My latest Baptist Studies Bulletin column is up over at the Baptist History & Heritage website.
Stop by and read the entire column on Baptists and immigration reform. I’ve included a snippet below:
A look at history shows us that broad-based coalitions of “odd bedfellows”
sometimes are indeed able to work together to achieve a big goal. An excellent
example is the Religious Freedom Restoration Act that was signed into law 20
years ago. Baptists—notably the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious
Liberty—played a critical role in that process to ensure that government not be
allowed to infringe on an individual’s religious freedom in the absence of a
compelling state interest.
However, RFRA almost did not become a reality. The idea of a legislative
remedy to the Supreme Court’s misguided ruling in Oregon Employment Division
v. Smith united diverse faith communities. The tricky part came when a
specific bill was introduced. RFRA was initially met with resistance from
pro-life groups. Nearly three years lapsed before Congress finally passed RFRA
and the religious liberty bill was signed into law by President Clinton.
Sometimes, however, emerging movements and broad coalitions fizzle and fall
apart. Just a handful of years ago, national newspapers and magazines were
declaring the greening of evangelicalism. High-profile conservative evangelicals
were vowing to be better stewards and promising to mobilize their communities to
take political action to combat climate change. In the end, the bipartisan
Climate Security Act, designed to modestly regulate greenhouse gas emissions of
corporations through a free market “cap and trade” system, was defeated.
In light of this historical backdrop, Baptists who are hopeful for
immigration reform should proceed with cautious optimism. Baptists did not quit
on RFRA when it died in 1990 and again in 1992. Rather, they participated in the
resurrection of RFRA on the third try. Hopefully, Baptists and other Christians
will not abandon the cause of comprehensive immigration reform if confronted
with political roadblocks similar to those of the past that have led so many
briefly-energized evangelical voices to shamefully desert the environmental
arena since the supposed “greening” of evangelicalism.