How the ERLC is working to protect religious liberty

June 12, 2019

Religious Liberty is a core principle in the Baptist Faith and Message (Article 17) and of the ERLC’s mission. As such, we continue to advocate for religious liberty and to protect the conscience rights of all, both at home and abroad.  


Every year, the ERLC engages in the legislative process to advance and safeguard the cause of religious liberty. Our Legislative Agenda highlights various bills and policy initiatives that we plan to engage in over the course of the year. Some of the  ERLC’s top agenda initiatives related to religious liberty issues that saw movement on Capitol Hill in 2018 and 2019 included:  

The Child Welfare Provider Inclusion Act  

This bill would provide protections for adoption and other child welfare agencies to act in accordance with their beliefs about faith, marriage, and family when trying to provide children with loving and forever homes. Due to the ERLC’s work, the bill was successfully added as an amendment to FY 2019 Labor Health & Human Services subcommittee appropriations bill. Unfortunately, it did not ultimately become law, but the ERLC is continuing to work to build on this success to garner support for the future.  

Opposing the Equality Act  

This legislation would redefine the Civil Rights Act of 1964’s use of the word “sex” to also include “sexual orientation and gender identity” and make them federally protected classes. The ERLC opposes this bill as it represents the most alarming threat to religious liberty ever proposed in the United States Congress. Of particular concern is how this bill would require healthcare professionals and foster care and adoption agencies compromise their deeply held religious beliefs, and undo decades of civil rights protections gained for women and girls.  

Administration regulatory efforts  

Support HHS Conscience Protection Rules & Conscience and Religious Freedom Division  

The ERLC supports the new rules from HHS entitled, “Protecting Statutory Conscience Rights in Health Care.” This regulation gives crucial protections to healthcare workers with deeply held convictions from being forced to participate in procedures like abortions lest they lose their jobs. While we will continue to work to end abortion, fighting for conscience protections like these are a necessary aspect of upholding religious liberty.  

 Protect religious freedom for military chaplains and medical professionals  

Our culture’s changing standards of human sexuality make it more difficult for military chaplains and medical professionals to perform their duties in such a way that honors God’s design for gender and sexuality. The ERLC will continue to advocate for the religious freedom and conscience rights of such individuals.  

Supreme Court cases  

This past year saw many victories for religious liberty at the Supreme Court and other courts throughout the federal judiciary. The ERLC files amicus (“friend of the court”) briefs in cases involving religious liberty, pro-life, and other issues critical to our Christian engagement in the public square. Here are some of the most recent court cases for which the ERLC filed briefs:  

NIFLA v. Bacerra  

Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission  

Whole Woman’s Health v. Texas Catholic Conference of Bishops  

The American Legion v. American Humanist Association (Bladensburg Cross)  

Note: The result of this case is still unknown, but a decision is expected soon.  

International religious freedom  

Religious freedom initiative for Malaysia  

While religious freedom is a fundamental right guaranteed by the Malaysian Constitution, it is in jeopardy as the country considers further expansion of the powers of Syariah courts. Consequently, such expansion threatens Christians and other minority groups from freely expressing their religion of choice. The ERLC has been advocating for Malaysia and was encouraged by a successful religious freedom initiative for Malaysia as evidenced by a number of religious freedom recommendations made by member states in Malaysia’s Universal Periodic Review at the UN in Geneva.  

Advocating for Christian Family in United Arab Emirates  

Franz Zenz was an Austrian citizen who passed away in 2014. He had worked and owned property in the United Arab Emirates. His daughters and wife are being denied their inheritance, in part, because of their Christian faith. They are disputing the claims of a Muslim woman who says (with false documents) that the husband was Muslim and married to her. Property disputes are settled in Sharia court, where Christian testimony is not given as much weight. Russell Moore has denounced the decision of the court to give the estate to the Muslim woman (a known criminal) and called on Pope Francis to also demand justice for this family.  

North Korea International Religious Freedom Initiative  

The ERLC is working with a broad, multifaith coalition of organizations through the United Nations Universal Periodic Review process to urge North Korea to cease all restrictions on the right to freedom of opinion and expression, and ensure that the right to manifest one’s religion in private or in public is fully protected and realized. The ERLC continues to urge the international community to prioritize the opposition of the egregious religious freedom violations carried out by the DPRK.  

China International Religious Freedom Initiative  

Over recent years, the Chinese government has increasingly cracked down on religious freedom and persecution of religious minorities. The ERLC has grave concerns about the trajectory of China’s approach to Christians and other religious minorities and is committed to working with other nongovernmental organizations to direct both U.S. and international pressure toward alleviating their persecution  

Advocating for freedom of religion in the United Nations  

Blasphemy and apostasy laws are used to punish people who convert religions or speak or act in a way that is deemed offensive to the dominant religion of a particular culture. They are often enforced with the death penalty. Cases such as Asia Bibi in Pakistan demonstrate the unjust nature of such laws. In March 2019, ERLC Executive VP Phillip Bethancourt and VP for Public Policy Travis Wussow travelled to the UN in Geneva to advocate for religious freedom abroad and participate in the release of a UN report on the state of religious freedom worldwide. The report focused on the relationship between freedom of religion and freedom of expression and also criticized blasphemy laws.  

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Neal Hardin

Neal Hardin grew up in Murrieta, CA before getting his BS in Metallurgical Engineering from the University of Utah in 2012. Following that, he worked as an engineer for 4 years at a steel mill before the Lord called him to pursue a seminary education in 2016. Neal is currently a … Read More