Faith Leaders of Multiple Religious Groups Call on Obama to Reject USCCR Report

President Obama
(Photo : Daniel Borman / Flickr / CC) Leaders from different faiths urged President Obama to reject a USCCR report denigrating "religious freedom" as a "code word" used in the "pretext" of discrimination.

Leaders of various religious groups have called on President Barack Obama to reject a US Commission on Civil Rights (USCCR) report which says that religious organizations discriminate under the guise of religious freedom.

Leith Anderson of the National Association of Evangelicals and Russell Moore of the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission were among the diverse group of leaders who wrote a letter addressed to the President and other members of the Congress in response to the USCCR report entitled 'Peaceful Coexistence: Reconciling Non-Discrimination Principles with Civil Liberties.'

"We wish to express our deep concern that the Commission has issued a report ... that stigmatizes tens of millions of religious Americans, their communities, and their faith-based institutions, and threatens the religious freedom of all our citizens," the letter states.

The letter cited a statement included in the Commission report, which says: "The phrases 'religious liberty' and 'religious freedom' will stand for nothing except hypocrisy so long as they remain code words for discrimination, intolerance, racism, sexism, homophobia, Islamophobia, Christian supremacy or any form of intolerance."

The leaders said that it was "disturbing" to find such a statement in the report.

"The genius of American democracy is that it invites everyone into the public square, on the basis of full equality, to contend over the laws and policies that reflect our values and our understanding of the common good. In our system it is they--free citizens and voluntary institutions--that inform and drive the debate over the public good, a debate that the national government should not prejudice or distort," the letter continues.

The letter was signed by leaders from Catholic, Muslim, Jewish, Baha'i, African Methodist Episcopal, Evangelical, Southern Baptist, and Hindu communities.

"A robust and respectful debate over ideas is not something harmful to be demonized. Rather, debate is good for our democracy, and should be encouraged. Slandering ideas and arguments with which one disagrees as "racism" or "phobia" not only cheapens the meaning of those words, but can have a chilling effect on healthy debate over, or dissent from, the prevailing orthodoxy," the leaders stated.

The group expressed their gratitude to President Obama for his acknowledgement of the religious and moral ground of American law in his 2006 speech, in which he noted:

"Secularists are wrong when they ask believers to leave their religion at the door before entering into the public square. Frederick Douglas, Abraham Lincoln, William Jennings Bryan, Dorothy Day, Martin Luther King -- indeed, the majority of great reformers in American history -- were not only motivated by faith, but repeatedly used religious language to argue for their cause. So to say that men and women should not inject their 'personal morality' into public policy debates is a practical absurdity. Our law is by definition a codification of morality, much of it grounded in the Judeo-Christian tradition."

President Obama encouraged the evangelical community to work for the revival of America in his speech.

"We might recognize that the call to sacrifice on behalf of the next generation, the need to think in terms of "thou" and not just "I," resonates in religious congregations all across the country. And we might realize that we have the ability to reach out to the evangelical community and engage millions of religious Americans in the larger project of American renewal."

Tags US Commission on Civil Rights (USCCR), President Barack Obama, Leith Anderson, Russell Moore, National Association of Evangelicals (NAE), Southern Baptist Convention (SBC)

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