MADRID, Spain (SWBTS) – Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary President Paige Patterson and First Lady Dorothy Patterson spoke to 2,900 people attending the sixth World Congress of Families (WCF) May 25-27 in Madrid, Spain. Citizens from 80 countries gathered for the WCF to affirm the value of the family unit in society. The Pattersons spoke concerning both religious freedom and mothers’ ability to empower the next generation, respectively.

In his presentation “Religious Symbols in Public Spaces, a Right?” Dr. Paige Patterson reminded attendees of events spanning the globe in which one group or another physically or litigiously sought to remove symbols of faith from display in both the private and public sectors. He mentioned the 2002 vandalism of more than 230 Islamic monuments in Gujarat, the burning of copies of the Quran by American soldiers and civilians, the Taliban’s destruction of Buddha statues, and the refusal by Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Judge Roy Moore to remove a statue of the 10 Commandments from state property, which resulted in his removal from office.

“Each of these events and hundreds of others like them emphasize both the intensity of religious convictions and the complications that frequently result when public policy collides with religious conviction,” Dr. Patterson said. “In response, one can wring his hands in consternation and hopelessness, or he can attempt to set just standards equitable to all faiths and ask the human family to inculcate these principles in all religious matters.”

Dr. Patterson pointed to the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the First Amendment to the United States Constitution as offering helpful insight to applying rightly the ideals of religious liberty to the public square.

“Both of these declarations recognize the crucial nature of religious liberty,” Dr. Patterson said. “Indeed, religious liberty is the fountainhead of all liberties, and without this freedom, no society is genuinely free.”

Dr. Patterson said a distinction must be made, however, between “religious liberty” and “religious toleration.”

“I once complained to a statesman about the lack of religious liberty in his country,” Dr. Patterson said. “Offended, he insisted that his country had religious liberty. I responded that what he intended was that a person had a right to remain in the "religion of his birth," but not the right to change his faith and not the right to a free market place of open discussion of the values and essence of all religion.”

Dr. Patterson said that governments should avoid “sponsorship of partisan religious symbols in public places,” but said temporary religious symbols that do not create physical danger should be allowed as exercise of religious liberty. Governments, he said, should respect peaceful symbols from every faith in the effort to support the formulation of a just and free generation as it rises to leadership.
“The relationship of this issue to families and family life is that parents attempting to rear children in a culture of death have every right to expect governments to ensure justice and equal opportunity for religious expression, thus aiding the family in its assignment,” Dr. Patterson said.

The seminary’s first lady, Mrs. Patterson, said she too looks ahead to what the world can do to shape the next generation in her presentation, “A Modern Paradigm for Motherhood: Mothers Empowered to Empower a New Generation.”

Mrs. Patterson called attention to the opportunity mothers have to shape and mold the world’s next work force and thus society as a whole. She reminded attendees that monotony accompanies every task, be it in the boardroom or the washroom, and that the presence or lack of a paycheck says nothing of the value of the job one does—especially where mothers are concerned.

“Being a mother is often perceived to be a thankless and joyless, as well as an overwhelming, task. Many look at rearing children as a hardship tour in the duties of life—burdens and sacrifices, self-denial and boredom, an interruption and an inconvenience,” Mrs. Patterson said. “Women have been brainwashed to believe that the absence of a titled, payroll occupation condemns a woman to failure, boredom and even imprisonment within the confines of her home.”

Mrs. Patterson noted that though motherhood requires many sacrifices, it is a high and rewarding calling and one she says has been her crowning achievement and the highlight of her life’s work.  

“Motherhood is important enough to demand a woman’s diligent preparation, foremost commitment, full energies and greatest creativity for many reasons,” Mrs. Patterson said. “Each generation must be sure there is another generation. A mother does her job without the enticement of a paycheck, but she cannot be duplicated for any amount of money.”

The World Congress of Families provides an international forum for discussions on the importance of maintaining the value of family as it directly affects the structure of society. Its members seek to support and affirm policies, legislation and ideas that undergird the family unit and see its fortification as a proportionate factor in the success of a constructive society.