Challenge the Gap was created to find and support progressive, non-proselytizing religious charities whose work reflects shared values with the humanist community. As an organization working to advance church-state separation, the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty is an ideal candidate for Challenge the Gap. Because the worst offenders in eroding the wall of separation are often Southern Baptists, it is often assumed that all Baptists oppose this constitutional principle. But the work of BJC reflects the little-known fact that church-state separation is written into the founding language of the denomination. In the 1980s, as Southern Baptists took a hard turn to the political right, they cut off funding to BJC, calling it “too liberal.” BJC has since remained a powerful voice for separation within the Baptist family, partnering with Americans United for Separation of Church and State and other organizations to ensure that government and religion remain separate, work that has included support for secular student campus groups. As their website states, BJC is “fighting to uphold the historic Baptist principle of religious freedom. It stands guard at the intersection of church and state, defending the first freedom of the First Amendment.”
To ensure that BJC was not aligned with the more problematic Baptist expressions, our research and vetting were especially extensive in this case. Our selection process focuses on identifying the best organizations to partner with, and we found BJC to be an ideal fit for our Challenge the Gap category. Our perspectives differ in obvious ways, but working together when our values overlap is among the most powerful ways we can advance those values.