ATLANTA (ABP) — Leaders of four national Baptist organizations signed a statement released March 10 critical of the hearings by the U.S. House of Representatives' Committee on Homeland Security on the subject of radicalization within the American Muslim community.
Cooperative Baptist Fellowship Executive Coordinator Daniel Vestal and Roy Medley, general secretary of American Baptist Churches USA, signed as steering committee members of Shoulder-to-Shoulder, a campaign of faith-based organizations and religious denominations to promote tolerance and fight anti-Muslim bigotry.
Carroll Baltimore, president of the Progressive National Baptist Convention, and Brent Walker of the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty signed on as additional signatories. Other Baptists on the list included Welton Gaddy, president of the Interfaith Alliance and minister for preaching and worship at Northminster (Baptist) Church in Monroe, La., and Jim Wallis of Sojourners, a member of First Baptist Church in Washington.
Thursday's hearing, chaired by U.S. Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., was titled "The Extent of Radicalization in the American Muslim Community and that Community's Response."
Faith leaders responded with a campaign that included a news conference and meetings with members of Congress from both parties as well as White House officials.
"We gather together to affirm that we stand united with all Americans in urging our elected representatives to act — not against a single, unfairly maligned group, but against all forms of violence and extremism that endanger our security," the statement read in part. "As spiritual leaders and people of faith, we call on the United States Congress, elected officials at every level of government, and all American citizens not to perpetuate damaging false witness against our neighbors. Instead, we encourage all communities of faith and people of good will throughout this country, to stand shoulder-to-shoulder in communities of growing awareness, trust and hope."
Vestal said he was glad to sign the statement and "stand shoulder-to-shoulder" with other faith groups in support of the Muslim community.
"As Baptists who hold to the principle of religious freedom, we have an obligation to stand with other people of faith when the government unfairly singles them out for scrutiny or misrepresentation," Vestal said.
Bob Allen is senior writer for Associated Baptist Press. Lance Wallace of CBF communications contributed to this report.