Baptists have not been shy in vocalizing their belief that religious liberty is a freedom secured by God (Matthew 22:21). Not coincidentally, Baptists often were at the receiving end of persecution and harassment for their faith from those displeased with their refusal to follow the tenets of state religion.
Personally aware of the injustices inflicted upon Baptists and other minority faiths in the new world, John Leland, a leading Baptist evangelist in colonial America, was instrumental in insuring the U.S. Constitution included provisions that would prohibit the federal government from establishing a state religion or interfering with the citizens’ free exercise of religion–the First Amendment.
For any government to serve the common good of all citizens, religious and non-religious, freedom for religion expression must exist. This means respect and tolerance for the religious choices of others—whether they are Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, or atheist.
Commitment to the common good of all citizens is built on a foundation of freedom for religion. The chilling effects of freedom from religion—that is, a posture of hostile neutrality or outright discrimination or persecution—extinguishes even the pretense of liberty.