Baptist prelates and church members, with the blessing of the Liberia Baptist Missionary and Educational Convention (LBMEC), have expressed opposition to the proposal to turn Liberia into a “Christian Nation.”
Proposal #24 to declare Liberia a Christian State, seen by many as highly divisive and dangerous, was among proposed amendments voted on and accepted by 400 delegates attending the 5-day Constitution Review Conference held last week in Gbarnga, Bong County.
The LBMEC, under the leadership of its president, Rev. Dr. Olu Q. Menjay, who is also vice president and chair of the Commission on Human Rights Advocacy of the Baptist World Alliance, said Liberian Baptists do not support the proposal to make Liberia a “Christian Nation.”
As the oldest Christian denomination in the country, LBMEC said it is cognizant of its “baptistic history and core commitment as a Christian denomination, which does not discriminate.”
“There is no blemish on our escutcheon (a protective or ornamental nameplate) for the practice of religious persecution, since the act is the unfair treatment of a person or group of people because of religious beliefs and practice. Religious persecution can take the form of physical punishment or discrimination,” a statement issued by the Baptist Convention and signed by Dr. Menjay stated
Therefore, the Baptists are of the view that to make Liberia a “Christian Nation” is discriminatory and is not part of our Baptist Christian principles.”
Accordingly, the Baptist said, they have persistently refused to bend their own necks under the yoke of suppression, “and we have meticulously withheld our hand and heart from . . . yokes placed upon others.
“We do not support any legislated domination of any group or individual, because we strongly are driven by the words of Jesus as recorded in Matthew 7:12 to “treat others as you want them to treat you. This is what the Laws and the Prophets are all about.
“We do not support making Liberia a “Christian Nation,” the Baptist statement emphasized.
The Baptists, the statement said, have never approved an ordinance inflicting a civic disability on any human person or group because of religious practice and belief.
According to the statement, the Baptists reaffirm the right of every human being in Liberia to exercise freedom in matters of faith and conscience from all compulsion or intimidation by any governmental authority.
Liberian Baptists, therefore, “have no room for sectarian arrogance within the country’s diverse Christian persuasions and in a progressively more pluralistic world where Liberia is for all persons regardless of faith persuasion or affiliation.
“A nerve center of our denominational sensibility as Christians called Baptist is not merely religious toleration, but religious liberty; not merely sufferance, but freedom not just for us, but for all people. As such, we affirm our stance against making Liberia a Christian Nation.”
Meanwhile, the Baptist said they have joined the likes of several other Baptists, including John Symth, Thomas Helwys, Roger Williams, John Clarke, and Ann Hasseltine Judson and, in the words of another eminent Baptist minister, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”
The Liberia Baptist Missionary and Educational Convention was founded in 1880 to bring Baptist churches together for fellowship, cooperation and the development of programs in Christian education and evangelism.
Though the Baptist Convention was founded in 1880, the Baptists are recognized as Liberia’s oldest denomination because the first church which the pioneers from America built, in 1822, was Providence Baptist, on Broad Street in central Monrovia. It is the smaller edifice behind which the new Providence Baptist Church, facing Ashmun Street, was built. It was in that first Baptist Church on Broad Street that the Declaration of Independence and the Liberian Constitution of 1847 were signed.