By Staff, Baptist Message
NEW ORLEANS – The United States Supreme Court made headlines this summer with a pair of decisions that dealt with religious liberty and free speech.
One upheld the ability of Hobby Lobby as a privately held company to exclude certain healthcare coverage that owners deem contrary to their religious convictions.
The other decision struck down a Massachusetts law that set a 35-foot buffer zone around entrances to abortion clinics.
The decisions highlight the precarious state of religious liberty in the United States, despite the fact that religious liberty is a foundational tenet of the Constitution and Bill of Rights. Religious liberty also is a Baptist distinctive, with Baptists long teaching that the government should not tell citizens what they should or shouldn’t believe or inhibit the free expression of belief.
And yet, as society has changed so has its understanding of this concept. Religious liberty is now being challenged by the culture at large.
On Sept. 30, New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary’s Institute for Faith and the Public Square will host a conference titled “Challenges to Religious Liberty.”
The evening conference will feature Russell Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, speaking on “Challenges to the Church.” Mathew Staver, chairman of Liberty Counsel and dean of Liberty University’s law school, will examine “Challenges in Counseling” with Carol Swain, professor of law and political science at Vanderbilt University, addressing “Challenges in Education.”
“The traditional understanding of religious liberty is being recast as toleration of religious people, as long as they keep their ideas inside the church,” said NOBTS professor Lloyd Harsch, director of the Institute for Faith and the Public Square. “Our hope is to highlight issues that Christians are, or could be, facing as people of faith interact with the public square and what is the best strategy in meeting those challenges.”
The conference, which is free and open to the public, will be held from 7-9 p.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 30, at the seminary’s New Orleans campus.