Russell Moore, the president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, will be honored for his work in religious freedom activism.
The Religious Freedom Institute, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit, will honor Moore with their 2020 Defender of Religious Freedom Award at a virtual ceremony to be held on Nov. 21.
Robert P. George, McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence at Princeton University and a former chair of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, will present the award.
This marks the second year that the Institute has bestowed their Defender of Religious Freedom award, with the first being in 2019 to Roman Catholic Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of Philadelphia.
The Institute announced its decision to honor Moore in September, explaining that the award was being given for his work tackling religious freedom issues as head of the ERLC.
“Moore defends the religious liberty of all people. He challenges believers to be better public witnesses to their faith, and he challenges secularists to have greater appreciation for the importance of religion in American public life,” stated the Institute.
In a statement released as part of the September announcement, RFI President Tom Farr said that Moore was “a brilliant, winsome, and tireless advocate for religious liberty.”
“Baptists played a major role in the Founders’ determination to guarantee the free exercise of religion for every American and every American religious community,” stated Farr.
“Moore represents the best of that tradition. Reaching deep into the treasury of Scripture, he demands ‘soul freedom’ for each of us, so that we might seek the truth in freedom, unhindered by government or any human agent.”
During his time as head of the ERLC, Moore has been critical of infringements on religion, regardless of their source, at times garnering controversy for his stances.
In 2014, Moore told a group of reporters that he believed the Obama administration displayed “a shocking audacity when it comes to restricting religious liberty.”
The comment came soon after the United States Supreme Court had granted Hobby Lobby Stores a religious exemption to the controversial Obama-era birth control mandate that required faith-based business-owners to pay for birth control.
“I think there's a general attitude on the part of the [Obama] administration that's very troubling when it comes to religious liberties,” said Moore at the time.
“We cannot see this case as settling the issue once and for all. We have to remain diligent to articulate why religious liberty is in the common good of all people.”
In 2016, Moore garnered pushback from some within the SBC for his decision to have the ERLC intervene in a lawsuit on behalf of a Muslim community attempting to build a mosque on Church Street in a historic part of Bernards Township, New Jersey.
In response to failed efforts to have him removed as head of the ERLC over the amicus brief, Moore explained that protecting the rights of Muslims was beneficial to the SBC.
“When you have a government that says 'we can decide whether or not a house of worship can be constructed based upon the theological beliefs of that house of worship,' then there are going to be Southern Baptist churches in San Francisco and New York and throughout this country who are not going to be able to build,” explained Moore at the time.