For his “significant efforts in publicly promoting and defending religious liberty,” R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, received the 2015 Edwin Meese III Originalism and Religious Liberty Award from the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), May 15.
“This award is presented to those who clearly demonstrate through their lives and callings a profound understanding and commitment to defending the original meaning of the United States Constitution and our liberty,” said Alan Sears, ADF’s president, CEO and general counsel.
Speaking to Mohler, Sears said, “You’ve acted as an eloquent ambassador for evangelicals and as a tireless advocate for religious freedom for all,” noting Mohler’s commitment to religious liberty for all persons no matter their religious convictions.
The award description said: “Alliance Defending Freedom honors Dr. R. Albert Mohler Jr. for his significant efforts in publicly promoting and defending religious liberty and a principled jurisprudence through the active advancement of constitutional originalism. Dr. R. Albert Mohler Jr.’s tireless efforts embody the enduring commitment to justice that is the hallmark of the American spirit, as personified by the Honorable Edwin Meese III, in whose name this award is given.”
Mohler attended the event held in suburban Washington, D.C., with his wife Mary for whom he expressed thanks.
Southern Seminary President R. Albert Mohler Jr. receives the Edwin Meese III Originalism and Religious Liberty Award from Alliance Defending Freedom President Alan Sears (left) and Council for National Policy President Tony Perkins (right).
“I am deeply and always aware that I could not be here without the constant support and love of my wife Mary Mohler,” he said.
In brief remarks, Mohler said the “eclipse of religious liberty and the threat of a new Dark Age” is a “gathering storm,” borrowing an expression Winston Churchill used to describe events in the 1930s that ultimately led to World War II.
“We are not facing the same gathering storm, but we are now facing a battle that will determine the destiny of priceless freedoms and the very foundation of human rights and human dignity,” he said.
A “revolution in morality” is seeking to “subvert marriage,” “redefine it,” and “undermine an essential foundation of human dignity, flourishing and freedom,” Mohler said.
Citing recent remarks by the United States solicitor general before the Supreme Court during oral arguments on gay marriage, Mohler said “religious liberty is under direct threat” by “erotic liberty and personal autonomy.”
“These are days that will require courage, conviction and clarity of vision,” he said. “We’re in a fight for the most basic liberties God has given humanity, every single one of us, made in his image.”
Mohler said the “very freedom to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ is at stake, and thus so is the liberty of every American. … I am a Christian, and I believe that salvation is found in no other name than Jesus Christ and in no other gospel, but I will fight for the religious liberty of all.”
The “danger of a new Dark Age” is “marked by the loss of liberty and the denial of human dignity,” he said. “Thus, there is a battle to be joined and much work to be done. Together, may we be found faithful to these tasks. As one no less than Churchill would remind us, in every gathering storm there is a summons to action.”
During the ceremony, Meese, the nation’s 75th attorney general who served under President Ronald Reagan, 1985-1988, praised Mohler for his work within the Southern Baptist Convention. Mohler “stood up” in defense of “sacred doctrines of the Bible” within the SBC, Meese said.
The constitutional principle of originalism and religious liberty “go hand-in-hand,” Meese said, “because unless we observe the original understanding of the Constitution as the founders gave it to us, we can be led down the wrong path” in which the Constitution is “perverted” to “lead our nation into ways that would be unbelievable to those who founded our country and did so much to give us the kinds of freedom we enjoy today.”
Meese said “religious liberty is under attack as never before” in America “in which so many forces are arrayed against preserving freedom of conscience and religious liberty.”
He added, “Never before in our history, I believe, has it been more important for people everywhere to stand up for principles of the Constitution and particularly the principles of the First Amendment of the Constitution, the first part of our Bill of Rights, and that is the protection of religious liberty.”
Concerning the Supreme Court’s impending decision on gay marriage, Meese admitted it’s not possible to know how the court will rule. Nevertheless, he said, “If they are following the Constitution, there is only one honest way in which they can come down, and that is to defend natural marriage.”
Also honored with the 2015 Meese Award was Cardinal Francis George, archbishop emeritus of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Chicago, who died in April. Receiving the honor on behalf of George was his longtime friend, William Murphy, bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Rockville Centre, Long Island, New York.
Alliance Defending Freedom is a legal ministry that defends and advocates religious freedom and employs more than 200 staff with 2,500 allied attorneys in the United States and across the world, according to Sears. A broad array of religious leaders founded the organization in 1994 because they were alarmed at the “rapidly declining state of religious freedom of America,” he said.
Beginning in 2009 with Meese, past recipients of the Meese Award are federal judge Robert H. Bork, evangelical leader Chuck W. Colson, professor Robert P. George, former Congressman Frank Wolf, Archbishop Charles Chaput, former U.S. Solicitor General Paul D. Clement and former Ambassador Mary Ann Glendon.
The Meese Award presentations were held in conjunction with a meeting of the Council for National Policy, an organization comprised of influential conservative leaders in business, government, politics, religion and academia.
Mohler’s remarks are available on his website, AlbertMohler.com.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – James A. Smith Sr. is executive editor and chief spokesman at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.)