ERLC opposes riders that deny human dignity and religious freedom protections

Poison pills in fiscal year 2021 appropriations

August 20, 2020

The U.S. House of Representatives has passed 10 of the 12 appropriations bills for fiscal year 2021 (FY2021). These appropriations bills were packaged together and passed using H.R. 7608 includes Agriculture, Interior and Environment, Military Construction, VA, and State-Foreign Operations. H.R. 7617 includes Commerce, Justice, Science, Department of Defensense, Energy and Water, Financial Services, Labor HHS, and Transportation, Housing and Urban Development. The legislative branch appropriations bill has yet to be considered. The Senate has not considered FY2021 appropriations. 

The White House issued a Statement of Administration Policy, laying out the four corners agreement not to include poison pills or new riders in appropriations bills.

“Throughout the summer of last year, the Administration worked diligently with Congress to finalize a two-year budget agreement that set bipartisan spending limits for defense and non-defense expenditures, work that culminated in the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2019 (Public Law 116-37). This agreement included a provision prohibiting poison pills – new riders, changes in mandatory programs, other changes in policy or conventions that allow for higher spending levels, or non-appropriations measures – unless agreed to on a bipartisan basis by the four leaders with the approval of the President. The agreement also included a provision maintaining “[c]urrent transfer funding levels and authorities” unless the four leaders and the President agreed on changes. This compact was absolutely essential to the completion of all 12 appropriations bills in December 2019.”

In 2019, President Trump sent Speaker Pelosi a letter delineating his pro-life position, and actions his administration has taken to support the life of the unborn. He stated that he would “veto any legislation that weakens current pro-life Federal policies and laws, or that encourages the destruction of innocent human life at any stage.”

Southern Baptists affirm the full dignity of every human being and that every life is worthy of protection, beginning with the unborn. We believe life begins at conception, and that abortion denies precious human lives both personhood and protection. Scripture is clear that every person is made in the image of God and his knowledge of each of us even precedes the creative act of conception (Jeremiah 1:5; Psalm 139:13). At the 2018 Annual Meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention, the Messengers passed a resolution to “reaffirm the sacredness and full dignity and worthiness of respect and Christian love for every single human being, without any reservation.”

The ERLC is committed to conscience protection policies because they uphold two of our most closely held convictions. First, we work to protect the consciences of our neighbors because we believe religious freedom is an inalienable human right, thankfully secured as the first freedom in the Bill of Rights. Second, protecting health-care workers from the coercive power of the profit-seeking, on-demand abortion industry is a pro-life responsibility.

The ERLC opposes appropriations riders that deny religious freedom and conscience protections to millions of Americans. Efforts to codify sexual orientation and gender identity as protected classes under federal law have explicitly included attempts to roll back religious freedom and conscience protections. Many of the riders discussed below do the same. As Russell Moore, president of the ERLC, often notes, “A government that can pave over the consciences of some can steamroll over dissent everywhere.”