A response from the Rev. Dr. H. James Hopkins

The following response is from the Reverend Dr. H. James Hopkins, Pastor of Lakeshore Avenue Baptist Church in Oakland, CA.

August 8, 2014

I must respectfully disagree with President Robert G. Duffet’s decision to support the letter written by some conservative religious leaders requesting President Obama to issue an executive order allowing their institutions to both receive federal funding and discriminate against LGBT persons. My disagreement is based in both theology, I do not believe that a faithful reading of Scripture mandates discrimination against LGBT persons, and my understanding of the contours of religious liberty.

President Duffett speaks of “a Baptist understanding of the separation of church and state.” I am not sure what he is referencing. Baptists are diverse in their understanding of the separation of church and state. I am a board member of The Baptist Joint Committee for religious liberty. Our organization signed a letter to President Obama in regard to the same issue which read, “Religious freedom is one of our most cherished values, a fundamental and defining feature of our national character. It guarantees us the freedom to hold any belief we choose and the right to act on our religious beliefs within certain limits. It does not, however, provide organizations the right to discriminate using taxpayer dollars. When a religiously affiliated organization makes the decision to request a taxpayer-funded contract with the federal government, it must play by the same rules as every other federal contractor.”
Further, in an essay in our July newsletter our Director of Communications Cherilyn Crowe noted, “The BJC has long supported the role of religious organizations in partnering with the government to provide needed services in ways that advance governmental interests but do so without the threat of government-sponsored religion. The organization will continue to pressure the administration to ensure that government funds cannot be used to discriminate based on religion.”

My bottom line is that there is no single Baptist position on this issue and that Baptists can be deeply committed to the separation of church and state without believing that such a commitment includes the right to use money received from the federal government to discriminate against LGBT persons.

The Reverend Dr. H. James Hopkins
Pastor, Lakeshore Avenue Baptist Church
Oakland, CA

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