By / Oct 20

The Biden administration’s Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is recommending that the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) significantly loosen federal restrictions on marijuana and reclassify it in a lesser category under the Controlled Substances Act. This recommended shift at the federal level is spurred by the increasing efforts at legalization and decriminalization at the state and local levels. Currently, 21 states have fully legalized recreational use of marijuana and six others have decriminalized such use.

If accepted, the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) believes this change will bring significant harm to our communities. Because all people are made in the image of God, we desire to see public policy that promotes the flourishing of our neighbors. The ERLC sent a letter to the DEA sharing these concerns and urging them to reject this rescheduling recommendation from the Biden administration.

While proponents of legalization, decriminalization, and rescheduling of marijuana often cite—and overstate—the medical benefits and the disproportionate criminalization impact on marginalized communities, there are compelling arguments to keep marijuana illegal, especially at the federal level.

Why marijuana should be restricted

One of the reasons marijuana should remain illegal is rooted in the health hazards associated with marijuana use. The National Institute on Drug Abuse has highlighted several adverse effects such as impairment in learning, memory, and attention. Moreover, it has been associated with an increased heart rate and a higher risk of heart attack. The drug is also more addictive than is assumed, with an estimated 10% of users becoming addicted.

In 2017, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine convened a committee of experts to conduct a comprehensive review of the literature regarding the health effects of marijuana use. They found there is substantial evidence of a statistical association between cannabis use and increased risk of motor vehicle crashes. Also, in states where cannabis use is legal, they found an increased risk of unintentional cannabis overdose injuries among children.

In 2019, five years after legalization of recreational sale of marijuana in Colorado, more people were visiting emergency rooms for marijuana-related problems, and hospitals reported higher rates of mental-health cases tied to marijuana. Legalization can potentially lead to a public health crisis, particularly if marijuana use begins during adolescence, a period when the brain is still developing.

The potential impact on mental health further accentuates the concerns surrounding marijuana usage. Early marijuana use is linked to lower IQ scores, dropout rates, and risk of mental illness like psychosis or schizophrenia later in life. Marijuana smoke also contains many of the same carcinogens as tobacco smoke, which could increase future risk of lung cancer and chronic bronchitis.

Another reason marijuana should be restricted is that it remains a “gateway drug” to other controlled substances. As long-term studies have shown, marijuana alters brain chemistry and primes it for sensitivity to other drugs. Usage of the drug has been shown to lead to experimentation with harder drugs such as cocaine and heroin. Also, as has been shown over the last decade, decriminalizing and legalizing marijuana has normalized drug use, making individuals—especially young people—more susceptible to trying substances that are even more dangerous than cannabis. 

Supporters of loosening restrictions argue that there are valid medical reasons for reclassifying marijuana from a Schedule I to Schedule III drug under the Controlled Substance Act. But such a shift is unnecessary since there are already legal and regulated medications available to address the medical conditions that proponents argue marijuana can alleviate.

While marijuana contains compounds like THC with potential medicinal benefits, there are FDA-approved medications like Marinol that serve similar purposes but within a regulated framework. This regulation ensures a standardized dosage and quality, minimizing the potential for abuse that comes with the raw, unregulated form of marijuana that has over 400 components, many of which have not been studied well.

Those advocating for the decriminalization or rescheduling of marijuana too often ignore the potential public health and societal effects. The risks associated with marijuana, in terms of addiction, mental health issues, and its role as a gateway to harder substances, outweigh the perceived benefits of its legalization or decriminalization. The Biden administration should be taking a more cautious approach, emphasizing the importance of maintaining marijuana’s status as an illegal substance in order to safeguard public health, and to ensure the government will continue to protect children from the use of addictive and harmful drugs. 

By / Jun 26

On June 21, the Biden administration passed on its final opportunity to appeal the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeal’s ruling that struck down the “transgender mandate” in Sisters of Mercy v. Becerra. Counsel in the case, Luke Goodrich, said, “after multiple defeats in court, the federal government has thrown in the towel on its controversial, medically unsupported transgender mandate.”

The case was brought by the Sisters of Mercy, the University of Mary, and the SMP Health System in 2016 challenging the mandate that would require them to provide gender transition care against their religious convictions and medical expertise. The court struck down the mandate in December.

A similar case named Franciscan Alliance v. Becerra also succeeded in challenging the transgender mandate in August after the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that it violated religious freedom. The group represented an association of over 19,000 healthcare professionals, eight states, and two religious hospitals. The Biden administration declined to appeal this decision, as well. 

In response to the decision, ERLC President Brent Leatherwood said,

The Biden administration’s decision to back down from the transgender mandate marks a significant victory in safeguarding the rights of medical professionals to operate in a manner consistent with their deepest held beliefs. This is an important development we should take note of because it not only represents a win for conscience rights but also furthers efforts to shield vulnerable individuals who should never become pawns in the sexual revolution.

What is the transgender mandate?

In 2016, as a part of the implementation of Section 1557 of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA), the Obama Administration’s Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) promulgated a rule requiring medical providers to perform and insure abortions and gender-transition procedures or face penalties. Section 1557 of the ACA is the nondiscrimination provision of the ACA, and the scope was broadened by redefining “sex” to include sexual orientation and gender identity.

The regulations came to be called the transgender mandate because they would require physicians to provide gender reassignment surgeries and administer hormones to facilitate gender reassignment, including to children, even if the doctor believed the procedure would be harmful.

In 2021, upon taking office, Biden reversed the Trump administration’s conscience protections by continuing to amend the language in the ACA to force doctors to perform gender-transition surgeries. The litigation was still in the courts pending a final decision, both of which came in 2022. The expiration of the appeal deadline terminates the Biden administration’s attempts to force the transgender mandate through the ACA. 

How has the ERLC been involved?

From the beginning, the ERLC has been an outspoken opponent of the transgender mandate because of its harmful implications for those undergoing these procedures as well as its flagrant violations of religious liberty and conscience protections for healthcare professionals.

Opposing the transgender mandate has been a top public policy priority for the ERLC, and in 2022, the ERLC filed public comments opposing the Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) most recent attempt to steamroll the consciences of these medical professionals. Today’s failure to appeal is a final victory after many years of dedicated advocacy from the ERLC and religious liberty allies.

Why does this matter to Southern Baptists?

As Southern Baptists, we believe that God, in his good design, has created us to be male and female to promote our flourishing. Despite how culture’s views of sexuality and gender may change over time, our commitment to this truth remains steadfast. 

Similarly, religious liberty and the protection of conscience is a bedrock principle for Baptists. As the Baptist Faith and Message describes, “God alone is Lord of the conscience.” Mandates from the government that force individuals to choose between their deeply held beliefs and their duties in the workplace must be opposed. The ERLC will always work to promote the dignity of all people and protect the religious liberty of all people of faith.

Following the decision, ERLC President Brent Leatherwood said, “Whether it is championing the preservation of individual consciences rooted in faith or defending the well-being of all image-bearers, the ERLC stands resolute, advocating tirelessly on behalf of our SBC churches. In doing so, we will not yield in our mission to protect and defend those who need it most.”

By / Apr 11

On Feb. 2, 2023, the Departments of Health and Human Services, Labor, and Treasury released a proposed rule modifying “regulations regarding coverage of certain preventive services” under the Affordable Care Act. This is the 19th recorded change to the so-called “contraceptive mandate” since it was created under the Affordable Care Act. 

On Monday, the ERLC filed public comments in opposition to the change.

What does this rule do?

The Affordable Care Act allows the departments to create both a religious and moral exemption to the contraceptive mandate in order to rightly protect the consciences of Americans, whether they are informed by deeply held religious beliefs or moral convictions regarding taking a life. 

Though the proposed rule maintains the existing protections for religious entities and employers, it rescinds the “moral exemption,” created in a 2018 Trump-era rule, that has protected employers who object to providing abortifacient contraceptives for non-religious reasons.

The departments state that they seek, through this rule, to bolster access to birth control at no cost, because the “U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs has placed a heightened importance on access to contraceptive services nationwide.” In citing the Dobbs decision as the primary reason for this action, the departments implicitly acknowledge that the provision of certain contraceptives is inextricably tied to the issue of abortion and the act of taking a life.

Why is this problematic?

In support of the proposal, the departments argue that: 

  • (a) a non-religious moral exemption is “not legally required,” 
  • (b) few entities make use of the moral exemption, and 
  • (c) non-religious objections “are outweighed by the strong public interest in making contraceptive coverage as accessible to women as possible.” 

As we argued in our comments, “No significant developments have occurred in the interim that suggest a change is warranted, especially when the stakes — the trampling of citizens’ consciences — are so high.” And the United States has a long history of non-religious Americans with moral objections to taking a life. Our comments go on to state,

As Southern Baptists, we acknowledge that conscience protections are essential to our ability to live out our most deeply held beliefs. For conscience protections to be meaningful, they must not only protect the freedom to believe but also the freedom to live in response to those beliefs. 

Further, these protections are not just for religious people but must be extended to all people, regardless of their faith identification. As our comments affirm, “At the founding of our country, James Madison wrote, ‘Conscience is the most sacred of all property.’ Regardless of the source of the conviction, whether religious or moral, the Constitution guarantees the protection of the conscience.”

How has the ERLC responded?

The ERLC has submitted public comments laying out these concerns with the proposed rule and urging these agencies to reconsider making these changes. While we celebrate the preservation of the religious exemption, this proposed rule protects the consciences of fewer individuals, funnels more money to Planned Parenthood, and seeks to frame objections to contraception and abortion as a fringe religious concern. 

Whether the root of one’s conviction against taking a life is rooted in faith or something else, that person’s conscience should be protected. The ERLC will continue to monitor these changes and look for additional opportunities to raise our concerns and advocate for the protection of life and conscience rights.

By / Oct 24

Recently, President Biden announced that he would set the United States’ annual refugee ceiling for fiscal year 2023 at 125,000. Traditionally, actual resettlement numbers have tracked closely with that number set by the president each year. However, in recent years, the U.S. has fallen far short of that ceiling. This declining resettlement comes at a time of historic displacement around the world. According to the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), 89.3 million people, or 1 in every 88 people on earth, have been forcibly displaced with 27.1 million of those meeting the formal definition of a refugee, roughly half of whom are minors. 

In this time of immense need, it is vital that the U.S. go beyond symbolically setting a significant resettlement cap and actually invest in rebuilding a robust system that can meet those goals and help the most vulnerable around the world. In order to improve our resettlement system, it is essential to understand its history, current processes, and the challenges it faces.

The history of U.S. refugee resettlement

The U.S. has a long history of welcoming persecuted peoples and refugees, even going back to the nation’s founding. For much of our history, refugees came to America with little formal process. It largely wasn’t until the 1900s that federal laws and agencies began strictly governing immigration and refugee resettlement. Much of our current system was born out of World War II as Europe was overwhelmed with millions of people displaced by the war and the U.S. began reckoning with its own failures to offer refuge to many Jews and other persecuted groups prior to and during the war.

In 1980, during an influx of refugees following the Vietnam War, Congress passed the Refugee Act of 1980. This law created our modern-day refugee system by adopting a standardized definition of a “refugee,” creating the Office of Refugee Resettlement to oversee resettlement processes, providing the first statutory basis for asylum, and formalizing the United States Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP).

Every year since then, the president has set, through a “Presidential Determination,” a cap for the maximum number of refugees that the U.S. will resettle in that given fiscal year. The highest Presidential Determination ever set was in 1980 at 231,700 and the lowest in 2020 at 18,000, with a historic average of about 95,000 since the program began. Since 1980, the United States has resettled more than 3.1 million refugees, more than any other country in the world.

How are refugees resettled in the U.S.?

Under the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), a refugee is “an alien who, generally, has experienced past persecution or has a well-founded fear of persecution on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion.” Those who meet this definition may seek refugee status if they are outside of the U.S. or asylum status if they are physically in the country. The first step for an individual who meets this definition is to register with the UNHCR. The UNHCR then must determine whether the individual qualifies as a refugee and what the best solution for them is. Generally, less than 1% of those who qualify as refugees are ultimately resettled to a third country each year. 

Once an individual is referred by UNHCR for resettlement in the U.S., a network of federal agencies and non-governmental organizations work together to conduct intensive security, biometric, and eligibility screenings. Following these screenings, refugees then must be approved for travel, go through medical exams, and be sponsored by a domestic resettlement agency. Refugees then face final vetting from Customs and Border Patrol upon their arrival to the U.S. Through these rigorous processes, refugees are some of the most thoroughly vetted individuals who come to America. 

Once a refugee is in the U.S., a resettlement agency, in partnership with the U.S. government, works to integrate them into the community and help them successfully start a new life. In previous years, this process would typically take on average 18 to 24 months.

Significant challenges

Though there are few concrete estimates, this already lengthy process now, for a number of reasons, is currently averaging over 5 years. A number of factors have caused incredible slowdowns and backlogs throughout the process that have severely lengthened the amount of time it takes for a refugee to be resettled and limited the number of individuals able to actually be resettled each year, regardless of the cap that is set by the president. Despite the 125,000 cap set by Biden in fiscal year 2022, the U.S. only resettled just over 25,000 refugees.

Because domestic refugee resettlement agencies are funded by the government based on the number of refugees that they resettle, the Trump administration’s decision to significantly curtail resettlement forced an estimated 134 resettlement sites to close and capacity to be cut by about 38%. It has proven to be difficult for resettlement agencies to rebuild their capacity in re-opening locations, rehiring staff, and rebuilding volunteer networks, given the unreliable nature of their funding. Additionally, overseas processing and interviews have been slow to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic and Trump-era cuts. Other factors such as understaffing across federal agencies have contributed to a largely unworkable system for many individuals in dire circumstances.

While there are a number of real, logistical challenges facing the resettlement system, at its core, the issue is largely one of political will. If both the Biden administration and Congress wanted to truly fix our resettlement system, they could choose to funnel increased resources to the appropriate federal agencies and create new funding streams for resettlement organizations. Rebuilding the refugee resettlement program is certainly a massive feat, but it is one that can be done if our leaders choose to prioritize it. 

Why does it matter?

In the absence of a nimble and efficient refugee system, our government has turned to a tool known as “humanitarian parole” as a substitute. Humanitarian parole may be used to deliver people quickly to the U.S. in the case of a humanitarian crisis. Over the last year, the U.S. government used this tool to assist Afghans following the withdrawal of U.S. troops and Ukrainians following the invasion of Russia. While this did allow people to be moved out of harm’s way quickly, it came at a cost. Parole is a temporary solution to what is often a long-term crisis. It provides only temporary protection for individuals in the U.S. and does not offer them the resettlement support given to formal refugees. Congress had to act to provide resettlement benefits to Afghans who were evacuated here, and still must act in the future to allow Afghans to stay lawfully in the U.S. moving forward.

Another consequence of our current resettlement system is that a growing number of people find that their only option is to present themselves at the U.S. southern border. If an individual believes that they meet the definition of a refugee but is languishing in backlogs and processing overseas, they may choose to travel to the southern border and seek asylum either at a port of entry or by presenting themselves to a border patrol officer along the border. Over the past year, we’ve seen not just individuals from the “Northern Triangle”⸺ El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras⸺arriving at the border, but people from all over the world who ideally should be processed as refugees closer to home. For example, as the Communist regime in Venezuela has crumbled into a humanitarian crisis over the last year, some 187,000 Venezuelans have made the treacherous journey through the Darién gap and presented themselves for asylum at the southern border. A functioning resettlement system both better serves those who are vulnerable and need to flee while also relieving our overwhelmed resources at the southern border. 

As Americans, it can be easy for us to feel distant from refugees around the world and to wonder why these backlogs and challenges matter. First of all, this matters because these people matter greatly to God, and we are called to love, serve, and work for their good. These issues in the resettlement system are affecting the real lives of some of the most vulnerable people on the planet, and a system that was designed to assist them in finding refuge is often leaving them stranded and unable to receive help in a timely and effective manner.

The Bible is unequivocally clear in its command for Christians to care for the persecuted and vulnerable. Throughout the narrative of Scripture, we see over and over God’s call to care for the immigrant and the refugee as vulnerable people made in the image of God (Matt. 25:35-40, James 1:27). The Southern Baptist Convention has reaffirmed this command to care for the “stranger” among us through numerous resolutions declaring “the value and dignity of immigrants, regardless of their race, religion, ethnicity, culture, national origin, or legal status” and encouraging “people to increase their involvement in resettlement of legal refugees through the enlistment of sponsors and the provision of church-centered ministries.”

Historically, people of faith have led the way in resettling refugees. On a national level, six of the nine agencies that work with the U.S. government to resettle refugees have religious roots that motivate their work. On a local level, last year saw a renewed effort from Christians and churches to assist in resettling the Afghans who were evacuated and paroled into the U.S. We saw churches open their doors, families make meals, and Christians rise up to welcome our new Afghan neighbors. World Relief, a Christian refugee resettlement organization, saw their number of active volunteers double in 2021. Recent polling indicated that 36% of evangelicals have been directly involved in serving refugees and immigrants, and 70% say that the U.S. has a moral responsibility to accept refugees.

Christians care about refugees and are often on the frontlines in serving and welcoming them to our communities. Alongside that important work, we must also continue to advocate and encourage our lawmakers and political leaders to similarly value these vulnerable people and invest the necessary resources to truly allow our nation to once again be a place of refuge for the persecuted.

By / Oct 21

In this episode, Brent and Lindsay discuss the abrupt resignation of the U.K.’s prime minister, Liz Truss. They also talk about the tragic promise by President Biden that abortion will be the top priority if Democrats retain control of Congress. 

ERLC Content

Culture

  • ABC News: Liz Truss Resigns
  • Roll Call: Biden says abortion will be number one priority in new Congress

Connect with us on Twitter

Sponsors

  • Dobbs Resource Page | The release of the Dobbs decision marks a true turning point in the pro-life movement, a moment that Christians, advocates and many others have worked toward tirelessly for 50 years. Let us rejoice that we live in a nation where past injustices can still be corrected, as we also roll our sleeves up to save preborn lives, serve vulnerable mothers, and support families in our communities. To get more resources on this case, visit ERLC.com/Dobbs.
  • Sexual Ethics Resource Page | Do you ever feel overwhelmed by the constant stream of entertainment and messages that challenge the Bible’s teachings on sexual ethics? It often feels like we’re walking through uncharted terrority. But no matter what we face in our ever-shifting culture, God’s design for human sexuality has never changed. The ERLC’s new sexual ethics resource page is full of helpful articles, videos, and explainers that will equip you to navigate these important issues with truth and grace. Get these free resources at ERLC.com/sexualethics.
By / Apr 22

In this episode, Brent and Lindsay discuss the end, for now, of the airline mask mandate, a professor whose religious liberty was protected regarding pronoun usage, and President Biden promising more aid to Ukraine. They also talk about the French presidential debate and the upcoming SBC presidential candidate forum. 

ERLC Content

Culture

  1. No more masks…maybe?
  2. The case of the professor and pronouns | ADF news release
  3. POTUS promises more aid to Ukraine
  4. French Presidential Debate
  5. FBC Keller to host candidate forum with SBC president candidates

Lunchroom

Connect with us on Twitter

Sponsors

  • Dobbs Resource Page Prayer Guide | Right now, the Supreme Court is considering a major Mississippi abortion case called Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. The ERLC and other pro-life organizations filed an amicus brief in this case urging the Supreme Court to overturn the disatrous Roe v. Wade decision. Members of our team also joined pro-life advocates on the steps of the Supreme Court when oral arguments were heard last December. As we approach the Supreme Court’s final decision in June of this year, it’s important for Christians to pray for this landmark case and begin preparing our churches to serve vulnerable women and children in a potential post-Roe world. Download our free prayer guide at ERLC.com/Dobbs.
  • Dobbs Resource Page | Many Christians are aware that an important case about abortion is being decided at the Supreme Court this June. But for many, this case is confusing and wrapped in a lot of legal jargon. The ERLC wants to help with that, so we’ve created a resource page that will help you and your church understand what this case means, what could happen if Roe v. Wade is overturned, and how your church can prepare to serve vulnerable women and children in the aftermath. To learn more about the Dobbs case and how you can pray, visit ERLC.com/Dobbs.
By / Apr 1

In this episode, Brent and Lindsay discuss U.S. intel about Putin being misled, President Biden’s gaffe, and the Florida gender identity education law. They also talk about the new gender x passports coming out in April, what you should know about Biden’s budget proposal, and a Christian’s response during tumultuous times.  

ERLC Content

Culture

  1. U.S. says Putin being misled
  2. Biden’s gaffe and international diplomacy
  3. EXPLAINER: DeSantis signs Florida gender identity education law | Public Opinion Strategies Poll 
  4. New Gender X passports coming in April

Lunchroom

Connect with us on Twitter

Sponsors

  • Dobbs Resource Page Prayer Guide | Right now, the Supreme Court is considering a major Mississippi abortion case called Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. The ERLC and other pro-life organizations filed an amicus brief in this case urging the Supreme Court to overturn the disatrous Roe v. Wade decision. Members of our team also joined pro-life advocates on the steps of the Supreme Court when oral arguments were heard last December. As we approach the Supreme Court’s final decision in June of this year, it’s important for Christians to pray for this landmark case and begin preparing our churches to serve vulnerable women and children in a potential post-Roe world. Download our free prayer guide at ERLC.com/Dobbs.
  • Dobbs Resource Page | Many Christians are aware that an important case about abortion is being decided at the Supreme Court this June. But for many, this case is confusing and wrapped in a lot of legal jargon. The ERLC wants to help with that, so we’ve created a resource page that will help you and your church understand what this case means, what could happen if Roe v. Wade is overturned, and how your church can prepare to serve vulnerable women and children in the aftermath. To learn more about the Dobbs case and how you can pray, visit ERLC.com/Dobbs.
By / Apr 1

On Tuesday, President Joe Biden signed the Emmett Till Antilynching Act into law, making lynching a federal hate crime. “Racial hate isn’t an old problem. It’s a persistent problem,” said Biden. “Hate never goes away, it only hides under the rocks. If it gets a little bit of oxygen, it comes roaring back out, screaming. What stops it? All of us.”

The new law ends a 122-year effort to make lynching a federal crime. The first attempt occurred in 1900 when antilynching legislation was introduced by Rep. George Henry White of North Carolina, the only African American in Congress at the time. That bill failed, as did the nearly 200 an­tilynch­ing bills introduced in Congress during the first half of the 20th century. Between 1890 and 1952, seven presidents petitioned Congress to end lynching. And between 1920 and 1940, the House of Representatives passed three strong antilynching measures, though none passed the Senate. 

The enactment of the Civil Rights Act of 1968 was the closest Congress ever came in the post-Reconstruction era to enacting antilynching legislation until 2020. In that year, the Emmett Till Antilynching Act was passed by the House by a vote of 410 to 4. But it was held up in the Senate by Sen. Rand Paul, who wanted an amendment that would apply a “serious bodily injury standard” for a crime to be considered as lynching.

Here is what you should know about lynching and the new antilynching law. 

What is lynching?

Lynching is a form of violence in which a mob kills or attempts to kill a person suspected of a crime, under the pretext of administering justice without trial. The term has become a synonym for execution by hanging, but lynching can take many forms and often includes inflicting torture and corporal mutilation. The current legal definition of lynching ​​ includes “serious bodily harm.” 

Lynching is a form of terrorist activity since it is intended to affect not just the victim but to spread fear to a particular group of people. “Lynching has typically sent a message to an entire community that ‘you’re not safe here’ or ‘you could be next.’ Lynching has typically been motivated by racial animus and harms an entire community,” said Justin Hansford, a law professor at Howard University.

How common is lynching?

From the end of the Civil War to 1968, 15 U.S. states had Jim Crow laws, legislation that legalized racial segregation. These laws provided legal cover for acts of violence against Black Americans. 

During this period (from 1882-1968), 4,743 recorded lynchings occurred in the United States. Almost three-fourths of the victims were Black (a total 3,446 victims), while just over 1-in-4 were white (1,297 victims). More than three-fourths of all lynchings (79%) occurred in the South. Across the South, someone was hanged or burned alive every four days from 1889 to 1929. Mississippi had the highest number with 581, followed by Georgia with 531, and Texas with 493. 

Five states had no lynchings during this period (Alaska, Rhode Island, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, and Connecticut), while seven states (Arizona, Idaho, Maine, Nevada, South Dakota, Vermont, and Wisconsin) had no recorded lynchings of those who were Black. In 16 states, a greater number of white people than Black people were lynched (California, Colorado, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming). Most lynchings outside the South were of those who were white, and usually for such crimes as murder or theft of livestock.

The last recorded lynching in the United States occurred in 1981. But since 2000, there have been at least eight suspected lynchings of Black men and teenagers in Mississippi, according to court records and police reports.

 What is a hate crime?

According to the Justice Department, when used in a hate crime law, the word “hate” does not mean rage, anger, or general dislike. In this context “hate” means bias against people or groups with specific characteristics that are defined by the law.

At the federal level, hate crime laws include crimes committed on the basis of the victim’s perceived or actual race, color, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, or disability. The “crime” in hate crime is often a violent crime, such as assault, murder, arson, vandalism, or threats to commit such crimes. It may also cover conspiring or asking another person to commit such crimes, even if the crime was never carried out.

What changes does the new law make?

The new law amends 18 U.S. Code § 249, the hate crime acts, to include:

(5) LYNCHING.—Whoever conspires to commit any offense under paragraph (1), (2), or (3) shall, if death or serious bodily injury (as defined in section 2246 of this title) results from the offense, be imprisoned for not more than 30 years, fined in accordance with this title, or both.

(6) OTHER CONSPIRACIES.—Whoever conspires to commit any offense under paragraph (1), (2), or (3) shall, if death or serious bodily injury (as defined in section 2246 of this title) results from the offense, or if the offense includes kidnapping or an attempt to kidnap, aggravated sexual abuse or an attempt to commit aggravated sexual abuse, or an attempt to kill, be imprisoned for not more than 30 years, fined in accordance with this title, or both.

Who was Emmitt Till?

Born in 1941, Emmett Till grew up in a middle-class black neighborhood in Chicago. In August 1955, at the age of 14, he traveled to Mississippi to spend time with his cousins. Three days after arriving in Money, Mississippi, Till and a group of teenagers entered Bryant’s Grocery and Meat Market. Till purchased bubble gum and, in later accounts, was accused of either whistling at, flirting with, or touching the hand of Carolyn Bryant, a white female whose husband, Roy Bryant, owned the store.

Four days after the alleged incident at the store, Till was kidnapped from his uncle’s home by Bryant and Bryant’s half-brother, J.W. Milam. The two men brutally beat the teenager, shot him in the head, tied him with barbed wire to a large metal fan, and tossed his body into the Tallahatchie River. When Till’s body was discovered three days later, his face was so mutilated he could only be positively identified by the ring on his finger — a signet ring engraved with his late father’s initials that his mother had given him a day before he left Chicago.

The teen’s body was sent back to Chicago, and his mother opted for an open casket to show the world how her son was brutally tortured. Tens of thousands of people came during the five days Till’s body was on display at his church. Two black publications, Jet magazine and the Chicago Defender, published graphic images of the body. The reaction to the murder helped spark the civil rights movement. Rosa Parks is reported to have said she was thinking about Till when she refused to give up her seat on a bus in Montgomery, Alabama.

By / Mar 30

On Mon., March 28, President Biden released his FY 2023 budget proposal. Every year, the president submits his budget proposal, and it serves as a blueprint for the administration’s priorities. A president’s budget proposal has no binding authority over Congress. It is a request and a statement of priorities and serves as a starting point for a long negotiation in Congress as they work on the 12 spending appropriations bills that fund the government. 

The ERLC actively engages in the appropriations process each year, and in the recently released FY23 budget proposal, there are areas of deep concern, but also areas of possible collaboration.

Exclusion of pro-life riders and increased funding for abortion providers

Notably, for only the second time since its inception in 1976, the Hyde Amendment has been excluded from the president’s proposal. The Hyde Amendment is a budget rider on the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) appropriations bill to prevent Medicaid from covering the cost of abortion. This rider, along with other pro-life riders, are essential in protecting life as well as the consciences of millions of American taxpayers. 

Before the Hyde Amendment was introduced, approximately 300,000 abortions a year were performed using federal Medicaid dollars. It is estimated that the Hyde Amendment has saved over two million lives since it was enacted. Since 1976, the Hyde Amendment has been passed by every Congress. Its success across the generations is not due to a shared belief about abortion but precisely because those representatives and senators believed the disagreement deserved respect. 

Congress should also protect the Weldon (discrimination protections for those with objections to abortion), Dornan (Hyde protections in the District of Columbia), Helms (protection against funds being used for abortion in international aid), Siljander (protection against funds being used to lobby for abortion internationally), and Kamp-Kasten (protection against funds to organizations that support coercive abortion or sterilization) Amendments. It is important to note that although Biden’s FY 2022 budget proposal also excluded these amendments, they were ultimately included in the final appropriations package passed by Congress.

Biden’s budget proposal also includes a request for a 40% increase in additional funding for abortion providers through the Title X Family Planning program. Though these pro-life riders have traditionally kept this funding from directly funding abortion procedures, abortion providers are still able to receive funding through the Title X Family Planning program and other government funds to cover operational costs, allowing them to more easily reserve non-taxpayer dollars for abortion services. Although it is vital for women of any economic status to have access to important healthcare services, abortion — the act of taking a life — is not healthcare.

Inclusion of Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity langauge

Throughout the budget proposal, Biden includes multiple proposals that advance “gender equality” on the basis of “sexual orientation and gender identity.” Efforts to advance SOGI as protected classes under federal law have explicitly included attempts to roll back

religious freedom and conscience protections. As the ERLC has long maintained, a government that is able to pave over the conscience is one that has the unlimited ability to steamroll dissent on any issue.

In the proposal, Biden references several Executive Orders he has signed during his presidency on this topic, including Executive Order 14020, “Establishment of the White House Gender Policy Council,” establishing the first White House Gender Policy Council within the Executive Office of the President and charged the office with leading a government-wide effort to advance gender equity and equality. Last year the administration issued the first ever National Strategy on Gender Equity. As the ERLC noted when that strategy was introduced, “This strategy is not only ambitious, but can be seen as a way for the federal government to expand its authority and influence over everyday life given the sheer breadth of issues included.”

The ERLC will closely be tracking these developments as Congress begins their budget proposal and will advocate against the inclusion of any provision that could hinder the American conscience and religious liberty. 

Rebuilding of the refugee resettlement program and immigration processes

One area where we were pleased to see significant investment in Biden’s budget proposal was in rebuilding the refugee resettlement program and improving our immigration and asylum processes. The proposal includes substantial funding to provide humane and proper care to unaccompanied minors, facilite family reunifications that occurred under the zero-tolerance policy of the previous administration, and support the resettlement of up to 125,000 refugees in FY 2023. The ERLC has long advocated for the United States to resume its global leadership in providing a place of refuge for the vulnerable and for the necessary investments in the refugee resettlement program infrastructure to support that goal. 

Additionally, the president’s budget proposal provides significant funds for improving border security and management while also addressing the significant backlogs in our immigration and asylum systems. One of the most notable developments in addressing these backlogs was an increase of $621 million over last year’s levels in funding for immigration courts, allowing for the hiring of 100 new immigration judges and support personnel. The ERLC supports efforts that make our asylum and immigration systems more fair, just, and humane, and these investments are important steps in that direction.

Fighting food insecurity and the opioid crisis

We were also glad to see the president’s budget proposal place an emphasis on addressing food insecurity and the opioid crisis. The proposal included significant funding for combating poverty-driven food insecurity as well as the opioid epidemic, particularly among veterans. Though increased funding does not always necessitate better outcomes, we affirm the president’s desire to promote human flourishing through combatting the vicious cycle of poverty and the devastating impact of opioid abuse. According to the president’s proposal, the drug overdose epidemic claimed over 100,000 lives in the last fiscal year. The drivers for this epidemic are complex, but the effects are simply tragic. This investment in the prevention of drug abuse, treatment, and recovery, particularly for our nation’s veterans, could be an important step for many families facing this tragedy across the country. 

What’s next?

The House and Senate Appropriations Committees will begin the appropriations process which includes a hearing to discuss budget requests and writing and marking up the 12 appropriations bills that fund the federal government. Congress will therefore have the opportunity to include the Hyde Amendment and other important pro-life riders, as they did in FY 2022. 

Each year, the ERLC is actively engaged in the appropriations process, working alongside committee and leadership offices to ensure that important pro-life, religious liberty, and conscience protections are included and harmful policies are excluded. The ERLC will continuously advocate for the inclusion of these pro-life provisions as well as other legislative measures that reflect God’s gracious love for every human life around the world.

By / Mar 21

On Friday, Feb. 25, President Biden named Ketanji Brown Jackson as his nominee to succeed Justice Stephen Breyer on the U.S. Supreme Court. Breyer “will retire at the end of the 2021-22 term” after 28 years. Jackson’s nomination is historic in that, if confirmed, she would be the first African American woman to serve on the Supreme Court. Confirmation hearings for the nomination of Jackson are set to begin later this month.

Here is what you should know about Jackson, nominee for associate justice of the Supreme Court of the United States.

Ketanji Brown Jackson

Age: 51

Birthplace: Washington, D.C.

Education: A.B., magna cum laude, in Government from Harvard-Radcliffe College (1992); J.D., cum laude, from Harvard Law School (1996).

Current judgeship: U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit (appointed by President Joe Biden in June 2021).

Previous roles: Jackson has served as a law clerk to three federal judges: Associate Justice Stephen G. Breyer of the Supreme Court of the United States, Judge Bruce M. Selya of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit, and Judge Patti B. Saris of the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts. Following her clerkships, and after years as a public defender, Jackson was nominated by President Obama to serve as the Vice-Chair of the U.S. Sentencing Commission, where she served from 2010-2014. From 2013 to 2021, Jackson served on the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.

Religious denomination: Unknown

Family: Jackson is married and has two daughters. Her parents were both public school teachers “and leaders in the Miami-Dade Public School System.”

Judicial philosophy: In the confirmation hearing after her nomination to the seat of United States District Judge for the District of Columbia, when asked by Sen. Amy Klobuchar to “describe” and “characterize” her judicial philosophy,” JJackson said the following:

My judicial philosophy is to approach all cases with professional integrity, meaning strict adherence to the rule of law, keeping an open mind, and deciding each issue in a transparent, straightforward manner, without bias or any preconceived notion of how the matter is going to turn out.

As reported by The New York Times, Jackson has “not yet written a body of appeals court opinions expressing a legal philosophy,” but her earlier rulings “comport with those of a liberal-leaning judge.” It would seem that her judicial philosophy is reminiscent of that of Justice Stephen Breyer. 

What is Jackson’s history regarding life and religious liberty issues?

On matters of religious freedom, though Jackson’s judicial record is limited, she has publicly expressed support for religious liberty, “describing it as a foundational tenet of our entire government.” 

In 2017, Jackson issued an opinion in Tyson v. Brennan, a case alleging religious discrimination against a Christian worker by his employer, the United States Postal Service. In her opinion, Jackson allowed the discrimination claims to proceed. While the USPS sought to have the charges dismissed, Jackson argued that Mr. Tyson’s complaint was “sufficient to state a plausible claim for discrimination.” In this instance and others, the tenet of religious liberty was upheld. Thus, it seems likely that Jackson will seek to preserve First Amendment freedoms.

Her position on the issue of life seems more troubling, however. Because Jackson “hasn’t done a ton of rulings or work in the health-care space . . . it’s difficult to predict her judicial thinking on a wide array of issues,” including the issue of abortion. However, because she received strong statements of support from pro-abortion groups like Planned Parenthood and NARAL Pro-Choice America, one may logically assume that Jackson sides with the views held by these organizations, which are the predominant views among most within the Democratic party today. This is the opinion of Rachel Roubein of The Washington Post, who said, because “she was nominated by a Democratic President — one who has publicly committed to appointing judges that “respect foundational precedents like Roe [v. Wade].” She’s likely to vote with the more liberal justices on hot-button issues, like abortion . . . ” 

What’s next?

Now that Jackson has been nominated, “the President will seek the Senate’s consent to confirm Judge Jackson to the Supreme Court.” The confirmation hearings are scheduled to begin on March 21, “with Democratic leaders setting a goal of reaching a final Senate vote by April 8th,” just prior to the April 11 recess.