A 2023 state policy review

Life, religious liberty, marriage and family, and human dignity

March 15, 2023

Across the nation state legislative sessions are underway. Though we typically think of Washington, D.C., as the primary location for policy change, the realities of a polarized nation and nearly evenly divided federal legislature make it difficult for substantial decisions to be made at a national level. As a result, state legislatures are in a position to make more consequential decisions in the policy areas that Southern Baptists care about and have addressed.

One of the ministry assignments of the ERLC is to assist churches through the communication and advocacy of moral and ethical concerns in the public arena. While the public arena is often thought of federally, it is also just as important locally. We will continue to serve and partner with state conventions and state advocacy groups on the issues of missional priority that are not just of national importance, but state importance as well.

A picture of state-level engagement 

Perhaps the best picture of state-level engagement has been seen in the aftermath of the overturning of Roe v. Wade. 

Since the historic Dobbs decision, the pro-life movement has substantially shifted focus to the states. Though there certainly remains a role for federal legislation, it is now up to each state to decide the status of abortion. As a result, there is now a greater opportunity than ever before for the citizens of each state to advocate for both protections for the pre-born and care for vulnerable mothers. We’ve already seen creative action from several states to do more to meet the needs of abortion-vulnerable women and empower them to choose life in their states. 

Other issues of interest 

Beyond protecting life, there are several other issues being legislated at the state level that are of interest to Southern Baptists. Just as the ERLC advocates for life, religious liberty, marriage and family, and human dignity at the national level, many of these same issues are currently being considered in state legislatures. Some of these include gambling, conscience protections for medical professionals, gender-transition procedures, the abortion pill, predatory lending, and more. 

This review is not an exhaustive list of policy priorities but just a few examples of current debates happening at the state level where Southern Baptists may choose to engage. Regardless of the current state or outcome of these specific pieces of legislation, we look at these policies to chart a hopeful vision for the landscape of state legislatures in this season and years to come. 

Our hope is that this document will serve as a framework for engagement as believers and policymakers alike review the thousands of proposals made in each state this legislative session. For any of these proposals, we would encourage interested readers to engage with their Baptist state convention whose team will have the latest information about developments related to these bills.

Read the full ERLC 2023 State Policy Review