By / May 29
By / May 29

Seeking justice and righteousness, especially for those who are most vulnerable, is fundamental to our faith and an essential part of Christian living. God directly commanded us to seek justice through the prophet Micah, “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God” (6:8 ESV). 

The Biblical Call for Justice

Throughout Scripture, God calls his people to care for the vulnerable and to seek justice on behalf of our neighbors. As God gives the Law to the Israelites, he instructs them to care for the poor (Lev. 19:9-10, 23:22), to welcome immigrants and refugees (Ex. 22:21; Lev. 19:33-34), and to be fair in their financial dealings (Lev. 19:35-36). The prophets carry on these themes of justice and often indict the people of Israel for their failure in this area. Isaiah directly admonishes the people that caring for and fair treatment of the vulnerable is an essential part of faithful worship.

“Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the straps of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover him, and not to hide yourself from your own flesh? Then shall your light break forth like the dawn, and your healing shall spring up speedily; your righteousness shall go before you; the glory of the LORD shall be your rear guard” (Isa. 58:6-8 ESV).

In the New Testament, Jesus says of those who are his sheep, “‘For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat; I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink; I was a stranger and you took me in; I was naked and you clothed me; I was sick and you took care of me; I was in prison and you visited me’” (Matt. 25:35-36 CSB). Later, in James, we are instructed as to what true faith entails: “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world” (1:27 ESV).

Areas of Advocacy 

It is this clear mandate from God that both defines and motivates our advocacy for justice. Though injustice and tragedy run rampant in our fallen world, God’s people are to work for the good of our neighbors to push back the darkness and lift up the vulnerable. In our advocacy for fair and impartial judgment and equitable treatment of the unfairly marginalized, we bear witness to a God who is the ultimate just Judge, who deeply cares for the oppressed, and who proclaims a gospel that saves all who believe without partiality.

Immigrants and Refugees

Within our larger advocacy for immigration reforms that uphold ideals of dignity and fairness, the ERLC has strongly advocated for Dreamers, young immigrants who were brought to the United States by their parents, at no fault of their own. These Dreamers, who often have known no other home than the U.S., face continual uncertainty and potential future deportation unless Congress can deliver a solution allowing them to remain here legally. 

Additionally, in recent years, the U.S. refugee resettlement program has been devastated, along with the network of nonprofits and service providers that support resettlement. The U.S. has largely abdicated its role as a refuge to the vulnerable at a time of historic levels of refugees and internationally displaced people worldwide. The ERLC is deeply engaged in advocating for the rebuilding of this safe and legal program to restore our country’s legacy as a beacon of hope to those fleeing persecution.

Criminal Justice Reform

In 2018, the ERLC advocated heavily for the passage of the historic First Step Act, which worked to reduce recidivism in prisoners, prevented the shackling of most pregnant prisoners, and made other important steps toward a more compassionate criminal justice system that maintains public safety. Since then, the ERLC has continued to advocate for the RE-ENTER Act and the EQUAL (Eliminating a Quantifiably Unjust Application of the Law) Act. 

The RE-ENTER Act would allow eligible individuals with federal convictions to apply for a certificate of rehabilitation from a district court, attesting to a law-abiding future and a commitment to successful reintegration into society. The EQUAL Act would remedy the disparity in federal sentencing for crack and powder cocaine related crimes that unjustly and disproportionately targets people of color. 

Predatory Lending

Payday lending is the term used to describe the practice of lending small amounts of money to people for two-week periods, until their next payday. The average annual interest rates on these short-term loans is 391%, often leaving already impoverished families with crippling debts. These unjust lending practices are exploitative and predicated on consumer loss, trapping families in poverty. In response, the ERLC is advocating for the Veterans and Consumers Fair Credit Act that would extend the same lending protections currently established for Active Duty military members under the Military Lending Act to all consumers, including veterans and their families. 

While Christians can have good-faith disagreements on the contours of our nation’s policies, the Bible is clear that all image-bearers are worthy of dignity and respect. As we face injustice in our world, indifference is not an option afforded to believers. God has called us to fervent prayer, advocacy, and service for all our neighbors. It is ultimately in this work that we will experience a taste of his kingdom on earth.

By / Feb 5

Our form of government invites Americans to engage in the legislative process through advocacy. The ERLC advocates for issues of missional priority that are of national import through the cooperation of congregations throughout the Southern Baptist Convention, as was recently noted in the introduction to our 2021 Public Policy Agenda.

Our public policy team’s advocacy work in Washington is organized through the categories of religious liberty, sanctity of human life, justice, marriage and family, and related international engagement. On some issues, there is a wide shared consensus and purpose, and on others, there is deep disagreement. As our public policy agenda says, “whether issues are currently popular or unpopular, we have the opportunity to bear witness, to seek to persuade, and to build the consensus needed to make change.”

In a newscycle driven by soundbites and hot takes, one tool that helps our advocacy efforts rise above the fray is the traditional letter. We send letters to Congressional leaders, the President of the United States, and other policymakers and administration officials to advocate on the issues of our day. Sometimes, these letters are written and sent by Russell Moore directly as president of the ERLC, and other times the ERLC leads or joins a coalition letter drafted with multiple signatories. Coalition letters include signatures from partner organizations working together to advance a certain policy priority. Some coalition letters accumulate dozens, even hundreds, of organizational signatures before they are sent to the White House or Capitol Hill.

Members of Congress want to hear from their constituents and learn what issues are important to them. Anyone can reach out to their local Representative and Senator and ask for a meeting, send a letter, or call to share an opinion on a policy. Constituent representation is fundamental to the job of public office holders, and so, their office contact information is readily available online

When the ERLC sends letters to Congress, we often address it to Congressional leadership, including the Speaker of the House, Senate Majority Leader, Senate Minority Leader and the House Minority Leader. Other times, we address the letter to a particular Chairman and ranking member of the appropriate committee where a piece of legislation resides. The same is true for letters we send to the executive branch. Often, Moore will correspond with the President, but occasionally, the issue is better addressed to a cabinet secretary or other public official.

When a Congressional office receives a letter, the staff in the office will make note of the letter for the Representative or Senator. This is an important step for members of Congress to understand the support and the opposition for a particular policy. Often, when we send a letter, the office returns a request for further conversation on the issue. That then gives us the opportunity to build a new relationship, or deepen an existing relationship, over a meeting. The same happens with the presidential and vice presidential staff at the White House.

Our goal when sending such letters is not only to provide an opinion on legislation, but also to provide expertise on the underlying issue. For example, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 unfortunately included a little-noticed provision which created a new policy to tax nonprofits—including houses of worship—on the cost of parking provided to employees. We advocated for its repeal alongside a broad coalition of religious groups. In our letters and meetings, we offered examples of how such a tax would negatively impact our ministries and organizations. Through these efforts, the tax was repealed in December of 2019.

Thankfully, in our advocacy, we are also often able to share about the incredible work of Southern Baptists in disaster relief in the wake of a hurricane, child welfare providers in adoption and foster care, and feeding the hungry in their communities and globally. Sharing our perspective as Christians helps influence public policy.

In June of 2019, the ERLC led a coalition of scholars, religious and secular leaders, and human rights advocates through the International Religious Freedom (IRF) Roundtable to send a letter expressing our concerns over the human rights violations and religious freedom abuses in China. This coalition letter was sent with over forty signatories.

While the letter was addressed to former President Trump, we also sent copies to contacts within the White House, National Security Council, and the State Department. Later that day, we heard that National Security Advisor John Bolton had read the letter on his flight to Osaka, Japan ahead of the G-20 summit. Ambassador Bolton made a few phone calls to others in the Administration about the importance of the issues raised by the IRF Roundtable letter.

Eventually, this advocacy effort resulted in the IRF Roundtable meeting with then Vice President Pence, Ambassador Sam Brownback, and NSC staff. The Trump Administration invested heavily throughout 2020 in countering the Chinese Communist Party morally, eventually declaring the abuses against Uyghurs in Xinjiang a genocide. And now the Biden Administration is signaling a continuation of posture against the CCP for this genocide.

Like so much else in public policy advocacy, we never fully know what the effect of a letter will be, or who all will read it, until it has been sent.
For more on how the ERLC advocates in Washington, D.C. and what the team is working on each week, sign up for our policy newsletter.

By / Oct 8

Steven Harris sits down with Senator James Lankford to discuss the issue of life in our country, specifically the approach Christians should take when dealing with the issue of life in the womb and how to be involved in the political process.