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Nationally prominent speakers Dr. Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, and Holly Hollman, general counsel of the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty, were recent guests at Campbellsville University's Kentucky Heartland Institute on Public Policy roundtable.
They brought light to the issues of church and state and religious liberty, agreeing that it is fine for candidates to talk of religion because it helps voters know their nature and style of leadership; however, that is where the mix of religion and politics should end.
"We are honored to have these speakers on our campus," said John Chowning, vice president for church and external relations and executive assistant to the president, in his introduction of the guests. "Land and Hollman are recognized as national spokesmen and experts on this area of public policy, both seen often on Fox, CNN, ABC, NBC and other national news media."
"As a Baptist," Land said, "I believe in the separation of church and state, however, the issue today is with secularists who want a secular society, ostracizing faith from the public amendment. I debate these people all the time. The First Amendment to the Constitution specifies that government is not to interfere with how each of us practices our faith. I as a citizen, you as a citizen, cannot violate the First Amendment. All the restrictions are on the government."
He said that on the issue of religion and government, the Abolitionist movement, the Civil Rights movement, the Labor Reform movement and Child Labor Reform are all totally inexplicable in American history apart from the religious leaders who led them and the religiously motivated individuals who supported them. Land supports the rights of citizens to buy and place their religious symbols in public areas.
When questioned by Chowning about the rights of all citizens, no matter their religious affiliation, to do the same, Land said that it is fair for any religious group to pay for and place their symbols on public properties.
Hollman's work includes providing legal analysis on church-state issues that arise before Congress, the courts and administrative agencies.
She said, "If we are made in God's image, we should be wary of government taking that away from us."
She challenged the crowd of 80 students, faculty, staff and community members at the public roundtable discussion to keep discussions going about the issues, especially in an election year.
"We don't need a religious state to reflect morality," she said.
She quoted the late Congresswoman Dr. Barbara Jordan who said, "You would do well to pursue your causes with vigor, while remembering that you are a servant of God, not a spokesperson for God, and remembering that God might well choose to bless an opposing point of view for reasons that have not been revealed to you."
Hollman writes a regular column for the BJC's monthly publication, "Report from the Capital" and more information can be accessed at the Web site bjconline.org.
For more information about Campbellsville University's free and KHIPP events, contact Chowning at firstname.lastname@example.org or 789-5520.
- Linda Waggener is assistant director of university communications at Campbellsville University.