Members of the Public Affairs Committee gathered Dec. 4 at the Georgia Baptist Missions and Ministry Center. MYRIAH SNYDER/Index
DULUTH – The fight for religious liberty, our ability to live according to our faith, is under attack, Harrison Smith, regional alliance director for Alliance Defending Freedom, told the Georgia Baptist Public Affairs Committee during its meeting on Dec. 4 at the Georgia Baptist Missions and Ministry Center.
However, even with culture becoming more and more hostile toward biblical Christianity, Smith said, “I think we have a lot to be encouraged about because there’s an opportunity for us to stand up and be a light in the midst of the darkness.”
“There are physical, worldly consequences for our actions, and there are eternal consequences,” Smith explained, quoting former Atlanta Fire Chief, ADF client, and Public Affairs Committee member, Kelvin Cochran.
“Are we focused on the worldly consequences, what man thinks or will do? Or are we focused on the eternal consequences, going for the gold in eternity by being obedient to Christ? If it is the latter and we’re going to be obedient and grow God’s Kingdom, that may put a target on our head and we may suffer worldly consequences.”
He presented to the Committee various categories where the Church is “under fire.”. These lawsuits against the church or other religious institutions were classified under:
- Sexual orientation and gender identity laws,
- Land issues/Zoning laws,
- Access to government grants,
- COVID-19 mandates,
- Church employment,
- Christian education,
- and more.
A case of interest included one that hit close to home – that of Kelvin Cochran, who was present at this meeting, being fired from the Atlanta Fire Department for a devotional he wrote in his own time that briefly mentioned his biblical beliefs about marriage and sexuality.
That case, and many others, Alliance Defending Freedom won, with no cost to the church, individual, or entity. The legal ministry’s win rate is nearly 80%.
With the Georgia Baptist Mission Board being one of the longest standing partnerships with ADF, Smith encouraged churches to evaluate their core doctrines and make sure implied theological statements are explicitly stated.
“It could only take losing one case, from an ill-prepared (Georgia Baptist) church, to begin losing religious liberties here in the state,” Smith admonished, presenting the plan that ADF offers to Georgia Baptist churches through their ADF Church Alliance program. that provides churches with document review, access to attorneys, legal advice, and resources and free representation for an extreme discount (+ 20% off with promo code GBMB20).
ADF’s mission is to “keep the legal doors open for the gospel,” Smith said.
For more information on how your church can take advantage of the services offered by ADF, read this Christian Index article from 2019.
The Committee also heard an update from Mike Griffin, Georgia Baptist public affairs representative, reviewing the most recent Georgia legislative session and previewing the bills and topics to be discussed in the upcoming session.
“Our main opposition in the upcoming legislative session will be the expansion of gambling. (2021 will be the 7th year opposing it.),” Griffin shared. “Our primary support will be toward passing a Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA). (2021 will be the 6th year proposing it.)”
Griffin updated the Committee on the success of the Capitol Prayer Tours (see also the 11alive article), Public Affair trainings, and other events, including the upcoming Legislative Prayer Breakfast (Feb. 4 at the Sloppy Floyd building) and Pastor’s Day at the Capitol (Feb. 18, featuring Governor Mike Huckabee).
“These are really critical roles and responsibilities. It feels like we’re living in a world where things are getting away from us. It’s time to stand up,” Georgia Baptist Executive Director W. Thomas Hammond, Jr., said in comments encouraging the Committee.