exists with constitutional perspectives in the Federal Judiciary. SB 606 celebrates our heritage and accommodates our expressions of faith.
Seems like a slam dunk, no brainer type of legislation. However, during the May 11, 2010 Senate Judiciary “A” hearing, something strange occurred. The people who were prepared to testify for the bill were there. The author Senator Daniel Martiny was present and waiting. The Forum for Equality (a homosexual organization) had people present to testify against the measure. However, at the time for discussion of this particular bill, all but two of the Senators (Senator Kostelka and Senator Nick Gautreaux) had something else to do. There was no quorum—hence no hearing. This was a sad commentary on the value the Senators who left their post placed on religious liberty.
Why is this bill important to Louisiana?
Consider the powerful testimony of God at work at the Angola State Correctional Facility. Once it was one of the worst incarceration facilities in the nation. When Warden Cain invited the faith community to come to Angola and work along side the state to provide educational/ value intensive opportunities for the inmates, significant positive change has occurred at the facility. The New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary supported by 43,000 Southern Baptist Churches, 1500+ of those in Louisiana, is grateful to work directly with the inmates toward accredited degrees. Needless to say the ACLU goes ballistic over this success story. SB606 clarifies for the courts our capacity to continue our work.
Where are we experiencing challenge?
How about the zoning regulations a local church in Texas is facing? They own a particular property in a high growth metropolitan area. The city wanted that land to be a tax producing property. Consequently, the church can house their day care ministry on the property and its mother’s day out ministry, but they cannot use the property for worship. This kind of legislation places local jurisdictions on notice that only under extreme and specific circumstances can churches be hindered.
Or how about the young lady in a Louisiana public jr high school who was disciplined and ridiculed by educational officials because she was reading her Bible in the library. The young lady and her family received an apology from the district but only after the superb work of the Alliance Defense Fund attorney Mike Johnson. SB 606 would strengthen the religious expressions of this young lady and her family.
Recently, we learned about the application of DSS regulations on our Louisiana Baptist residential care ministries in Monroe. SB 606 strengthens our position that children under our care can be fully integrated into the activities of our cottage families. After last year’s failure by the legislature to exempt religious organizations from the DSS licensing regulations, we must now consider how to modify our residential care ministries away from caring directly to children and instead focusing on ministry to mothers with children. This change is a departure from the historic ministry we’ve successfully provided for children for decades.
Last year’s legislature failed to exempt the religious community from the class A day care license. Some of our churches have complied with the requirement to be a class A licensed day care. Many will not because of concerns of the DSS interfering with church ministries and teaching. Some of these will close because they do not perceive they can afford legal counsel for a judicial remedy to resist the interference of the state, specifically DSS, involvement in the church’s ministries. Again we believe that if churches do push back on the DSS regulations, SB 606 strengthens our historic constitutional position.
We believe SB 606 restrains an over zealous bench and bureaucrats. It reaffirms and clarifies a historic understanding and application of 1st Amendment rights. We believe it strengthens our capacity to be unhindered in service to the families and individuals in our great state.
If you would like to contact the Senators who played hooky from the Senate Judiciary “A” hearing contact:
Sen. Dan Claitor firstname.lastname@example.org
Sen. Jack Donahue email@example.com
Sen. Robert Marionneaux firstname.lastname@example.org
Sen. Julie Quinn (chair) email@example.com
You may want to also send an email to the president of the Senate Joel Chaisson firstname.lastname@example.org and express your disappointment in the fact that this legislation SB606 has yet to receive a hearing and an up or down vote on the Senate floor.
If you would like to express your gratefulness to the Senators who stayed in the hearing and were ready to proceed, you may email Sen. Bob Kostelka email@example.com and Senator Nick Gautreaux firstname.lastname@example.org.
You may also encourage Sen. Danny Martiny email@example.com to continue to push his bill toward a hearing and floor action.