MOORE — Oklahoma Southern Baptists are urging President Barack Obama to withdraw a controversial health care mandate because they assert it violates their right of religious liberty.
The request came in the form of a resolution approved Tuesday by Baptist delegates gathered for the denomination's 106th annual meeting at First Baptist Church of Moore, 301 NE 27.
“Religious liberty is really at the heart of our beliefs, not only our history,” Brian Hobbs, spokesman for the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma, said Tuesday.
The resolution, which Hobbs said was written before the Nov. 6 presidential election, was one of nine approved at Tuesday's convention gathering. The convention is the state affiliate of the Southern Baptist Convention.
The state Baptists join a list of groups and organizations that have expressed vehement opposition to a U.S. Health and Human Services mandate that requires businesses, including faith-based businesses, to pay for contraception and what the groups describe as abortion-inducing drugs for their employees.
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has been vocal in its opposition of the mandate. Also, Oklahoma City-based retail giant Hobby Lobby filed suit against the government in September, saying the new federal health care rule conflicts with owner David Green's Christian values.
Hobbs said Tuesday was not the first time Oklahoma Baptists have spoken out against the mandate. He said a statement by the convention's executive director-treasurer Anthony Jordan was read at a faith-based sanctity of life event in February at the state Capitol in which the Baptist leader said Oklahoma Baptists would stand with Roman Catholics in opposing the measure.
Hobbs said Jordan also praised Hobby Lobby's leaders for speaking up for religious liberty.
“The (resolution) committee felt it needed to underscore that, regardless of the election, we understand the HHS mandate to be a threat to religious liberty,” he said.
The religious liberty resolution also called on the president to ensure religious liberty for military chaplains to minister according to their religious consciences without fear or coercion.
In other business
The Rev. Nick Garland, senior pastor of First Baptist Church of Broken Arrow, was elected president of the state convention. Other leaders elected Tuesday are the Rev. Johnny Montgomery, senior pastor of First Baptist-Red Oak, first vice president; Danny Ringer, associate pastor of First Baptist Church of Elk City, second vice president.
Other resolutions approved Tuesday called for:
• Applauding the efforts of Oklahomans who play a role in recognizing that life begins at conception and encouraging Oklahoma Baptists to take a proactive role in promoting the sanctity of human life.
• Praying for and encouraging elected officials.
• Congratulating the Baptist Messenger, the convention's official newspaper, on its centennial.
• Affirming Sunday school as a primary ministry in the church for discipleship and evangelism.
• Expressing gratitude for the unselfish sacrifice and service of the U.S. military and their families.