Southern Evangelical Seminary President: Keep Religious Liberties Top of Mind When Voting
Evangelical Leader Dr. Richard Land Says Choosing Candidates Who Will Work to Uphold Religious Freedom is Paramount; PPE Program at SES Explores How Faith and Politics Intersect
CHARLOTTE, N.C.—Many issues will be on the minds of voters as they head to the polls next Tuesday, such as health care, the economy, immigration and more.
But another matter Christians should take to heart as they vote is the protection of religious liberties, says Evangelical leader and Southern Evangelical Seminary President Dr. Richard Land.
Land explores the issue of religious freedom often in his daily, two-minute radio commentary, “Bringing Every Thought Captive,” which airs on nearly 800 stations nationwide.
“For this crucial midterm election, Christians must consider the importance of religious freedom when they cast their vote,” Land said. “We must elect officials who will commit to upholding religious freedom both here at home and abroad. Elections also greatly impact judges who will rule in some precedent-setting religious liberty cases, and therefore, impact every Bible-believing Christian who stands for Christ at home, at school and in the workplace.”
As an example, Land highlighted the case of former Atlanta fire chief Kelvin Cochran, who was recently awarded $1.2 million for an unjust firing after he shared his views on homosexuality and biblical marriage—outside his workplace. Cochran told the Baptist Press there are worldly consequences for standing on biblical truth and standing for Christ—but the Kingdom consequences would always be greater than the worldly consequences.
Cochran also said that through his ordeal, he learned that when Christians have the courage and faith to stand, a life of blessings escalates “exceedingly, abundantly above all we could ever ask or think,” citing Ephesians 3:20.
Like Cochran, Colorado baker Jack Phillips, owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop, fought for his religious liberty. In early June, he celebrated a victory when the Supreme Court ruled 7-2 that he was “wrongly punished for refusing on religious grounds to make a wedding cake for a same-sex couple,” reported The Christian Post, where Land serves as executive editor. Phillips still faces opposition, however. A civil suit has been filed against him, and The Christian Post also reported Friday that a California organization has given at least $500,000 toward projects opposed to Phillips.
But positively, the Masterpiece Cakeshop decision meant a good outcome for Washington florist Barronelle Stutzman, too. In late June, a few weeks after the Jack Phillips victory, SCOTUS sent her decision back to the lower courts for review, wiping out the Washington Supreme Court’s judgment against her and instructing them to reconsider the case in light of the Masterpiece ruling.
Things weren’t as positive for Aaron and Melissa Klein, former owners of Sweet Cakes by Melissa. They were ordered to pay a $135,000 fine for declining to bake a wedding cake for a lesbian couple. The Oregon Supreme Court declined to hear their appeal. The bakery is now closed.
In the United Kingdom, their Supreme Court also recently ruled in favor of Ashers Baking Company in Northern Ireland. The New York Times noted that “judges cited as a precedent” the Masterpiece Cakeshop case.
Also on the international front, Land pointed to this summer’s Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom, where high-ranking members of the Trump administration met with civic leaders from 80 countries. The unprecedented, and now annual, meeting sent the strong message that the United States will be the champion of religious freedom around the world.
“We do not believe that this is merely an American right,” Land said. “It is a universal human right. Every human being has the right to worship as they please without coercion from government or from anyone else. “Basic religious freedom is one of those rare issues in today’s culture on which the overwhelming majority of Americans agree—individual religious liberty. I had the privilege of serving on the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom from 2001 to 2004 as a presidential appointee and from 2005 to 2012 as a senatorial appointee. While the nine U.S. Commissioners (five Republican and four Democrat, or vice versa, depending on the party identification of the current president) agreed on almost nothing domestically, there was virtual unanimity concerning religious freedom overseas. Such freedom includes freedom of conscience, the right to form one’s own beliefs and to live by those beliefs without interference or persecution by the government.
“What better way,” he continued, “to bring some unity to our deeply divided country than by giving us the opportunity to work together on behalf of persecuted people of all faiths—or of no faith—around the globe.”
Explorations into religious liberty, political freedom, and public policy make their way into class discussions in SES’s new “Philosophy, Politics and Economics” program. Offered primarily at just a few top-tier universities around the world, the PPE program introduces students to the Christian worldview of how philosophy, politics and economics intersect, focusing on the works of Ludwig von Mises, Friedrich Hayek, Henry Hazlitt, Karl Marx, Thomas Aquinas, Robert Sirico, Jay Richards and others.