Earlier this month, Melissa Rogers, Director of Wake Forest University Divinity School’s Center for Religion and Public Affairs, a nonresident senior fellow at The Brookings Institution, and frequent State of Belief guest spoke about “A Christian and American Case for Defending Muslims’ Free Exercise Rights” at the Shurden Lectures on Religious Liberty and Separation of Church and State. In her lecture, Rogers offered a refreshing response to the rising prevalence of anti-Muslim rhetoric, particularly recent claims that Islam is not a religion at all and thus not worthy of protection under the First Amendment. In sharp contrast to such statements, Rogers appealed to citizens of all faiths to uphold religious freedom rights for Muslims saying, “Time and again, people in groups of one faith have defended the rights of people in another faith group.”
Rogers said that instead of blaming all Muslims for the 9/11 attacks (an attitude she rightly condemns) we must instead focus on defending Muslims’ constitutional right to practice their faith freely. While she admits that some people might be skeptical of defending another person’s right to practice a different faith, she responds to such concerns by saying that “defending the right to practice a different religion is not the same as giving up one’s ability to criticize another religion.” In other words, to defend another person’s First Amendment rights does not mean we have to agree in any way with what that person’s religious convictions are. At a time when fear and prejudice against Muslims appear to be growing, such courage and insight should be applauded. I highly encourage you to watch the lecture in its entirety, which is available here.
Click here to listen to Professor Melissa Rogers on the legal and constitutional implications of controversy over the proposed Islamic Center near ground zero. You’ll also hear Rev. Ruth Meyers on the development of an Episcopal marriage rite for same-gendered couples and Pastor Dan Schultz on what the Religious Left needs to do to regain its authority. (Please note, these are extended versions of the interviews originally broadcast nationwide.) -Ed.