WASHINGTON, D.C., Jan. 30, 2023—The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention has released its 2023 Public Policy Agenda, highlighting its national legislative and public policy priorities that the organization plans to address in the year ahead.
“As stated in the Baptist Faith and Message, ‘Every Christian should seek to bring industry, government, and society as a whole under the sway of the principles of righteousness, truth, and brotherly love.’ This statement guides us in our task as we engage in a chaotic public square. In advocating for these policy goals, we are ever mindful that our ultimate responsibility is to be messengers of the Gospel. I hope Southern Baptists will join me in praying that we will represent our Savior well as we interact with public policy leaders in 2023 about religious liberty, the sanctity of human life, marriage and family, and human dignity.”
The following are highlights from the ERLC’s policy priorities for 2023:
1. Oppose The Equality Act: In 2021, the U.S. House of Representatives passed The Equality Act. The bill would curtail religious freedom protections, hinder the work of healthcare professionals and faith-based hospitals, undermine civil rights protections for women and girls, and ultimately steamroll the consciences of millions of Americans. This bill represents the most significant threat to religious liberty ever considered in Congress.
2. Respond to the Decision in 303 Creative v. Elenis: In 2022, the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments in this religious liberty case. At the center of this litigation is a creative professional who has created many kinds of custom websites for all types of people. However, she refuses to use her “design skills and creativity to express messages that violate her deeply held religious convictions.” While the results of this case will have ramifications for religious liberty, the primary issue centers on speech.
Sanctity of Human Life
1. Ending the Proliferation of Chemical Abortions: Chemical abortion is a method that uses an abortifacient to stimulate uterine contractions and end the pregnancy in a process similar to miscarriage. The ERLC has asked the Food and Drug Administration to categorize the abortion pill mifepristone as an “imminent hazard to the public health.” In January 2023, the FDA moved to allow local retail pharmacies to dispense these drugs in states where it is legal, putting more women and preborn children at risk. The ERLC supports federal legislation such as the SAVE Moms and Babies Actthat would begin to regulate this predatory industry.
2. Protect Pro-life Riders in the Congressional Appropriations Process: In 2022, the ERLC saw a serious threat to the Hyde Amendment. The ERLC will work to preserve the Hyde Amendment not only because it prevents government-funded violence against preborn children, but also because it prevents the government from coercing citizens to act against their consciences in the taxpayer incentivization of something unjust. All prolife riders are important and must be protected.
Family and Marriage
1. Support Adoption and Foster Care Policies: The ERLC’s defense of vulnerable children is woven through a wide variety of priorities, from religious liberty concerns involved in adoption to the effect the opioid crisis has on foster care. In addition to the Child Welfare Provider Inclusion Act, the ERLC will advocate for policies that would support and strengthen adoption, making it both more affordable and accessible.
2. Support Pro-Family Policy in a Post-Roe World: It is crucial that all aspects of federal policy provide a platform for families to thrive and flourish. In this post-Roe world, the ERLC will advocate for policies that remedy marriage penalties, empower abortion-vulnerable women to choose life and provide baseline levels of support for new parents. This is consistent with the 2022 SBC Resolution that urged a focus on “pro-life and pro-family policies that serve and support vulnerable women, children and families.”
1. Support a Permanent Solution for Dreamers: After multiple attempts to rescind the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, immigrants who were brought to the United States by their parents, known as Dreamers, remain in an unstable situation. As part of desperately needed immigration reform, The ERLC will continue to advocate for a permanent legislative solution for Dreamers.
2. Oppose Efforts to Expand Gambling: As nearly every state across the country has loosened restrictions on gambling, Americans spent approximately $213 billion on legal betting alone in 2021. Churches across the SBC have repeatedly shared that this issue is a key driver in the tearing apart of marriages and families in their congregations. The ERLC is actively looking for ways to engage this issue to better regulate this harmful, predatory industry.
“Our 2023 public policy agenda outlines the ways the ERLC will advocate with our government on the issues Southern Baptists care about,” said Hannah Daniel, ERLC policy manager. “This year holds both new opportunities and challenges for our work as we begin a period of divided government, enter the first legislative session in a post-Roe world, and face deepening divides among our citizenry. Amidst these realities, we will press on in our ministry assignment defending the vulnerable and championing the causes of life, religious liberty, family and human dignity.”
For more information and the expanded list of public policy priorities, please visit the public policy landing page.