Religious liberty, pro-life concerns and gay marriage have been among the topics discussed in Russell D. Moore’s meetings with Jeb Bush and other potential 2016 presidential candidates, Southern Baptists’ lead ethicist said in an interview with Baptist Press.
“I don’t endorse candidates. I’m not going to endorse a candidate. I’ll never endorse a candidate for president,” Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, told BP. “I don’t think that’s my job. But I’m willing to meet with anyone who wants to talk about what Southern Baptists are about and what sorts of things are of concern to us.”
Also in the interview, Moore said he feels no need to apologize for comments he made in April regarding the quarrelsome tone of some Christian talk radio hosts.
Moore’s May 2 meeting in Miami with Bush — the former governor of Florida who many believe will run for president — was discussed in national media outlets after the Washington Post reported in April that the two planned to talk. Moore said the publicity was unusual because he has met with other potential presidential candidates with virtually no publicity.
He declined to identify the other possible candidates or say how many meetings have occurred, though he indicated that all have been Republicans.
Once presidential hopefuls announce their candidacy, Moore said he may be willing to reveal which ones have conversations with him. Until then, he wants to “meet with people and have frank discussions on their own terms,” he said, adding that some potential candidates prefer not to disclose the meetings.
“I think that’s fine,” Moore said of the private meetings, “because I want to be able to help people running for office get a perspective on the issues that are of concern to evangelicals, even if they don’t agree with us on those concerns.”
Moore noted that religious liberty, the protection of innocent life and the defense of marriage are topics he typically addresses with prospective candidates.
Religious liberty was an important topic in his discussion with Bush. Moore said he “can’t remember the last time” he “had a conversation with anyone currently or potentially in government when I didn’t bring up the [Obama administration’s abortion/contraceptive] mandate as an example of what happens when government seeks to overtake the conscience.”
The abortion/contraceptive mandate requires employers to carry health insurance plans covering contraceptives that can cause chemical abortions — even if doing so runs contrary to the employers’ religious convictions.
Religious liberty concerns “are mobilizing a new coalition of religious people in this country,” Moore said. He added that when voting for a candidate, it is important to know whether he or she believes only in the freedom to hold private religious convictions or also in the freedom to live out those convictions in the public square.
An unexpected topic during the conversation with Bush was Southern Baptist Disaster Relief, a topic that Bush knows much about based on his experience helping Floridians recover from hurricanes, Moore said.
In addition to talking with presidential candidates, Moore said he plans to talk with Southern Baptists during the 2016 election cycle about how to determine which candidate to vote for. He said Christians should regard the defense of innocent human life, the family and religious liberty as the three most important issues.
“There are other issues,” Moore said. “But without those three issues … everything else is in peril. So I think those issues have priority over many others.”
Voting for candidates who reflect biblical values is wise stewardship of a believer’s American citizenship, Moore said.
“Romans 13 says that God has given a sword of authority to Caesar. In a democratic republic, the ultimate accountability rests with the people, which means that the act of voting in our system is essentially the delegating of the use of the sword, which means we must have … consciences that understand our responsibility for wisdom in seeking leaders to act on our behalf,” he said.
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SOURCE: Baptist Press