Melissa Rogers speaks at 2014 RLC Luncheon

Melissa Rogers speaks at 2014 RLC Luncheon

This episode of the  Baptist Joint Committee Podcast features the 2014 Religious Liberty Council Luncheon keynote address delivered by Melissa Rogers, the executive director of White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships. In her speech, delivered June 27 in Atlanta, Georgia, she stressed the importance of religious liberty and explained how her office strives to reach out to those in need. For more information about this annual event, visit BJConline.org/luncheon. Melissa Rogers, White House Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships [ 22:27 ] Play Now | Play in Popup |...
Religious Liberty Essay Scholarship Contest deadline approaching

Religious Liberty Essay Scholarship Contest deadline approaching

By Jordan Edwards The March 7 deadline for the BJC’s Religious Liberty Essay Scholarship Contest is just around the corner. Open to all high school juniors and seniors, this year’s contest asks applicants to discuss whether or not religious messages written by students should be allowed at public school events. The full writing prompt is: In many public high schools, cheerleaders and other students display banners for student athletes to run through at football games. In some schools, the messages on the banners have included Bible verses or other religious references. In response, some high school administrators have banned the use of these “run-through” banners out of concern these messages might convey that the school is promoting religion. In several instances, students have argued that the banners are expressions of their personal religious beliefs, asserting that they have the free exercise right to display religious messages at school events. Should religious references be permitted on student banners used at school-sponsored events? Why or why not? Write an essay in which you discuss both the students’ rights and the school administrators’ responsibilities in the public school setting. In order to support your point of view, articulate your understanding of the Establishment Clause and the Free Exercise Clause in the First Amendment and their relationship to each other. Discuss what you believe is the best solution to the controversy over school banners with religious messages. Be sure to explain how your outcome helps to defend and extend religious liberty for all people. The BJC receives hundreds of entries each year competing for the prizes of $2,000, $1,000 and $250. The grand...
BJC, others call for investigation of NYPD’s ‘unlawful’ surveillance of Muslims

BJC, others call for investigation of NYPD’s ‘unlawful’ surveillance of Muslims

By Jordan Edwards The BJC joined dozens of political, religious and human rights organizations in urging the United States Department of Justice to investigate the New York Police Department’s allegedly “discriminatory surveillance of American Muslim communities.” A letter sent to the DOJ on Oct. 24 cites “unlawful religious profiling and suspicionless surveillance of Muslims in New York City (and beyond).” Along with violating constitutional rights, the letter maintains the practice has “frayed the social fabric of Muslim communities by breeding anxiety, distrust, and fear.” The NYPD, the letter claims, not only monitors electronic avenues such as blogs, but it also sends plainclothes officers to patrol neighborhoods with large Muslim populations. The letter highlights specific areas in which these practices have hindered the lives of Muslims in the New York area. Attendance in mosques, for example, has decreased and disruptions “have also diverted precious time and resources away from religious education and counseling, both of which are part of mosques’ core religious mission,” according to the letter. In addition, the letter says that Muslim student associations (MSAs) have retreated from engaging in political conversations. Not only has attendance dropped at events, but “certain student groups have instituted a ban on political discussion in MSA spaces, out of fear that these conversations will trigger additional surveillance.” The Rev. Dr. C. Welton Gaddy, a Baptist minister and president of Interfaith Alliance, points out that measures like the ones taken by the NYPD have an effect on all Americans, not just Muslims. “One of the foundations of this nation is freedom of religion for everyone, yet this fundamental freedom is threatened if even...
Seventh-day Adventist Church honors Walker, BJC

Seventh-day Adventist Church honors Walker, BJC

By Jordan Edwards, BJC Communications Associate The Columbia Union Conference of the Seventh-day Adventist Church honored the work of the Baptist Joint Committee and Executive Director J. Brent Walker with the Adrian Westney Religious Liberty Award, recognizing “sustained and conspicuous advocacy of religious freedom.” Columbia Union Executive Secretary Rob Vandeman presented Walker with the award Sept. 28 after Walker preached at Sligo Seventh-day Adventist Church in Takoma Park, Md. “Rarely a day goes by that we don’t have some contact with Adventists,” Walker said before beginning his sermon, “as we stand together — Baptists, Adventists and others — to extend and defend religious liberty … for all of God’s children.” Walter E. Carson, the Columbia Union’s vice president and general counsel, said the award was in “recognition of Baptist leadership in the advocacy of religious freedom in the United States of America,” in a statement. “I am delighted that the BJC merited this recognition from a valued coalition partner who understands the importance of religious liberty for all,” Walker said. Organized in 1907, the Columbia Union represents nearly 700 churches throughout the Mid-Atlantic. Its headquarters are in Columbia, Md. From the October 2013 Report from the Capital. Click here for the next...