The Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty, our second-quarter Challenge the Gap beneficiary, provides education about and advocacy for religious liberty. Comprised of representatives from fifteen national, state and regional bodies in the United States, BJC works with coalitions of religious and civil liberties groups to both protect the free exercise of religion and to support the institutional separation of church and state.
Religious liberty in the United States is primarily protected under the twin guarantees of the Religion Clauses in the First Amendment. The establishment clause prohibits the government from passing legislation that establishes an official religion or prefers one religion over another. The free exercise clause prevents the government, in most cases, from interfering with an individual’s practice of their religion. One way that BJC is engaging individuals interested in protecting these rights is by encouraging them to communicate with their lawmakers.
While BJC actively monitors church-state litigation, provides analysis of cases and participates in pressing matters affecting religious freedom, they cannot be everywhere. They need constituents on all levels to engage their legislative and executive leaders about issues that affect religious liberty. To this end, BJC provides individuals and groups with online advocacy tips and resources.
The most effective means of communicating your position is through personal visits and emails. Phone calls and letter-writing is also encouraged, but the latter method can be delayed by necessary security screening. Regardless, each advocacy method has a certain protocol that should be followed for the greatest potential impact and encouraging a respectful, persistent, and confident dialogue.
Remember, constituents play a critical role in the governmental process. You and others can affect what happens in Washington D.C. or your state by ensuring that elected officials are aware of your support for or opposition to a particular issue or piece of legislation.