Public policy advocacy is one of the many ways the ERLC fulfills its ministry in the public square. We released our 2021 Public Policy Agenda, which focuses on more than three dozen policy issues we will advocate before the U.S. Congress.
Below is a sample of our policy priorities in the areas of sanctity of human life, religious liberty, family and marriage, justice, and international engagement.
Some of these issues have been a part of the ERLC’s legislative agenda for the last several years; other issues are new and a product of the political moment in which we find ourselves. Legislatively, with two surprise results in the Georgia senatorial runoff elections, both chambers of Congress will be controlled by the Democratic Party during the 117th Congress, although with razor-thin margins. The Senate is divided 50-50 between the party caucuses, with Vice President Kamala Harris breaking any ties. In the House, the Democratic Party holds control by a handful of votes.
Although Senate Democrats will have some procedural tools to pass legislation on partisan lines, broadly speaking, only legislation with substantial bipartisan consensus will be able to pass both chambers and be signed by President Biden. It will therefore be difficult to pass legislation within many of the areas of most concern for the ERLC, which do not enjoy broad bipartisan support, such as protecting the human dignity of the preborn, religious liberty, and comprehensive immigration reform. Nevertheless, the ERLC will work to advance and make progress on our public policy agenda in these divided times at the federal level.
Sanctity of Human Life
- No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act: Americans are divided over the issue of abortion, and many Americans strongly object to their tax dollars being used for what they believe to be a great moral wrong. In 1976, the Congress recognized this reality and every legislature since then has voted to protect the consciences of pro-life Americans. Since its enactment in 1976, Congress has passed the amendment as a temporary rider which expires each year. The No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act would codify the Hyde Amendment into law, by prohibiting federal funds from being expended for abortion or health coverage that includes coverage for elective abortion.
- The Born Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act: Federal law does not adequately protect a born child who survives a failed abortion. The Born Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act would amend the federal criminal code to require any health care practitioner present when a child is born alive following an abortion or attempted abortion to, first, exercise the same degree of care as reasonably provided to any other child born alive at the same gestational age, and, second, ensure the child is immediately admitted to a hospital.
- Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act: This Act would prohibit the performing (or attempted performance) of abortions on babies at 20 weeks or greater gestation, except in cases of rape, incest, or to save the life of the mother. In the 115th Congress, the bill passed the House of Representatives. In the 116th Congress, the bill was introduced in both chambers, but did not pass either chamber.
- Preventing proliferation of chemical abortions: Chemical abortion (sometimes referred to as a medication abortion or pharmaceutical abortion) is a method that uses an abortifacient to stimulate uterine contractions and end the pregnancy in a process similar to miscarriage. The ERLC will continue to counter the abortion lobby’s efforts to distribute abortion pills.
- Defending Religious Freedom during the COVID-19 Pandemic: The ERLC will continue to advocate that the government treat churches the same as similar activities, businesses, and spaces, while recognizing that God has given the state the authority to manage activities, businesses, and spaces during a national health crisis. To this end, the ERLC has produced a number of resources to equip churches as they work to understand the public health orders issued in their community and as they engage with local officials to advocate for their religious liberty rights.
- Opposition to the Equality Act: There are multiple pieces of legislation introduced in recent years which aim to, at the most extreme, codify the demands of the sexual revolution and radically reshape religious freedom in the United States. In May of 2019, the House passed The Equality Act—a bill that would amend the 1964 Civil Rights Act to add sexual orientation and gender identity as protected classes under federal civil rights law. The bill would curtail religious freedom protections, hinder the work of healthcare professionals and faith-based hospitals, undermine civil rights protections for women and girls, and ultimately steamroll the consciences of millions of Americans. The ERLC believes that this bill represents the most significant threat to religious liberty ever considered in the United States Congress. We will continue to oppose the Equality Act and similar legislation introduced this Congress.
- Opposition to Do No Harm Act: This bill, if passed into law, would weaken religious freedom protections for millions of Americans. The ERLC opposes the Do No Harm Act because it would do significant harm to the landscape of legal protections foundational to America’s first freedom.
Family and Marriage
- Combating hunger during Covid-19 pandemic: The COVID-19 crisis has impacted food supply chains, driving up the price of food, which has a disparate impact for lower-income families. Many families find themselves newly needing to access the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). While Congress did expand and increase unemployment insurance and benefits, many families are still unable to feed their children. The ERLC has prioritized this issue by advocating for flexibility within the SNAP program, to ensure that individuals’ needs are met, and that all Americans have access to food security.
- Responding to the opioid crisis: The SUPPORT for Patients and Community Act (H.R. 6) bill, signed into law by President Trump, marked a significant step forward in response to the opioid crisis. The legislation approved $6 billion in funding, curbed drug shipments, lifted treatment restrictions, expanded recovery centers, sped up new painkiller research, and made regulatory changes to Medicare and Medicaid. We will continue to engage with Congressional leadership and the Department of Health and Human Services on implementation of the SUPPORT Act and a range of efforts including poverty and welfare programs and training for the faith community.
- Revive obscenity prosecution: The Obama administration’s Department of Justice terminated the Obscenity Prosecution Task Force (OPTF). Though the Department continued to prosecute cases involving children (which is essential), they ignored virtually all other violations of existing federal law which makes production and distribution of hardcore pornography illegal. The ERLC will advocate for the Department of Justice under the Biden Administration to seriously and aggressively confront exploitation of women, teens, and girls and boys by the pornography industry.
- Permanent Solution for Dreamers: After multiple attempts to rescind the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, followed by more than a year of litigation and a Supreme Court decision, those young immigrants who were brought to the United States by their parents remain in an unstable situation. These immigrants broke no law, and yet they remain without permanent legal status. Now young adults, these Dreamers—many of whom have families of their own with children who are U.S. citizens—are workers, students, and positive contributors to their communities. We will continue to work closely with Congress and the Biden Administration to deliver a permanent legislative solution for Dreamers.
- Criminal Justice Reform: The ERLC will continue to advocate for reforms that focus on transformation and rehabilitation, such as the Recognizing Education, Employment, New Skills, and Treatment to Enable Reintegration—or, RE-ENTER—Act. This bill allows eligible individuals with federal convictions to apply for a certificate of rehabilitation from a district court, attesting to a law-abiding future and a commitment to successful reintegration into society.
- Human Trafficking: The ERLC will continue to advocate for anti-human trafficking legislation in the new congress—particularly legislation aimed at supporting trafficking victims.
- Advocating for a strong Office of International Religious Freedom: The Office of International Religious Freedom at the Department of State is one of the most effective government institutions for protecting religious minorities, including persecuted Christians. The ERLC will advocate for the appointment of a strong, capable, and experienced Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom and for continuity of leadership at the Office until a new Ambassador-at-Large is appointed. We will also continue to advocate for international religious freedom to remain a top U.S. foreign policy priority.
- International Pro-Life Engagement: The international abortion lobby is active and entrenched at the United Nations and also working to pressure countries around the world to legalize abortion. For decades, this lobby has been working to create an “international right to abortion.” The ERLC will continue to work against this lobby at the United Nations, ensuring that international law is not expanded to include such a right. In addition, the ERLC is exploring opportunities to support countries seeking to exercise their right to protect life within their borders.
- Advocating for the elimination of blasphemy and apostasy laws: Dozens of countries still enforce these laws—often through the death penalty—prohibiting one from converting to another religion or speaking or acting in any way that is deemed offensive to the god of their particular religion. This is even enforced, such as in Pakistan, against adherents of other faiths. We are ERLC is committed to working to repeal these laws and ensure that all peoples have the right to worship freely without fear of persecution or penalization.