Georgia Baptist editor: Islam may be unworthy of First Amendment protection

Gerald Harris, editor of the Christian Index, speaks out in favor of a 2015 “religious liberty” bill at the state Capitol. Bob Andres, bandres@ajc.com

Gerald Harris, editor of the Christian Index, speaks out in favor of a 2015 “religious liberty” bill at the state Capitol. Bob Andres, bandres@ajc.com

Updated at 2:05 p.m.: A press release has arrived with the following riposte:

The Georgia chapter of the Council on American-Islamic relations has invited Dr. Gerald Harris, the editor of the official newspaper of the Georgia Baptist Mission Board, to attend a Ramadan Interfaith Dinner at a Georgia mosque on June 18th….

“We welcome Dr. Harris to break bread with his Georgia Muslim neighbors so that he can recognize the common values that unite all Americans,” said CAIR Georgia Executive Director Edward Ahmed Mitchell. “Americans need not share the same religious beliefs as our neighbors in order to respect their constitutional right to worship God as they see fit.”

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Original post: The editor of the official newspaper of the Georgia Baptist Mission Board, which organized state Capitol support for the “religious liberty” bill vetoed this spring by Gov. Nathan Deal, is questioning whether Islam is worthy of First Amendment protection under the U.S. Constitution.

Gerald Harris, editor of the Christian Index and a former classmate of Deal’s at Mercer University, writes:logo-GB

… Islam may be more of a geo-political movement than a religion. Reza F. Safa, once a devout and practicing Shi’ite Muslim and now a minister of the Gospel, has written, “Recognizing Islam as a system of religious belief is the gravest mistake that the Western governments have made in this era.”

…Jody Hice, former Baptist pastor and U.S. Representative from Georgia’s 10th congressional district, stated in his book It’s Now Or Never: A Call To Reclaim America, “Although Islam has a religious component, it is much more than a simple religious ideology. It is a complete geo-political structure and, as such, does not deserve First Amendment protection.”

Hice continued, “Most people think Islam is a religion; it’s not. It’s a totalitarian way of life with a religious component. But it is much larger. It’s a geo-political system that has governmental, financial, military, legal, and religious components. And it’s a totalitarian system that encompasses every aspect of life and it should not be protected [under U. S. law].”

Harris’ views run contrary to those expressed in Nashville, national headquarters for America’s largest Protestant denomination. Harris noted that Russell Moore, who heads up the Southern Baptist public policy arm, recently joined other religious groups in support of a Muslim congregation in New Jersey that has been trying to build a mosque for almost a decade. Wrote Harris:

So, do Southern Baptists entities need to come to the defense of a geo-political movement that has basically set itself against Western Civilization? Even if Islam is a religion must we commit ourselves to fight for the religious freedom of a movement that aggressively militates against other religions?

Some interior denominational politics may be at work here. Harris implies that Moore has put more effort in protecting the religious freedom of Muslims than in lobbying for HB 757, the vetoed “religious liberty” bill, in Georgia.

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Newt Gingrich’s comments on Donald Trump continue to morph. On Sunday, the former U.S. House speaker condemned the presumptive Republican nominee’s caustic remarks about Indiana-born U.S. District Judge Gonzalo Curiel, the jurist in charge of a class-action lawsuit against Trump University.

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich. AJC file

Trump had declared the judge biased because of his Mexican descent.

“This is one of the worst mistakes Trump has made. I think it’s inexcusable,” Gingrich said on Fox News.

On Monday, The Donald declared himself disappointed in Gingrich. “As far as Newt is concerned, I saw Newt. I was surprised at Newt. I thought it was inappropriate, what he said,” Trump said – on the same network.

On Monday, the former Georgia congressman drew back a little. From Gingrich’s email to the Washington Post:

Trump’s complaints about the judge and the law firm in the Trump University case are valid and reflect a growing pattern of politicized “justice.” Criticizing the judge for his membership in a radical La Raza San Diego group would have been legitimate. Focusing on ethnicity was not.

I am confident the Trump campaign from the convention on will be remarkably inclusive and will do much better with minorities than [Mitt] Romney did in 2012.

Back Gingrich goes on that short veep list.

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Whether she liked it or not, the Associated Press declared Hillary Clinton the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee late Monday. Which has prompted a Washington Post editorial demanding that victory bring the former secretary of state out of her defensive crouch:

One of the many political norms that Mr. Trump has set about eroding is transparency, with his fidelity to certain lies and his refusal to release his tax returns, despite decades of contrary precedent. Ms. Clinton has released a trove of tax records but for months has declined to honor another essential expectation of the nation’s leaders and would-be leaders: She has not held a real news conference since December.

In response to criticism of this inaccessibility, Ms. Clinton says she has offered some 300 personal interviews since her last news conference, and her campaign points out that she has held a handful of short, informal “gaggles” with the traveling press this year. Neither is a reasonable substitute for regularly facing the media. Candidates are less likely to face wide-ranging and tough questions and follow-ups in carefully managed interviews, where time is often limited and there is usually only one interlocutor, than they are from a room full of reporters for an extended period of time.

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We received a note from former congressman Paul Broun on Monday, letting us know that his pre-Memorial Day defeat in the GOP race for the 9th District hasn’t stopped him, but that he’s a little shy on cash:

There is still immeasurable work to be on the grassroots front, but before I can continue defending our constitutional liberties, I need to tie up loose ends. Even though my primary challenge efforts have concluded, I still have campaign debt obligations to address.

We may have to wait until after June 30 to know the size of the hole that Broun has dug for himself.

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Atlanta’s blighted Westside could get a multi million-dollar boost after winning ‘Promise Zone’ status from the Obama administration, a designation that will put the area on the top of the list when applying for poverty-related federal grants.

The Westside Promise Zone is just west of downtown Atlanta, in the shadows of the Georgia Dome and the new $1.4 billion Mercedes-Benz Stadium, and nearly half of its 16,430 residents live in poverty. Here’s more from the White House:

The area has struggled in recent years with a declining population, blight, poverty, unemployment, and a crime rate that is twice as high as the city-wide rate in 2014-15.  There is limited commercial activity: only 2 percent of total land area within the WPZ is commercial use.  Much of the area is a food desert and services like health care are limited.  Housing stock in the WPZ is older and more distressed than in the rest of the city.


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