JEFFERSON CITY—Missouri Southern Baptists are rightfully concerned about the growing intrusiveness of government with their faith, says Barrett Duke, vice president for public policy and research and director of the research institute of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC). Duke will offer two addresses here March 29 during the Worldview Conference at Memorial Baptist Church.
Duke, who has been with the ERLC since 1997, spoke March 6 with The Pathway about how he will address the topic of “A Christian Citizen’s Responsibility in 2012.” Some fundamentals include God creating government for a good purpose, Christians making sure it turns out that way, and Christians going on to influence a broader culture for good.
In the news now is the Obama administration mandate that most religious employers must provide health care coverage for contraception and abortion pills. Duke intends to make this very relevant to the audience.
“Government is now putting itself in a position where it can tell people of faith how and when and where and under what circumstances they can live out the values of their faith,” he said. “This really is at heart a religious liberty issue, and we cannot allow this threat to our First Amendment freedoms to stand.”
Duke agreed that recent events have likely led people to conclude that it is more a matter of a women’s right to obtain contraception than it is about people of faith being denied their fundamental rights.
“It’s our job to help folks understand that this is about whether or not the First Amendment means anything,” he said. “We are going to have to continue to press that. I think Christians are becoming increasingly aware of what really is at stake here.”
For Southern Baptists, a major difficulty with the mandate is that it will have the effect of snuffing out life.
“These are abortion-causing drugs and devices, so it’s a pro-life issue,” Duke said.
In general, Duke said, this issue is “new territory” for Southern Baptists who have always been mainly concerned with evangelism and missions. If nothing else, Duke said, it is a reminder that if we do not occupy the space of government very well then others of a more secular persuasion will tend to fill the vacuum.
“We are in a position where the government is telling people of faith what they can consider to be appropriate acts of their faith,” Duke said.
Duke works in Washington, D.C., where he communicates Southern Baptist convictions to elected and public officials to influence the development of sound public policy. He has worked with legislators and various government agencies on many legislative and public policy issues, including abortion, euthanasia, gambling, homosexuality, judicial nominations, pornography, public education, religious liberty, same-sex marriage, sex trafficking, stem cell research, and substance abuse. He provided testimony during hearings of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms on alcohol beverage labeling and health claims. He speaks regularly on Christian worldview, sanctity of human life, gambling, homosexuality, capital punishment, public education, religious freedom, separation of church and state, and other issues in many religious and civic settings.
Duke, the founding pastor of Cornerstone Baptist Church in Denver from 1984-1996, is a former trustee of Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary, Mill Valley, Calif., who has served as a guest lecturer in ethics and related fields at all six SBC seminaries.