For the Love of Christ and Love of Others
Eunie Smith’s life of public service fueled by her faith
Eunie Smith has dedicated decades of her life to promoting biblical convictions in the public square. As president of Eagle Forum of Alabama, she lobbies leaders on behalf of families, advocating for conservative principles. She also served eight years as a trustee of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC), including one term as the board’s first-ever female chair.
The country has seen sweeping changes during Smith’s years of public service, but her commitment to God’s Word remains. ”I don’t see that God’s commandments have any cutoff,” Smith said. “His commands are for all times, and we are placed here in this time to strive to live according to his principles. And to see that they’re upheld for future generations.”
A calling, then and now
Smith’s early work focused on promoting democratic American ideals after she and her husband, Albert Lee, were alerted to the threat communism posed to those ideals through a study group. He would later serve in the U.S. House of Representatives for Alabama’s 6th district, but in their early years, he worked as an insurance salesman, and she was involved in education reform through the Freedom Education Foundation.
“We had speakers and materials that we took into the classrooms on the threat of communism and the merits of the American system, freedom, and opportunity for all,” she said. The experience educated her. “I had received an education, but I hadn’t been motivated to look into the constitutional principles. Like most Americans, I had taken it for granted.”
Lee was elected to Congress in 1980, which Smith described as a hopeful time to go to Washington. The Jesus Revolution of the 1970s had shown the nation a move of the Holy Spirit, awakening many to personal faith in Christ for the first time. In the speeches her husband gave during his campaign, he ended with 2 Chronicles 7:14, encouraging Christians to be salt and light, to engage in political processes, and to share their faith—all in hopes that others would turn to Christ. The verse was on his wall in Washington, she said.
The couple realized Lee would maximize his time at home and in Washington if their family stayed in Alabama, so Smith and their three children joined him in Washington in the summer. It was a challenge with young children, she said, one that required asking God to keep her priorities straight.
By that time, she was a leader of Eagle Forum of Alabama, which formed as a state member of the national effort to defeat the Equal Rights Amendment. She still serves as president and is currently leading a push to influence school curriculum. She served as Eagle Forum’s national president for two years and still sits on its board.
“It was a calling, and I think it still is,” Smith said, when asked what has kept her going. “Once you have been involved and you see how, when, and where you can try to make a difference, then I think you have an obligation to keep trying, until the Lord closes the door.
“And, of course, the results are always in His hand.”
Speak out and speak up
When Smith was asked to serve on the ERLC’s board of trustees, she knew Lee would have been pleased. Her husband, who passed away in 1997, had served on the Baptist Joint Committee on Public Affairs and also chaired the Southern Baptist Convention’s Public Affairs Committee, which preceded the ERLC.
It was a blessing to serve on the ERLC board while Richard Land was the ERLC president, Smith said. During her eight years of service from 2005 to 2013, the country experienced massive shifts which are mirrored in ERLC reports from that time. Abortion, stem cell research, cloning, gambling, immigration reform, racial reconciliation, human trafficking, creation care, healthcare reform, and the definition of marriage were some of the major issues addressed by the ERLC.
The agency also continued to shine a light on human rights violations and religious persecution around the world. At home, the ERLC opposed a healthcare mandate that required employers to cover abortion-causing drugs in their insurance plans.
Through various print and online resources, the ERLC equipped Christians to use their own voices to address these issues. “The need is ever-growing for men and women who trust Christ to proclaim His Truth in the public square, in the marketplace, and in their homes,” reads the ERLC’s report to the Southern Baptist Convention from 2011, the year Smith served as board chair.
Proclaiming truth in the public square is still a need today, she said. During the Jesus Revolution years, she noted, theologian Francis Schaeffer’s books and videos brought a lot of people out of the pews and into public policy. “I think we desperately need that again,” she said.
“I’d like to think that more evangelical Christians would recognize the need to speak out and speak up and stand for God’s principles everywhere,” Smith said. She urged older generations to teach those who are younger the value of our constitutional principles—which she believes align with biblical principles—so that they understand the merits of our country.
There is much we’ve lost sight of in the U.S., she said—the Golden Rule, loving one another, and disagreeing agreeably while standing up for what you believe is right. “That’s a real challenge, especially today. We’re so polarized as a country that we seldom hear instructive debates.” They don’t just degenerate into name calling, she said; many debates start that way.
That tone isn’t good for our body politic, she said, or for our witness as Christians. “We want to be loving so that we can be used of Him,” Smith said.
“You have to remember why am I doing this. It’s not out of hate. It’s out of love, love of Christ and love of others.”