By Larry Pullen
Over the 85-year history of the Alliance advocacy partner, Baptist Joint Committee on Religious Liberty, the organization has secured a well-deserved reputation for exceptional expertise in the area of religious liberty and church-state separation through litigation, advocacy and education. The Alliance values partnerships like this one that enable our organization to address issues of justice in powerful ways that we could not do on our own. We count on partners like the BJC to make us aware of current issues and how our congregations might get involved.
The BJC’s work is currently organized in three categories: litigation and legal advocacy, race and religious liberty, and the Christians Against Christian Nationalism campaign.
The beginning of the new Supreme Court term sees three cases dealing with religion to be considered. First, in Carson v Makin the Court will examine whether states violate the Constitution by prohibiting students from using their generally available aid to attend schools that provide religious or “sectarian” instruction. Second, the case of Ramirez v Collier tests whether Ramirez can have his pastor sing, say prayers, lay hands on him or read Scripture as he dies in the execution chamber. Third, the issue in Shurtleff v City of Boston is whether flying of a Christian flag on a city flagpole, which has allowed a variety of groups to fly their flags on the pole, represents an expression of government speech or a limited public forum for free expression of speech. To follow these cases as well as other issues go to bjconline.org/litigation.
In its effort to address racism in our culture and in particular with regard to religious liberty, BJC has developed several programs on the topic of race and religious liberty. Those programs include “Religious Liberty Has Been White Too Long: Voices of Black Scholars” with video and discussion guides; “Voices of Black Faith Freedom: Four Facebook Live Conversations” (February 2021); “Voices of Asian American Faith Freedom: Three Facebook Live Conversations” (May 2021) with discussion guide; and “Voices of Hispanic and Latin American Faith Freedom” (September-October 2021). These are just a few of the topics and resources BJC has produced to address race and religious liberty. For additional information see: bjconline.org.
One of the most important concerns BJC has taken leadership on is addressed in the Christians Against Christian Nationalism campaign. BJC Executive Director Amanda Tyler hosted a webinar on Christians Against Christian Nationalism as well as a podcast with discussion guide on the topic. Not only does the identification of the Christian faith with being American eviscerate the prophetic quality of our religion, but it undermines the faith in America’s democratic institutions that the framers deliberately set forth in separating church and state.
In all these efforts BJC captures one of our most cherished Baptist traditions by promoting “Faith Freedom for All.” The Alliance is grateful for partners like the BJC that educate us and provide resources for us of such high quality to deepen our advocacy on these critical matters of faith and justice.
The header photo is from the BJC Facebook page.
Rev. Doctor Larry Pullen is an ordained Baptist minister and retired college professor who represents the Alliance on the Board of Directors of the BJC. He has degrees from West Virginia University, American University, Colgate Rochester Divinity School and Drew University. Larry lives with his wife Kristy Arnesen Pullen in Ashburn, Virginia. He enjoys reading about history and politics and spending time with their adult daughters.