(HT: SBC Today)Dr. Emir Caner, the new President of Truett-McConnell College in Cleveland, Georgia, has posted an excellent article on his new blog (here's his RSS feed) touching upon the disturbing case of Taha Abdul-Basser, Islamic chaplain at Harvard University. An email from Abdul-Basser has leaked into the public domain in which he expresses a coziness with the idea of capital punishment for those who leave Islam for any other religious faith.
It is my considered opinion that the ongoing (regardless of what the White House may tell you) war on terror is indeed a religious war. It is not, however, a war between Christianity and Islam, as some like to style it. Rather, it is a war between those who believe in religious liberty and those who spurn it.
Abdul-Basser's situation raises an interesting question: Does religious liberty include the liberty not to believe in religious liberty?
A differentiation between religious toleration and religious liberty is in order at this point. Religious toleration is the situation in which the government does not punish a person for his religious convictions, but may endorse a particular religious conviction through subsidy or preferential legislation. Religious liberty is the situation in which the government neither persecutes nor endorses any of the competing religious points of view. Baptists have historically been champions not only of religious toleration but further of religious liberty.
So, does religious liberty include the liberty not to believe in religious liberty? In posing the question, I'm not so much asking whether Abdul-Basser ought to be thrown into the clink for his willingness to countenance an "off with their heads" response to Islamic infidelity. I think that religious toleration certainly should be extended even to those who support the idea that Islamic infidelity merits the death penalty. After all, Abdul-Basser is simply being faithful to the clear teachings of his scriptures and his religious tradition. For that he ought not to be punished.
And yet, I do not believe that opposition to religious liberty should enjoy the benefits of religious liberty. In other words, I do believe that the United States of America can establish, should establish, and has established an official position on the admittedly religious doctrine of whether there ought to be liberty of religious conscience. At this point, the Constitution of the United States of America says that Abdul-Basser and the Hadith and Mohammed are all wrong. And Abdul-Basser knows it, citing "the absence of Muslim governmental authority" as one of the practical factors (along with "the hegemonic modern human rights discourse") making it impractical for Moslems actually to execute infidels in the West quite yet.
The United States of America should not be alone in her position; Harvard University should take a stand for religious liberty as well, by censoring Abdul-Basser for his remarks.