Southern Baptist Convention Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission Senior Fellow Andrew Walker reacted to a CNN column that reduced the Constitutional right to religious freedom to mere "Christian Nationalism."

In an article published by Baptist Press, Walker pointed out that "religious liberty is not 'Christian Nationalism.'" Walker, who is also an Ethics Theology Professor at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, cited the op-ed of Guthrie Graves-Fitzsimmons and Maggie Siddiqi that generalized religious freedom to be harmful to others.

The CNN column, "A Tennessee Couple's Struggle To Adopt Shows Religious Freedom Is Under Siege In America," raised that Elizabeth and Gabriel Rutan-Ram were "denied access to a state-sponsored foster parent certification program because they are Jewish."

The couple was adopting from a Christian adoption agency, Holsten United Methodist Home for Children, that required adoptive families to share their same Christian beliefs "to avoid conflicts or delays with future service delivery."

Accordingly, the Rutan-Rams were from a different state than Holsten United Methodist Home for Children but it was the nearest agency that could offer the service they need. The couple was able to adopt a child of their own eventually, but from another provider.

"Guthrie Graves-Fitzsimmons and Maggie Siddiqi engage in generalizations and grand pronouncements that are common in our culture wars rhetoric, especially against principles such as religious liberty which are viewed suspiciously as a means of harming others," Walker said.

"Rather than let a Christian organization be true to its convictions, progressive culture warring now acts to make Christians an example of what happens when you stand true to your convictions: Face litigation and cultural harassment. The couple in question, and others who joined them, have filed a lawsuit against the Tennessee Department of Children's Services accusing the government of discriminating against them," he stressed.

Walker went on to highlight how Siddiqi and Graves-Fitzsimmons tied up religious freedom with "Christian Nationalism," stating they are opposites.

The authors raised that "Christian Nationalism" is a way for believers to "be exempted from laws that don't conform to their theology" and other "civic vices" that include "white supremacy," "anti-LGBT views," and "anti-semitism."

As per Walker, these statements are framed incorrectly. He stressed that the authors' definition of "Christian Nationalism" was incomplete.

"To the extent that 'Christian Nationalism' is an identifiable set of beliefs that intends to tell others they are less American because they are not Christian, well, then, I would agree that that use of Christianity is toxic. But appeals to Christian Nationalism are rarely framed to mean only that. Most appeals to discredit Christian Nationalism frame any sort of conservative Christian concern as an identifiable subset of the larger Christian Nationalism category and therefore, disqualified," Walker explained.

"The authors are guilty of doing just this in a sort of progressive genetic fallacy--refusing to evaluate the argument but just casting blame on a nebulous connection between religious liberty and 'Christian Nationalism,'" he added.

Walker elaborated that "Christian Nationalism" is being used solely in the context of conservatism to "dismiss" the integrity of the institution out of convenience, that in effect, violates religious liberty. Framing religious liberty in that way is "careless" as it overlooks the "reciprocal nature of religious liberty."

"To the extent that Christian Nationalism is a convenient label used to dismiss conservative Christianity's concerns about institutional integrity altogether, then the authors are just as guilty of using their religion to exclude others as well. To be clear, Graves-Fitzsimmons and Saddiq's appeals to their own religious identity is just as much a form of "nationalism" insofar as it is used to forge a template for normative and non-normative interaction in the public square," Walker underscored.

"To frame religious liberty the way the authors have typifies the careless use of the term. It paints Christians as insidious cultural actors while fundamentally misunderstanding the reciprocal nature of religious liberty. The logic that protects the Christian adoption and foster care agency to operate according to their convictions also protects the Jewish, Muslim, or Mormon-based adoption and foster care agency as well," he said.