The second session of the 117th Congress is now underway, and it begins as the nation is still grappling with a global pandemic, supply chain issues, and economic uncertainty. This is a midterm election year, meaning that the window for legislative activity is shorter than usual, and — if history is any indication — the Congressional landscape will likely change in November.
The Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) has been through a season of transition over the past year, but we have continued carrying out our ministry directive to serve the public policy interests of Southern Baptists, and we will always represent Southern Baptists before Congress, the courts, and the administration. In 2021, the Southern Baptist Convention was the first denomination to pass a resolution rightly calling what’s happening to the Uyghur people in China a genoicde. Through advocacy efforts from the ERLC and like-minded partners, Congress passed and President Biden signed into law an important bill titled the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act. Our advocacy against the genocide perpetrated against the Uyghur people will continue this year as we remain a voice for persecuted people. Additionally, in 2021, the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments in a case titled Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. It is the most important pro-life case in a generation and could overturn the disasterous precedents set in prior cases like Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey. We will work toward a day when abortion is unthinkable and unncessary.
In some ways, our ERLC public policy agenda will be the same as that of all Americans of goodwill — an end to the COVID-19 disease that now enters year three of plaguing the world. In other ways, we anticipate multiple issues will emerge unique to the mission of the ERLC. As always, we will work with any and all of those elected by the people, or appointed to serve in our government by those who were so elected, on issues where we may share common concern. On some of those issues — such as criminal justice reform, the regulation of payday lenders, and providing a just solution to the plight of children brought to this country by their parents and now in legal limbo — there may well prove to be broad bipartisan consensus already. On other issues — such as protecting preborn children and their mothers, strengthening protections for religious freedom and conscience, and advocacy for religious minorities in peril around the world — there will probably be much less consensus in a divided and increasingly partisan America. Nevertheless, whether issues are currently popular or unpopular, we have the opportunity to bear witness, to seek to persuade, and to build the consensus needed to make change.
In addition to our work with the executive and legislative branches of the federal government, the ERLC will continue our advocacy before the judicial branch on matters consistent with our mission and will continue to work in partnership with state conventions and state advocacy groups on issues of missional priority that are of national importance.