NASHVILLE, TENNESSEE, February 8, 2012, (LifeSiteNews.com) – One of the most influential evangelical leaders in the United States says Christians should go to jail rather than comply with the Obama administration’s mandate to provide all contraception, including abortion-inducing drugs, in their health care plans.
Dr. Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC), told LifeSiteNews.com “we will not comply” with the Dept. of Health and Human Services’ mandate requiring religious institutions to cover abortifacient products such as Plan B, Ella, and the IUD.
“We want the law changed, or else we’re going to write our letters from the Nashville jail, just like Dr. King wrote his from the Birmingham jail,” Dr. Land said.
Dr. Land wrote an op-ed on Tuesday with Barrett Duke, vice president for public policy and research at ERLC, calling his fellow Southern Baptists and evangelical Christians throughout America to oppose any infringement on the First Amendment.
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“The Obama administration has declared war on religion and freedom of conscience,” they wrote. “We consider this callous requirement by the Obama administration to be a clear violation of our nation’s commitment to liberty of conscience and a flagrant violation of our constitutional protection to freedom of religion.”
Dr. Land told LifeSiteNews he hopes Baptist ministers will “preach from the pulpit just how serious and dangerous this initiative by the Obama administration is,” and “encourage their parishioners to contact their congressmen and their senators and the president and let them know how deeply unhappy they are with this decision, and they want…legislation guaranteeing that it won’t happen again.”
“It is now in the providence of God,” Dr. Land said. “Our responsibility is to stand and say, ‘We will not comply with this. We want the law changed, or else we’re going to write our letters from the Nashville jail, just like Dr. King wrote his from the Birmingham jail.’ We will not comply.”
Dr. Land, who earned a Doctorate of Philosophy from Oxford University, has been named by Time magazine as one of “The Twenty-five Most Influential Evangelicals in America.”
President Obama’s recess appointment of Chai Feldblum to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) provided an insight to the president’s views, Dr. Land said. Feldblum has said whenever religious rights come into conflict with sexual rights, that sexual rights must prevail. “That’s exactly what’s happening in the Health and Human Services contraceptive and abortifacient directive,” he said. “They are saying that a woman’s right to have free contraceptive services and free abortifacients trumps the deeply held religious convictions of Catholics and Baptists and others. That’s a war on religion.”
Several of the Obama administration’s actions have convinced observers the president harbors an aversion to Christian values. “I do know hostility to religious conviction in the public square when I see it, and I see it in the Hosanna case,” in which the Obama administration attempted to narrowly define the ministerial exemption in hiring, Dr. Land told LifeSiteNews.com. He called the Obama administration “radically secularist” on his weekly radio program.
The op-ed he co-authored came exactly one week after Dr. Albert Mohler, president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, said evangelical Christians may be required to face imprisonment over the issue. Dr. Mohler said in his daily podcast, “You at least have to admire the courage of the Roman Catholic bishops in saying they are willing to go to jail rather than to comply with this. How many evangelical presidents and pastors and leaders would be willing to do the same?”
“We’re going to find out in coming months,” he warned.
He said despite media coverage portraying the new regulation as a Catholic issue, “evangelicals need to stand back and – in our own terms, on our own doctrine – understand that our religious liberty is being similarly subverted and attacked.”
Government encroachments on religion have long concerned Dr. Land. Last December, he joined 59 other non-Catholic religious leaders in signing a letter to Barack Obama stating, “religious organizations beyond the Catholic community have deep moral objections to a requirement that their health insurance plans must cover abortifacients.”
Dr. Land and Duke noted in their op-ed that the government protects other Christians from violating their consciences by exempting pacifists from serving in the military, but “the administration is refusing to allow those who believe that abortion is the deliberate killing of an innocent human being to follow faithfully the dictates of his or her conscience on a matter as grave as the death of an unborn child.”
“A person who is not free to follow the dictates of his or her moral conscience is not free,” they wrote. “Our Baptist forebears died and went to prison to secure these freedoms.”
In the upcoming presidential election, Dr. Land hoped faithful voters would consider the importance of religious liberty. “This is a very serious and defining moment in American society,” he said.
The Southern Baptist Convention is the largest Protestant denomination in the United States, with more than 16 million members and 45,000 churches in the United States.
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