The President of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, Russell Moore, will receive the 2020 Defender of Religious Freedom Award for his work and dedication to religious freedom activism.
The Religious Freedom Institute (RFI), a Washington D.C.-based non-profit organization, will give the award to Moore at a virtual ceremony scheduled on Nov. 21. The award shall be presented by Robert P. George, the McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence at Princeton University and a former chair of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom.
The award, per the RFI, is given only to "a person who defends religious freedom for everyone, everywhere from within his or her faith tradition."
The institute announced its decision to give the award to Moore in September. It said it chose Moore for his work in regards to religious freedom issues as the ERLC head.
Further, Moore works hard to defend all people's religious liberty, RFI President Tom Farr noted. The ERLC President challenges both believers and non-believers: for believers to become better witnesses to their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, and for non-believers or "secularists" to have better appreciation for the value of religion in the lives of Americans, he said.
"Moore defends the religious liberty of all people," Farr said.
In a statement included as part of the Institute's announcement in September, Farr described Moore as "a brilliant, winsome, and tireless advocate for religious liberty."
Farr noted how Baptists played a "major role" in the Founder's resolve to ensure that every American and every American religious community will enjoy free exercise of religion. Moore, he said, "represents the best of that tradition."
The President of RFI also said Moore reaches deep into Scripture and "demands 'soul freedom' for each of us, so that we might seek the truth in freedom," without any outside hindrance, whether from government or other humans.
Moore also advocates that religious liberty is not something people have to thank the government for
"One thing we need to be very clear about is that religious liberty is not a government 'benefit,' but a natural and inalienable right granted by God," Moore kept stressing, per Farr.
Religious Freedom Activism
Moore is known for his dedication to making sure that infringements on religion will be addressed.
In 2014, for example, he told a group of reporters that the Obama administration, which ruled at the time, showed a "shocking audacity" with regards to the restrictions it places on religious liberties. He said he thinks that the Obama administration has a "very troubling" attitude when it comes to religious freedoms.
The comment came after the US Supreme Court granted Hobby Lobby Stores a religious exemption that does not require faith-based businesses to pay for employees' birth control.
"We cannot see this case as settling the issue once and for all. We have to remain diligent to articulate why religious liberty is in the common good of all people," Moore said in 2014.
Moore also intervened in a lawsuit in behalf of a Muslim community in New Jersey. The community wanted to build a mosque on Church Street in a historic part of Bernards Township.
Efforts to remove him as head of ERLC sprang from this case, but failed. Moore explained that the move to intervene was actually beneficial to the Southern Baptist Convention, because it would've set a precedent on what places of worship can be constructed based on their theological beliefs, and where they can be built.