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.
- Explainer: The Child Welfare Provider Inclusion Act
- Policy Brief: ERLC Supports the Child Welfare Provider Inclusion Act
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.
- Issue Brief: ERLC Opposes H.R. 5 The Equality Act
- Podcast: The Equality Act Conundrum
- TGC Article: The Equality Act Accelerates Anti-Christian Bias
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.
- Press Release: ERLC Commends HHS Announcement of Final Rule Protecting Conscience Freedom in Healthcare
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
- Article: ERLC defends pro-life speech in latest SCOTUS brief
- Article: What You Need To Know About NIFLA
- Video: SCOTUS upholds freedom of expression in NIFLA decision
Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission
- Video: Russell Moore on why the Masterpiece SCOTUS ruling is a win
- Press Release: Russell Moore calls Masterpiece Supreme Court ruling ‘A win for all Americans’
- Article: Masterpiece ruling: A good trajectory for the future of Christians in the public square
- Article: Masterpiece Cakeshop and the importance of religious liberty
Whole Woman’s Health v. Texas Catholic Conference of Bishops
- Press Release: Russell Moore calls 5th Circuit’s ruling in favor of Texas Catholic Conference of Bishops a ‘Victory for all Americans’
The American Legion v. American Humanist Association (Bladensburg Cross)
Note: The result of this case is still unknown, but a decision is expected soon.
- Article: What’s at the heart of the Bladensburg Cross Supreme Court case
- Podcast: Inside the Supreme Court for the Bladensburg cross case
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.
- Video: Religious Freedom in Malaysia
- White Paper: Religious Freedom and Liberty Partnership in Malaysia
- White Paper: ERLC & SCI on Forced Religious Conversions in Malaysia
- White Paper: ERLC & RFI on the Hudud Law in Malaysia
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.
- Press Release: Russell Moore Denounces Sharia Court Stripping Inheritance from Christian Family in Dubai
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.
- Video (Coming July 2019) - Religious Freedom in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK)
- White Paper: ERLC Supports Freedom of Religion in DPRK
- Issue Brief: ERLC Supports Freedom of Religion and Belief in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (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
- Article: 3 things you should know about religious freedom and the church in China
- Explainer: Chinese officials burn Bibles and close churches in latest round of persecution
- Article: Christians in China facing increasing persecution
- Video: Christian persecution in China
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.
Other Articles and Resources
- Policy Brief: ERLC Supports Christian Colleges and Universities’ Right to Maintain Their Religious Character
- Article: California's latest threat to religious liberty and free speech
- Article: ERLC files brief defending high school coach’s First Amendment rights
- Policy Brief: The Equal Rights Amendment Poses Threats to Human Dignity and Religious Liberty
- Policy Brief: ERLC Supports Religious Liberty Protections for Students on Public College and University Campuses
- Article: Why the HHS religious freedom waiver is good news for children in South Carolina
- Article: What just happened with the Arlene’s Flowers court case?