Southern Evangelical Seminary: U.S. Sent Strong Message That Religious Liberty Will Be Defended
Dr. Richard Land: Religious Freedom is a Far-Reaching, Universal and Profound Human Right That All Nations of Good Will Must Defend
CHARLOTTE, N.C.—Southern Evangelical Seminary (SES, www.SES.edu) President Dr. Richard Land, a member of President Donald Trump’s advisory board on faith issues, says the U.S. is sending a strong message that religious freedom will be defended—both at home and abroad.
Land recorded a series of his daily “Bringing Every Thought Captive” radio features on the recent historic meeting in Washington, D.C., where the Trump administration and state department hosted government and civic leaders from more than 80 countries to discuss the tremendous threats to religious freedom across the globe.
The “Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom” will now be an annual event—a welcome sign that religious freedom is paramount to current leadership.
“This unprecedented meeting highlighted, condemned and sought remedies for religious persecution of any and all religious beliefs around the world,” Land said. “Secretary of State Mike Pompeo declared, ‘Religious freedom is something that is very important to me personally. It is very important to President Trump. And the state department is going to lead the world in opening up religious freedom to every citizen.’ This conference sent the strongest possible message that America will once again be the champion of religious freedom around the world. We do not believe this is merely an American right; 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.”
Land added that the event was held on the 20th anniversary of the signing into law the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998, which requires the president and Congress to take religious freedom issues into account when conducting U.S. foreign policy.
“The national media gave shamefully little coverage to this enormously significant event, which has the real potential to impact literally tens of millions of people’s lives in an extraordinarily and extremely positive way,” Land continued. “It is also one of those rare issues in today’s culture on which the overwhelming majority of Americans agree: freedom of conscience and religion.”
During the Ministerial, leaders issued the Potomac Declaration, which quotes the United Nation’s universal declaration of human rights, ratified in 1948.
“This declaration says everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion,” Land said. “This right includes freedom to change his religion or belief in freedom, either alone or in community with others, and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.”
The preamble to the Potomac Declaration states that “today we are far from this ideal declared in the universal declaration of human rights. This right is under attack, all around the world. Almost 80 percent of the global population reportedly experiences severe limitations on this right. Persecution, repression and discrimination on the basis of religion, belief or non-belief are a daily reality for too many. It is time to address these challenges directly.”
The Declaration continues: “Defending the freedom of religion or belief is the collective responsibility of the global community. Religious freedom is essential for achieving peace and stability within nations and among nations. Where religious freedom is protected, other freedoms—like freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly—also flourish. Protections for the free exercise of religion contribute directly to political freedom, economic development and the rule of law. Where it is absent, we find conflict, instability and terrorism.”
View the entire text of the Potomac Declaration here.
Land said he has seen firsthand that the protection of individual religious freedom is a unifying issue.
“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 appointment,” Land said. “The commission is set up to include a 5-to-4 partisan makeup, either five Republicans and four Democrats under a sitting Republican president, or five Democrats and four Republicans under a Democrat president. While we agreed on virtually nothing domestically, there was virtual unanimity concerning religious freedom overseas, the 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 to help 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,” he continued. “What a uniquely American thing to do.”
Issues like religious liberty find their way into many of the courses taught at SES, which recently moved to a new location in the Charlotte area. Additionally, SES is in the planning stages of the 25th annual National Conference on Christian Apologetics. Early bird registrations for the conference topped more than one thousand at the Aug. 1 deadline. The 2018 conference will focus on the theme of “The God Who Is” and will take place at Calvary Church in Charlotte, North Carolina, Oct. 12-13, when the seminary will welcome top thinkers, scholars, authors, apologists and scientific minds, including Ravi Zacharias, Josh McDowell, Chip Ingram and others. For answers to frequently asked questions about SES’s NCCA conference, click here.