Paving a Path Toward Embracing Every Life 

Brent Leatherwood

The Supreme Court has not always been a friend to the vulnerable. To name but a few of its more disastrous decisions: the relegation of African Americans to property in Dred Scott (1857), the eugenics argument for sterilizing those with intellectual disabilities in Buck v. Bell (1927), and the bigotry of the Korematsu (1944) decision that placed Japanese Americans in internment camps during World War II. In each of these, those without power were abused by a system set up ostensibly in the name of justice. 

Nowhere is that truth clearer than in the catastrophic decision of Roe v. Wade in 1973. In their 7-2 decision, the Supreme Court came down against the most vulnerable in our society. Creating a right to abortion—which is the right to take a life, make no mistake—out of thin legal reasoning, those justices failed in their duty to protect and defend the cause of the powerless. 

The Church has not always been much better in that regard. Our own Southern Baptist Convention, indeed an earlier version of this very Commission, was on record as supporting abortion at the time of the Roe decision. As inconceivable as it is now, then the cause of the preborn was not an issue which caused moral outrage from Baptists, at least not those in leadership.

However, like the power of the gospel, working in places and ways that we cannot always see, there were Southern Baptists and other Christians, working to see lives protected. They were serving mothers in their communities, founding pregnancy resource centers, stocking diaper pantries, adopting children, fostering the vulnerable, and showing their true religion in their care for orphans and widows (James 1:27). 

Through their persistence and dedication to the protection of the vulnerable, they pushed against a culture that viewed life as disposable, so much so that even before the end of Roe abortion rates were falling to levels that were lower than when the court handed down its decision. They recognized the power of law and legislation, but they also knew its limitations. If the Church wanted to see the preborn protected, they would need to create a culture of life, dedicated to its protection and flourishing, rather than one that treated children as an inconvenience or “problem” to be solved with a pill or doctor’s blade. 

The work that they did laid a foundation which reached its fruition this summer when the court rightly overturned its earlier precedent. No longer was there a constitutional right to abortion, and no longer were children automatically in danger when those lines appeared on pregnancy tests.

That does not mean their cause is over. It is one thing to take a stand against a culture of death; it is another to pursue a culture of life. Through the stories and work of individuals profiled in this issue of Light magazine, and the countless others who aren’t mentioned, we are continuing to pave the path toward a society that wholeheartedly embraces life at every stage.

F. Brent Leatherwood
President, ERLC

Brent Leatherwood serves as the President for the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission. Since September 2021, Brent served as the Acting President of the ERLC, where he provided steady leadership for the organization’s staff and continued the mission of the ERLC during the interim period. Prior to serving as Acting President, Brent served as the Chief of Staff at the ERLC, as well as the entity’s Director of Strategic Partnerships. He brings an expertise in public policy to his work, having been the Executive Director of the Tennessee Republican Party, the Director of Communications and Policy Strategy in the Tennessee General Assembly, and working for several years on Capitol Hill. Brent is a dedicated member of The Church at Avenue South in Nashville, Tennessee, where he has served as a deacon since 2014. Brent is married to Meredith, and they have three children.