The 2016 ERLC Legislative Agenda

March 2, 2016

Public policy advocacy is one of the ways in which the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission fulfills its ministry in the public square. It is part of our work as the Lord’s salt and light (Matt. 5:13-16). Our recently released Legislative Agenda for 2016 provides an excellent summary of the many ways in which we are at work in this arena.

At the top of the list of agenda items is religious liberty. Whether you look at it internationally or domestically, religious liberty is under assault today in many ways. As just one example, Christians and other minority faith groups in Syria are facing nothing less than genocide. We believe our government can do something about this. To help spur it to appropriate action, we are working to pass legislation to help the Office of International Religious Freedom at the State Department become more effective in its task of promoting and protecting religious freedom around the world.

In addition, people of faith have their own challenges right here in this country. While these challenges certainly aren’t of the same magnitude faced by our brothers and sisters in Christ in the Middle East, they have the potential to do great harm to our work here and abroad. New anti-discrimination laws are being used to coerce people and organizations to accommodate the new sexual libertinism that has burst onto the scene. Religious employees and employers are faced with a militant intolerance that will settle for nothing less than acquiescence enforced by the government. Our agenda reveals the serious nature of this threat to the church and our determination to protect the church and religious conscience from the heavy hand of the state.

The reader will also note a long section in our agenda is devoted to various efforts to protect the lives of the unborn and women with challenging pregnancies. Pre-born children are facing unprecedented threats today. We are committed to ending the use of tax dollars for abortion and for organizations that perform abortion. We also want to protect the pre-born from the pain of abortion and from the horrendous practice of sex selection.

Our efforts do not stop with the pre-born baby. We also want to help make sure parents are aware if their daughter is seeking an abortion. Abortion harms women. Parents should be involved in helping their daughters avoid that life-long pain. We also want to make sure that scared expectant mothers have access to the resources they need. The various bills we are supporting this year will help in all these and many other areas in which the sanctity of life is threatened, born or unborn.

The agenda reveals a broad interest in addressing human needs beyond the issue of abortion. We are pleased that Speaker Ryan has created a number of task forces to look into ways to help our government empower people to escape the burden and impact of poverty. Poverty is not just an economic problem. Too many people remain trapped in a cycle of poverty and dependence. Social structures are contributing to this cycle. We look forward to working with these task forces to break those structures down and bring true reform. One area of government that is in desperate need of reform is our criminal justice system. Today, the system is much too efficient in locking people up while doing too little to help them reclaim their lives once they have served their time. We are pleased that many in Congress want to address this problem. Our agenda points to our determination to help Congress succeed in these efforts.

In addition to a strong, free church, society needs strong, healthy marriages and families. The family is the foundational unit of society. Public policy has a role to play in family flourishing, and we will be there to help it do so. Our agenda includes a commitment to enable every child to find a loving, nurturing family. Congress is considering a number of bills dealing with adoption, and we look forward to working on these. Every child deserves a loving mother and father. They won’t all be so fortunate, but it shouldn’t be due to a lack of government will or resources.

By the time you reach the end of our agenda, I think you will agree that there are many ways we can help our world and our country. Through Christ, we are salt and light. As such, it is our calling to make the world a more God-honoring, humane place. We invite you to come alongside us in prayer and support for God’s will to be done on earth as it is in heaven.

Barrett Duke

Barrett Duke is now the executive director of the Montana Southern Baptist Convention. He is the former vice president for Public Policy and Research at the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. Read More by this Author