Last year, the Anti-Defamation League began an interfaith initiative that supports the rights of Muslims to build mosques, and enlisted leaders of several major religious groups to help in the effort. Today, the Southern Baptist Convention’s Richard Land announced he is leaving the Interfaith Coalition on Mosques because he has received too many complaints from his constituents. Land told the Associated Press that many Southern Baptists felt he was promoting Islam, and not just protecting religious freedom. “I don’t agree with that perception but it’s widespread and I have to respect it,” Land said.
Land frequently inserted his voice into national stories about Islamophobia over the past year, sometimes calling for greater respect of Islam. When arsonists targeted a mosque in Murfreesboro, TN in August, Land spoke out strongly, saying he was “sickened” and “revolted” by the “un-American” acts, and the Interfaith Coalition on Mosques also filed a friend-of-court brief opposing a lawsuit aimed at stopping that mosque.
In announcing his resignation from the Interfaith Coalition on Mosques, Land stressed that his constituents, while they did complain about the Interfaith Coalition on Mosques’ activities, do respect Islam and the right of Muslims to worship. “My constituents, many felt, ‘Yes. We certainly believe in religious freedom. People ought to have a place of worship. But it’s a bridge too far not only to advocate for that, but to file suit,’” he said. “I do think it’s important to note that people were not calling me and saying Muslims don’t have a right to have mosques.”
Those statements do not square with the comments of several prominent members of the religious right who have criticized Land’s work with the Interfaith Coalition on Mosques, however. Buster Wilson, general manager of the American Family Association’s radio network, wrote a post on the AFA website in October excoriating Land and his efforts to promote “false gospels”:
But I will not get involved in helping make the way more readily open for [Muslims] to advance the cause of their false gospels. And that’s the line that feel Richard Land has crossed. He has joined a group is now filing court briefs to HELP Muslims get mosques built in this country. Fight for their RIGHT, but don’t help them advance a “gospel” that is no gospel at all and will send people to hell.
And I disagree that the “radical jihadists” are a recent, small percentage of the Muslim religion. Really? I feel that non-violent, “peaceful” Muslims are the small minority of that religion’s population. Just my opinion. But the truth is, FACT is, that every single suicide bomber, rocket launched into Israel, bus stop blown up, plane downed, is done so in the NAME OF Islam and the Koran! Someone help me understand where I’m wrong about that.
Ingrid Schlueter, a host on Voice of Christian Youth radio, also slammed Land in September:
“If Richard Land showed one tenth as much zeal in defending sound biblical doctrine as he has in promoting the expansion of Islam through mosques, we might have a Reformation in the Southern Baptist convention,” Schlueter remarked.
“As it stands, Land is aiding and abetting the relentless march of Islam in the West. Ironically, he does it in Jesus name,” Schlueter said.
It’s certainly not clear that even a majority of Southern Baptists would oppose helping Muslims build mosques, but a war is being fought between vitriolic Islamophobes with large media platforms, and leaders like Land, who has not been afraid to advocate for religious freedom in the past. Unfortunately, Land just surrendered this particular battle.