What kind of Baptist church is this?

rublev trinity iconAssociated Press writer Angela Delli Santi wrote a story about a Muslim student's lawsuit against his public high school:

A Muslim student who sued because his public high school graduation ceremony was held in a Baptist church has received an apology from Newark's school district and assurances that it will not hold future events in houses of worship.

Bilal Shareef said he had to skip his 2006 graduation from West Side High School because his religious beliefs prohibit him from entering buildings containing icons of God.

The lawsuit was filed on his behalf by the American Civil Liberties Union. Newark public schools apologized to Shareef and his father and agreed to change its policies under terms of the settlement announced Monday.

A reader sent along the story because of the oddness of the second paragraph. Baptist churches aren't exactly known for their icons, he noted:

What "religious icons" are found in Baptist churches other than a cross, a "Christian" flag and maybe, just maybe, Warner Sallman's portrait of Christ?

Aren't most Baptist churches really icon-free?

It's a good question. I think the AP reporter could have explained Shareef's objection much better. In Christianity, an icon is a representation or picture of a sacred or sanctified Christian personage. Icons, such as the one pictured here, are particularly identified with Eastern Christendom. But even if it just means an image or representation, a further explanation is in order. And once we had a better idea of what in particular was problematic for Shareef, a greater discussion of the theological basis for his opposition should also have been included.

Speaking of Baptists . . . if you're looking for coverage of the Southern Baptist Convention, you should read Peter Smith's Faith and Works blog at the Louisville Courier-Journal. He's got updates on efforts to clean up Baptist membership rolls (full story here), how the SBC elected their first president of color this week, a motion that would block Al Mohler from running for president, and much, much more.

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