The entire story is at http://www.abpnews.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=4216&Itemid=53 Baptist views of church-state separation: Q & A with Brent Walker By Robert Marus Wednesday, July 08, 2009 WASHINGTON (ABP) -- Baptists have, since their earliest days, been advocates of religious liberty and its corollary, the separation of church and state. But different groups of modern-day Baptists in the United States interpret church-state separation -- and the Constitution’s provisions for it -- in different ways. Brent Walker, executive director of the Washington-based Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty, explains in an interview the differences between Baptist groups on this issue. Q: What are the main schools of thought on church-state separation in the United States, and how do different Baptist groups fall on those lines? A: Seventy years ago, the original partners in the Baptist Joint Committee -- Southern Baptists, Northern (now American) Baptists and National (historically African-American) Baptists -- adopted “The American Baptist Bill of Rights.” In it, they outlined four different conceptions of the relationship between church and state: • Church above the state -- a theocracy in which religion controls the government. • State above the church -- a secular government that is hostile to religion. • Church alongside of the state -- where one particular religion is privileged, with toleration for others. • Church separate from the state -- [which the document said has been] “championed by Baptists everywhere and held by those governments that have written religious liberty into their fundamental law.” Clearly, these three Baptist groups -- and I would hazard a guess 99 percent of Baptists in the pews -- thought that the fourth conception was the right one, the Baptist one and the American one. This is the understanding of the church-state separation that finds its roots in Roger Williams, expression in the writing and life witness of [early Baptist champions of religious freedom] John Leland and Isaac Backus, fruition in [Texas Baptist pastor] George W. Truett’s Capitol Hill speech in 1920, and life today in the work of the Baptist Joint Committee. This view sees the separation of church and state as an insurance policy protecting our God-given religious freedom. It is not an end in itself. This view of separation, on the constitutional level, takes seriously both protections in the First Amendment for religious liberty: no establishment and free exercise. That is, the government should not try to help religion (no establishment) and it should not try to hurt religion (free exercise), but should be neutral towards religion. Just leave it alone.