Why Many Baptists Opposed the Pope’s Address to Congress

Sept.30Baptists and religious liberty go hand in hand.

Baptists were at the forefront of the adoption of the Bill of Rights – – the first 10 amendments to the Constitution.

It is no question why freedom of religion is the first amendment to the Constitution. Freedom to worship and to practice faith as one believes and the separation of church and state are at the heart of our natural rights.

James Leland, a Baptist minister, pushed James Madison and others in the political forefront of the new nation to adopt the Bill of Rights.

Baptists wanted to ensure that the states would not favor one religion over another. That is what was meant by the separation of church and state.

For this reason, many Baptists opposed the pope’s address to the joint session of Congress. Did you know that this was the first religious leader to ever address a joint session of Congress? Did the Congress of the United States do more than break a precedent? Did they, in fact, favor one religion over another?

The first amendment to the Constitution ensures the right of the people to worship and practice their faith as they see fit. It was not written to protect the state from religion, but religion from the state. The framers of the Constitution and the states that ratified the Bill of Rights knew that the danger of tyranny is from state power. They wanted to protect the freedom to exercise one’s religion.

All of this is clear in Thomas Jefferson’s famous letter to the Danbury Baptists. (You can read about Jefferson and the Danbury Baptists here: http://waylonbailey.com/2013/07/24/thomas-jefferson-and-the-separation-of-church-and-state/). These Baptists were concerned about the power of the state to favor one religion over another and to use the state’s power to suppress religious freedom.

What a prescient people they were. Their concerns seem to be playing out in 2015 America.

May God grant us His favor and may we be vigilant about the basic right – – the right to exercise our faith openly and freely.

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5 Comments


  1. Michael McEntee
    Sep 30, 2015

    Mr. Bailey;

    First of all, I AM A CHRISTIAN, no one will ever convince me that CHRIST, The HOLY MOTHER and the FATHER do not exist. I practice my faith at THE GOOD SHEPHERD CHURCH in Madisonville which is a American Catholic Church, I too was very disappointed with the Popes address to Congress, what happened to the separation of church and state. I do not believe the church should practice politics, make your opinions known but do not get to the front when it comes to politics. Thank you for your daily message and may GOD BLESS YOU


  2. Ed
    Sep 30, 2015

    Technically, the Pope is also a head of state, the Vatican is a sovereign nation. Depending on the content of the speech whether it was religious in nature, or a benign state speech.


  3. Caleb
    Sep 30, 2015

    The Pope’s address to Congress had no relation to a law establishing a religion in America or preventing anyone else from practicing their religion freely. As such, there’s really no combination of church and state here. You could make the same argument that chaplains should not be allowed in the military, Billy Graham should not have been able to meet with sitting presidents, and pastors should not be able to run for office. Religion should be able to address and interact with the state at will as long as the state doesn’t pass laws favoring or restricting religion.


  4. Jay
    Sep 30, 2015

    I agree 100% with you Caleb. On that same note someone should remind men such as Gene Mills and David Barton about separation of church and state. These men (whom I would imagine were opposed to the Pope’s address) have no problem with pushing their religious beliefs into politics and influencing political figures.


  5. Olivia
    Oct 02, 2015

    I agree with you, Caleb.

    Waylon, you should really read the Pope’s entire address to Congress. It sounds like you are creating an argument here for the sake of an argument, rather than focusing on the positivity of his speech.

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I am the senior pastor of First Baptist Church, Covington, Louisiana, a position that I have held since 1989.

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[The Birth of Jesus Foretold] In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.” — Luke 1:26-28 (NIV)