By / Nov 14

Though results are still coming in from Tuesday’s midterm elections that will determine which party controls the House of Representatives, Congress is coming back in session today with a long list of legislative items to do before the end of the year. This session between the election and the swearing in of the new Congress in January is called the Lame Duck session.

This year, Congress must pass either an omnibus appropriations bill (a budget for this 2023 fiscal year) or another continuing resolution by December 16 to avoid a government shutdown and fund the government, as well as the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), before the end of the year. Additionally, Congressional leaders have indicated that they may use this time to pass the Respect for Marriage Act in the Senate, reform the Electoral Count Act, take up permitting reforms, or raise the debt ceiling. As uncertainty lingers and fallout grows from Republicans’ disappointing electoral results, it remains to be seen exactly what will be done before the end of the year.

The Lame Duck also presents a unique opportunity for smaller, bipartisan bills to be passed into law. Oftentimes, these bills will be added on to the omnibus or NDAA packages. Other times, retiring lawmakers or those who were not reelected will be more willing to take votes that go against their party because they will not have to face voters following this session. These dynamics come together to occasionally allow bills to find passage that have been stuck in Congressional gridlock.

As we enter into this important legislative session, the ERLC will be advocating on behalf of Southern Baptists to uphold life and religious liberty and pursue biblical justice for the vulnerable. In this session, the ERLC’s top priorities will be protecting life and religious liberty in appropriations, opposing the Respect for Marriage Act, and advocating for permanent protections for Dreamers and Afghans in the US.

Protecting life and religious liberty in appropriations

Congress must either complete its appropriations work or pass another continuing resolution (CR) by the end of December 16. Congress previously passed a short-term CR in September to fund the government through December 16. 

On July 20, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a six-bill minibus, which included Transportation, and Housing and Urban Development; Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration; Energy and Water Development; Financial Services and General Government; Interior, Environment; and Military Construction, Veterans Affairs. Though all bills have been passed out of committee, the House has not yet taken action on Commerce, Justice, and Science; Defense; Homeland Security; Labor, Health and Human Services, Education; Legislative Branch, or State, Foreign Operations. The Senate has also released but not yet taken up its own version of these bills. If passed, these bills will have to be reconciled with the House versions. 

The FY2023 appropriations bills are troubling because they remove several longstanding pro-life riders from the budget. Just as last year, the Hyde Amendment has not been included in the Labor-HHS appropriations bill. The Hyde Amendment prevents Medicaid from covering the cost of abortion. At the 2021 Annual Meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention, messengers unanimously approved a resolution condemning efforts to strip Hyde from any federal appropriations bills and called upon Congress to uphold all pro-life riders.

Additionally, the appropriations bills removed the Weldon Amendment for only the second time since 2005. Weldon protects the rights of conscience for healthcare professionals and institutions by preventing HHS from denying funding to recipients that refuse to provide, pay for, or refer for abortion. The budget would also prohibit any president from reinstituting the Mexico City Policy, reestablished and expanded by President Trump, as the Protecting Life in Global Health Assistance policy.

Though excluded from the initially released bills last year, these pro-life and conscience protection riders were ultimately included in the final FY2022 appropriations package. It is our hope that the same will happen this year. The ERLC is urging Congress to support protections against federal funds being used for abortion and to ensure that pro-life spending riders are approved in all spending legislation passed in the 117th Congress. We also are urging Congress to remove harmful provisions that would exclude people of faith from serving the most vulnerable. 

Opposing the Respect for Marriage Act

The Respect for Marriage Act is a bill that seeks to “repeal the Defense of Marriage Act and codify federal recognition for marriage equality.” As stated in the bill summary, “the bill repeals and replaces provisions that define, for purposes of federal law, marriage as between a man and a woman and spouse as a person of the opposite sex with provisions that recognize any marriage that is valid under state law.” The Respect for Marriage Act would also permit the Department of Justice “to bring a civil action” and would establish “a private right of action for violations.”

The Respect for Marriage Act is a federal legislative attempt to entrench, nationwide, the precedent set by the Supreme Court’s 2015 Obergefell v. Hodges decision, which ruled that “state laws barring same-sex marriages were unconstitutional.” At its core, this bill is a further attempt by Congress to redefine marriage, a union that need not be redefined and which government has no authority to redefine.

On July 19, the House of Representatives voted to pass the Respect for Marriage Act with broad bipartisan support. The final vote was 267-157, with 47 Republicans joining with all Democrats in support of the bill. Before it can become law, the bill must be passed in the Senate and be signed by the president. For the bill to pass, 10 GOP senators will have to join all Democrats to overcome the filibuster’s 60-vote threshold. Senate Majority Leader Schumer has indicated that he plans to bring the bill to the floor for a vote, and sponsors indicate that they believe they will have enough votes 

In addition to going against the biblical definition of marriage, the bill poses serious problems for religious liberty. In a letter sent to the Senate on July 26, ERLC President Brent Leatherwood conveyed why the Respect for Marriage Act presents such grave religious liberty concerns for people of faith. He said, “Given the significant role marriage plays in faith, the ‘Respect for Marriage Act’ raises serious religious liberty concerns for individuals and organizations who maintain this view of marriage (the view that marriage is an institution created by God between one man and one woman for life) and are in contract with, funded by, or working jointly with the government.” 

Since Obergefell, rights of conscience and religious freedom have found themselves in the crosshairs of a number of notable cases including Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission (2018) and Fulton v. City of Philadelphia (2021), each of which was ruled in favor of religious liberty. Should the Respect for Marriage Act find passage, however, we may rightly assume that rights of conscience and religious freedom will find themselves under threat yet again. The ERLC strongly opposes the Respect for Marriage Act and will continue to work against its passage in the Senate. 

Advocating for Dreamers and Afghans

Two populations of vulnerable people in need of Congressional action before a new Congress is sworn in are Dreamers, young immigrants who were brought here by their undocumented parents, and Afghan evacuees, who were brought to the United States through humanitarian parole after the fall of Afghanistan last year.

A recent decision from the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals found the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Program (DACA) to be unlawful but temporarily allowed Dreamers, who currently hold DACA status, to temporarily maintain their status. The decision is likely to be appealed to the Supreme Court, where it is expected that the high court will uphold the decision, terminating the program. This recent decision means that Congressional action for Dreamers is needed more urgently than ever before.

Dreamers, through DACA, only have temporary protection with no path to legal permanent residency or citizenship, and only Congress is able to pass legislation that creates such a pathway to permanency. For now, these young immigrants, who were brought here at no fault of their own and have known no other home than the U.S., remain in severe uncertainty, facing potential future deportation if the DACA program were to be terminated.

Similarly, last year during the fall of Afghanistan, tens of thousands of Afghans who had served with the U.S. military or were especially vulnerable to persecution from the Taliban were evacuated to the U.S. through a tool known as humanitarian parole. Though this tool allows individuals to reach safety much faster than through the refugee resettlement program, it only provides two years of legal status and work authorization, whereas the refugee program includes a route to legal permanent residency or citizenship.

As these individuals approach two years in the U.S. this upcoming summer, they will be forced to either enter our backlogged asylum system, become undocumented and lose their ability to work legally, or face deportation back to Afghanistan, where they will almost assuredly face intense persecution. To remedy this problem, Congress must act to provide these individuals with a pathway to permanent status in the United States. The Afghan Adjustment Act would provide this protection for Afghans while also increasing national security through additional vetting procedures.

Both of these groups of people have an urgent need for Congressional action. Additionally, Kevin McCarthy, who is likely to be the future Speaker of the House of Representatives if Republicans win the majority, as expected, has indicated that he will oppose any immigration legalization legislation and block it from coming to the House floor for a vote. This reality makes it essential for Congress to take up protections for both Dreamers and Afghans before the new Congress begins. The ERLC is urging Congress to act quickly and provide a pathway to permanency for these vulnerable groups that have already become integral parts of our churches and communities. 

By / Nov 11

In this episode, Lindsay and Brent talk about the results of the midterms and how Christians can think about them. They also discuss the temptation toward discouragement, the path forward, and the hope believers have. 

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  • 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 territory. 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 / Nov 11

During the recent midterm election, voters across the country voted on more than 100 ballot initiatives, several of which affect a number of social issues. Here are some of the main decisions on issues of special concern to ERLC.

Initiatives related to abortion

Five states had initiatives that were related to adding or removing restrictions on abortion.

California — Pro-abortion | Passed

Proposition 1 amends the state constitution to prohibit the state from interfering with or denying an individual’s reproductive freedom, which is defined to include a right to an abortion and a right to contraceptives.

Kentucky — Pro-life | Failed

Amendment 2 supported amending the Kentucky Constitution to state that nothing in the state constitution creates a right to abortion or requires government funding for abortion. This measure would have prohibited Kentucky courts from interpreting the state constitution in a way that requires protecting abortion or state funding for abortion.

Michigan — Pro-abortion | Passed

Michigan Proposal 3, the Right to Reproductive Freedom Initiative, provides a state constitutional right to “reproductive freedom, which is defined as ‘the right to make and effectuate decisions about all matters relating to pregnancy, including but not limited to prenatal care, childbirth, postpartum care, contraception, sterilization, abortion care, miscarriage management, and infertility care.’”

Montana — Pro-life | Pending

Montana LR-131, the Medical Care Requirements for Born-Alive Infants Measure, establishes that  “infants born alive at any stage of development are legal persons; require medical care to be provided to infants born alive after an induced labor, cesarean section, attempted abortion, or another method; and establish a $50,000 fine and/or 20 years in prison as the maximum penalty for violating the law.”

Vermont — Pro-abortion | Passed

Vermont Proposal 5, the Right to Personal Reproductive Autonomy Amendment, amends the Vermont Constitution to add language protecting the right to “personal reproductive autonomy” and prohibiting government infringement unless justified by a compelling state interest. This initiative further codifies protections for abortion in the state and could be interpreted by state courts to require state funding for abortions, gender transformation surgery, sterilizations (even of minors), and a range of other “reproductive” procedures.

Initiatives related to legalization of marijuana 

Five states had initiatives that would legalize recreational use of marijuana.

Arkansas — Failed 

Issue 4 would have legalized the possession and use of marijuana by adults 21 and older, and authorized the cultivation and sale of marijuana by licensed commercial facilities.

Maryland — Passed 

Question 4 legalized the use of marijuana by adults 21 and older.

Missouri — Passed 

Amendment 3 removes existing state prohibitions on marijuana and legalizes the purchase, possession, consumption, use, delivery, manufacture, and sale of marijuana for personal use for adults 21 and older. It also allows individuals with certain marijuana-related offenses to be released from prison, parole, or probation.

North Dakota — Failed 

Measure 2 would have legalized the production, processing, sale, and possession of marijuana by adults 21 and older.

South Dakota — Failed 

Measure 27 would have legalized the production, processing, sale, and possession of marijuana by adults 21 and older.

Initiatives related to sports betting

Only one state in this election had initiatives related to sports betting. 

California  — Failed 

Proposition 26 would have allowed in-person sports betting at tribal casinos and licensed racetracks. Proposition 27 would ​​have allowed tribes and gambling companies to offer online and mobile sports betting, and imposed a 10% tax on revenue.

Initiatives related to slavery and indentured servitude

Five states had ballot initiative that would change their state constitutions to prohibit slavery and involuntary servitude as punishment for crime. 

Alabama — Passed

The Alabama Recompiled Constitution Ratification Question made several changes, including “removing all racist language.” The removed language included: “That no form of slavery shall exist in this state; and there shall not be any involuntary servitude, otherwise than for the punishment of crime, of which the party shall have been duly convicted.”

Louisiana — Failed

Amendment 7 would have removed language from the state constitution that allows involuntary servitude as punishment for a crime; and added language to say that the section of the constitution prohibiting slavery and involuntary servitude “does not apply to the otherwise lawful administration of criminal justice.” State Rep. Edmond Jordan, a Democrat from Baton Rouge and author of the amendment, reportedly asked voters to reject the measure because its wording on the ballot differed from his proposal.

Oregon — Passed

Measure 112 repealed language from the state constitution that allows the use of slavery and involuntary servitude as criminal punishments and added language that authorizes an Oregon court or a probation or parole agency to order alternatives to incarceration for a convicted individual as part of their sentencing. 

Tennessee — Passed

Constitutional Amendment 3 amended the state constitution to remove language that allows the use of slavery and involuntary servitude as criminal punishments and replace it with the statement, “Slavery and involuntary servitude are forever prohibited.”

Vermont — Passed

Proposal 2 amends the state constitution to repeal language stating that persons can be held as servants, slaves, or apprentices with the person’s consent or “for the payments of debts, damages, fines, costs, or the like” and adds “slavery and indentured servitude in any form are prohibited.” 

By / Nov 8

When you think about the political moment we find ourselves in, what thoughts and images come to mind? What emotions bubble to the surface? What motivations drive your political activity? How we answer these questions has significant implications for how politics is done in this country and how healthy we are as a body politic. And increasingly, we’re trending in the wrong direction on both. 

The results of a new national NBC News poll conducted in mid-October pulled back the curtain on Americans’ answers to some of these questions. And the findings (mostly) aren’t good. What has felt palpable and steadily on the rise over the last several years—anger, fear, and extreme partisanship—is spelled out clearly. In light of the midterm elections happening, the findings show we are a country highly interested in the political process but highly divided in our political calculus. And, alarmingly, we’re being driven to the polls in record numbers by a common motivation: anger. Here’s a rundown of some of the poll’s findings.

Major findings

On a positive note, the poll revealed that “voter interest has reached an all-time high for a midterm election.” Using a scale from one to 10, voters were asked to weigh their interest in this November’s elections, and a whopping 70% scored their interest either as a “9” or “10,” which is “the highest percentage ever in the survey for a midterm election at this point.” Eighty-one percent scored their interest at an “8” or above.

While having record-high voter interest and engagement is a positive development, the poll’s revelations about voter motivations and outlook are troubling. According to Mark Murray, “what stands out in the poll is the bipartisan anger among Democrat and Republican voters.” Furthermore, “Eighty-one percent of Democrats” and “an almost-identical share of Republicans” (79%) “say they believe [the other party’s] agenda poses a threat that, if not stopped, will destroy America as we know it.”

With findings like these, it’s no wonder voter interest has reached an all-time high—we have likened our political moment to an “existential crisis” of sorts. And when we view politics this way, as apocalyptic, then our political engagement becomes something resembling the Hunger Games rather than an exercise in bringing about public good. But Christians should know better. We should model a better way.

Anger isn’t the way

What’s clear from the NBC News poll is that American voters, both Republican and Democrat alike, are motivated primarily by their anger. Unhappy with the direction the country is heading and incensed by the opposing party’s platform and its leaders, voters intend to turn out in droves to make their indignant voices heard come election day. But this angry polarization and extreme partisanship is no way to get the country back “on the right track.” It only steers us further in the wrong direction and, when taken to its extreme, leads to senseless and tragic acts of violence like we witnessed with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s husband

Christians should not be driven to the polls by anger. While episodes of appropriate anger may be warranted at times—as a response to injustice, for instance—an unremitting posture of anger and outrage is at-odds with the Spirit who lives in us. It means we are given over to “the works of the flesh,” as Paul outlines in the book of Galatians. We are not to check the fruit of the Spirit at the door of our local polling place, but are to “walk by the Spirit” right to the voting booth and exercise our Constitutional right for the good of our neighbor and the “welfare of the city. . . for in its welfare [we] will find [our] welfare” (Jer. 29:7). Instead of anger motivating our political engagement, we should be driven by love; love for God and love for our neighbors. 

American politics isn’t ultimate

Underneath voter anger and the hostilities associated with our extreme polarization is a phenomenon one political commentator calls the “ultimatizing” of politics. When politics are ultimate, as we seem to have made them, then each and every election is viewed through apocalyptic lenses. And when apocalypticism colors our view of politics, then it becomes a no-holds-barred contest of us versus them, where “we” view “them” as enemies of the state coming, as the poll shows, to “destroy America as we know it.” 

This kind of thinking inevitably turns our politics into an immoral maelstrom. And, at the personal level, it opens the door for moral compromise, a sort of win-at-all-costs mentality. When we freight elections with ultimacy, describing each one with phrases like “the most important in our lifetime,” we can develop a tendency to overlook or excuse the moral failings of the candidates on our side while trumpeting the purported missteps of those we oppose. We shuck prudence and our moral principles for political expediency, turning our political engagement into a form of moral gymnastics.

But politics shouldn’t be ultimate, every election shouldn’t be apocalyptic, and we shouldn’t see people who disagree with us on political issues as enemies of the state. Instead, as Patrick Schreiner argues, Christians need to put politics in its proper place. And we are to do that by “bring[ing] every part of our lives in conformity with Christ“—which most certainly includes the way we think about and practice our politics.

Politics in the way of Christ

Politics is important but it is not ultimate. When we ultimatize politics we pledge allegiance to the wrong kingdom and we lay moral burdens on ourselves and our fellow voters that politics simply isn’t built to bear. What’s more, our undiluted allegiance to party and politics forms and disciples us into an image at odds with Christ and his kingdom. But there is a better way. 

At a time when American politics has gone haywire, our system “needs people with joyful confidence who seek security not in politics but in Jesus.” In a system presently preoccupied with grabbing and holding power at all costs, the balm for our political milieu is a fresh dose of the fruit of God’s Spirit. In place of the moral compromise that is so normative, we need men and women of goodness and integrity; in answer to our vicious polarization, we need citizens who are committed to being kind and tactful; and instead of anger and outrage, we need a body politic compelled by love. 

While things continue to devolve, as the NBC News poll indicates, Christians bear the responsibility for showing the American electorate a better way, and for holding our elected officials to a higher standard. But in a culture where anger and outrage are growing, and where polarization is presumed to be a political requirement, it’s a task that demands courage and perseverance. Yet we are those who’ve been commanded to walk by the Spirit whose fruit is love, not anger; whose way is marked by kindness and gentleness, not outrage; and who lives inside us, empowering us to live “every part of our lives in conformity with Christ.” In American politics, as in all of life, we should not be known by our anger, our party, or even by our voting record. We should be known by our love: love of God and love of neighbor. 

By / Nov 4

In this episode, Lindsay and Hannah Daniel discuss the midterm elections and what to watch for. They also talk about the vicious attack on Paul Pelosi and what it reveals about our political climate. 

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  • 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 territory. 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 / Dec 31

Between a new president taking office and COVID-19 variants causing a resurgence in the pandemic, 2021 has been a year of challenges and changes. (See, for example, “10 significant international human rights events of 2021.”) Whether 2022 will be as tumultuous remains to be seen. But there are already numerous events that are expected to have significant effects on the world in the coming year. Here are five to watch in 2022. 

Supreme Court to rule in Dobbs case

During the summer, the U.S. Supreme Court is expected to issue a ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, one of the most significant pro-life cases in a generation. The court will decide if individual states can replace the current “viability standard” (i.e., restrictions only allowed after a child can live outside the womb) with a limit on abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy. The result could be an overturning of Roe v. Wade or a broadening of restrictions on abortions in the early stages of pregnancy.  

Beijing Olympics brings scrutiny to China’s human rights abuses

China will be hosting both the 2022 Olympic Winter Games and the 2022 Summer Olympic Games in their capital city of Beijing. Hosting the events puts a worldwide spotlight on their human rights violations, including the ongoing genocide of the Uyghur people. The United States and several allies, including Australia, Britain, and Japan, have imposed a “diplomatic boycott” of the games and will not be sending high-level official spectators. However, some groups such as the World Uyghur Congress want Olympic athletes to use the games to raise awareness about the persecution of Uyghurs and other groups within China.

2022 midterm elections could lead to shift in partisan power

Midterm elections are the national elections in the U.S. that occur at the two-year midpoint of a president’s four-year term. Because members of the U.S. House of Representatives are elected for two-year terms and U.S. Senators for six-year terms, all 435 House seats and one-third of Senate seats are decided at the midterm. Additionally, in 2022, the election will decide 36 state governorships and three U.S. territory governorships.

The party of the incumbent president tends to lose seats in Congress during such elections. Over the past century there have been 26 midterm elections. Of those, the incumbent president’s party has lost an average of 29 seats in the House and four seats in the Senate. If these historical averages occur next November, Republicans stand to gain full control of the Legislative Branch. The president’s party gained seats in both houses only two times: Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1934 and George W. Bush in 2002.

Russia troop build-up on Ukrainian border could lead to European war

Russia has deployed between 120,000–150,000 troops to their border with Ukraine. The move has been perceived as a possible precursor to an invasion of the eastern region of Ukraine. Russian President Vladimir Putin has expressed concerns about Ukraine’s increasing reliance on the West, and how the country might host NATO offensive weapons systems if it becomes a NATO member. Allowing Ukraine to join NATO is deemed to be an unacceptable threat to Russia’s security, which may prompt a preemptive invasion. U.S. and Russian officials have agreed to sit down for security talks on Jan. 10. 

France and Brazil to hold presidential elections

France will hold its presidential election in April. Since Britain left the European Union, France has become the alliance’s second largest economy (after Germany) and the main military power. The result of the election, especially if incumbent President Emmanuel Macron is ousted, could have reverberations throughout Europe and the international community. 

Brazil, the largest economy in South America, is also having a general election in October. Current President Jair Bolsonaro has repeatedly indicated that he will not accept the results of the vote if he loses. This could be a threat to democratic rule in a nation that only became a democracy in 1985 after two decades of military dictatorship.

By / Jan 20

Every four years our nation celebrates the inauguration of a new president. The occasion is always marked by ceremony, pomp, and circumstance, as power is transferred to or reinvested in America’s commander in chief. For Christians, bearing witness to another inauguration is a unique reminder of our duty to pray for those in authority. One place that command is found in the Scriptures is 1 Timothy 2:1-4, where Paul provides the following instructions:

First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.

One of the benefits of this passage is its clarity. Here Paul tells us not only that we are to pray for those in authority, but how we should do so. As we commemorate this day, here are four specific ways to pray based on Paul’s words from this passage.

1. Pray for our country 

Paul is clear that we are to pray “for all people.” As citizens of this country, we should take this opportunity to pray for our neighbors and fellow citizens. We can ask for God’s blessings upon those we live alongside. We can pray for God to grant them wisdom and success in every good endeavor. We can pray for their health and safety. And we can thank God for the privilege of living together in this republic.

2. Pray for our new president 

Paul tells us to pray for those “in high positions.” In our country, there is no higher office than the presidency. And with a new president comes a host of new leaders in the apparatus of government. We should pray for God to grant President Joe Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris, and those in their administration the wisdom to enact just policies that lead to human flourishing. We should pray for God to bless their efforts to accomplish the work of government in all the ways that are pleasing to him, and we should pray that God would stay their hands from actions or policies that do not align to his will. 

3. Pray for our peace 

Paul tells us that we are to offer these prayers so “that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life.” The reason for this is simple, government is necessary to order our common life. Its primary task is to promote peace and justice (Rom. 13). We can pray today that these incoming leaders will lead well, that they will preserve domestic peace, and that our nation and our world will enjoy greater peace in the days and years ahead. In our polarized and fractious country, we should all desire peace, not only in the policy realm, but at the family and community level as well.

4. Pray for our lost neighbors

As we pray for our new leaders, as well as our nation and our neighbors, we must remember that our goal is their salvation. God “desires all people to be saved.” Paul recognized that a good and just government allows more freedom for the church to do its work of bearing witness to the gospel. We should pray that over the next four years, our churches would be free to minister and to point the way to Jesus. More than anything else, our neighbors and our world need the hope of the gospel.

By / Jan 20

I moved to Washington, D.C. four years ago this week. There was an anxious excitement that January as Americans coming and going in the nation’s capital prepared for a new president, new Congress, and a soon-to-be transformed judiciary. Some were enthusiastic and others were worried.

Much has changed since the 20th of January in 2017, but much remains the same. Our country remains deeply divided. The Americans who were eager for the inauguration of the 45th President of the United States are sullen about the 46th. And the inverse is also true.

In 2017, my trek to the National Mall for the Inauguration included dodging the loudest of my fellow citizens’ screams and countless signs of how great America was about to be made again—or how dreadful. Walking in my new city, I felt like a high school kid who moved back to town after a few years away. I recognized the tribal passion but didn’t fit within it. I was, as many young evangelicals have found themselves to be in recent years, politically homeless.

I knew what I believed, what policies required advocacy, both for and against, and that character mattered in leadership. While the state of our politics left much to be desired for a pro-life, pro-refugee evangelical like me, the red, white, and blue flags emblazoned on the U.S. Capitol and down Pennsylvania Avenue that day stirred in me both pride and gratitude.

The day’s events then, just like those we will see again today, remind us of what’s foundational to our country’s system of government. We are a people who are free to vigorously debate the issues because we have maintained a long-treasured peace under the righteous constraints of the rule of law. Elections matter only when we respect them as the way we determine who holds power.

The peaceful transition of power

Every four years, we get to be a part of this remarkable American tradition––the peaceful transition of power. The transition is established in the U.S. Constitution and by the actions of our leaders who, by their submission to the law, constrain partisan passions. What might be most remarkable about the transition is how unremarkable it has been over our country’s long history. Rare is the president who has not attended their successor’s inauguration.

The value of the rule of law can only be understood in contrast with the peril of the rule of man. The rule of man results from our fallen state—it is the system where might makes right. Our system in the U.S., ruled as we are, not by power but by elections conducted and laws passed according to the consent of the people, constrains the powerful, even at times against their will and at odds with their partisan interests. This idea, that a body of just laws ought to constrain us, runs to the very essence of what our union means. Just laws protect the powerless from injustice. For us at the ERLC, this means first and foremost, working through the law to protect the vulnerable, beginning with the unborn, and also the widow, the orphan, the religious minority, and the sojourner.

America’s peaceful transition of power is a ceremony in which our national commitment to the rule of law above the power of man is made most evident. Think about it: this ceremony celebrates the individual holding the most powerful office in our nation, entrusted as the head of government, the head of state, and the commander-in-chief of our armed forces, transferring that awe-inspiring power to someone else.

When President Washington voluntarily gave up the presidency after two terms in office, he began a tradition, now enshrined in the Constitution, to which the world was left in wonderment. This peaceful transfer of power reminds every American watching that the presidency is, above all, a stewardship. And in this stewardship, leaving is just as important as entering. This is a virtue at the heart of our republic.

Sadly, the militarized security surrounding today’s 59th Inauguration of the President of the United States is a stark warning that our experiment in self-government is not guaranteed to last. Only two weeks ago we watched as the resiliency of our democracy was tested by an unimaginable tragedy. January 6 saw seditious riots at the very same building that is today decorated for a ceremony. That violent attempt to forcefully overturn the presidential election on the basis of conspiracy and lies reminded all of us of the threats facing our constitutional order. If we allow partisan passions to undermine faith in our elections, we will eventually replace the rule of law with the rule of man. This is not the way for the people of God, nor for the United States. As Christians in America, let’s consider again that God has always intended for His people to be constrained by a law that stands higher than themselves. 

Today marks a moment that merits our appreciation as citizens of this republic, just as it did four years ago, and in 2009 and in 2001 and so on. These occasions in the American story are days we can be grateful for not necessarily because of the politicians involved but because of the laws and traditions created by the Founders that they operate within. Seeking the welfare of the city into which we have been sent as exiles begins anew on days like today when we uphold the traditions of our democracy, respect the rule of law, and protect justice and liberty for all.

By / Jan 15

In this episode, Josh, Brent, and Meagan discuss president Trump becoming the first president to be impeached twice, the increased national guard presence at the U.S. Capitol, COVID-19’s raging numbers, new thoughts on COVID-19 immunity length, US Space Command, Alabama winning the National Championship, and ‘Way Maker’ topping the charts in 2020. Meagan and Josh also gives a rundown of this week’s ERLC content including Carl Laferton with “3 ways smartphone usage can distort our perceptions: Habits, theology, and Christian discipleship,” Jason Thacker, and Josh Wester with “Understanding Twitter suspensions and the need for consistent policies,” and Russell Moore with “The Roman Road from Insurrection.” Also in this episode, the hosts are joined by Haley Byrd Wilt for a conversation about life and ministry. 

About Haley

Haley Byrd Wilt is an associate editor for The Dispatch. She previously reported on Congress for CNN and The Weekly Standard. Haley and her husband Evan live in Washington, D.C. You can connect with her on Twitter: @byrdinator

ERLC Content

Culture

  1. Trump becomes first president to be impeached twice
  2. Here are the Republicans who voted to impeach Trump
  3. Here’s what the U.S. Capitol looks like as impeachment is underway
  4. Axios: Next move is the Senate
  5. Multiple resignations in wake of Capitol riot
  6. Capitol Hill police chief resigns, said he requested back-up
  7. US Space Command Headquarters is coming to Huntsville
  8. Air passengers entering the United States will be required to present a negative COVID-19 test, according to the CDC
  9. Coronavirus Immunity May Last Years, Possibly Even Decades, Study Suggests
  10. Covid is raging
  11. Alabama wins national championship
  12. ‘Way Maker’ top 2020 worship song

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By / Jan 15

The peaceful transition of power from one chief executive to another is one of the most enduring and cherished legacies of the American government. But it’s also a complicated process. There is a lot that has to happen between Election Day and Inauguration Day.

Here is a brief outline of some of the steps that have to be taken in the transition from President Trump to President Biden.

Presidential campaigns usually create a transition team during the summer before the election. The Presidential Transition Act of 1963 and the Presidential Transition Enhancement Act of 2019 authorize funding for pre-election activities and support. But after the election, the president-elect is authorized to receive additional funding to pay for his staff, secure office space, and pay for other expenses. (The President’s FY2020 budget request included $9.62 million in funding for the transition.)

Pre-election transition activities continue until the General Services Administration (GSA) officially declares the winner of the presidential election through what is known as ascertainment. Although President Trump disputed the election results on social media, GSA ascertained President-elect Biden as the winner of the 2020 election on November 23. Ascertainment allows the transition team to begin a broad range of official activities, such as getting guidance from the National Archives and Record Administration on preserving presidential records.

Around that time, the transition team will also create agency review teams, which as the Center for Presidential Transition explains, are responsible for “collecting information about the unique roles and responsibilities of each major department and agency of the federal government, and providing information that is relevant, useful and important to the new administration.” Presidential transition team members can also begin receiving security clearances, classified information, as well as access to government offices and staff.

The transition team also selects the top 50 Cabinet appointees and key White House personnel, develops a policy implementation plan, budget and management agenda, sends intended Cabinet agency appointments to the Senate, and determines how to fill roughly 4,000 politically appointed positions—including more than 1,000 jobs requiring Senate confirmation.

They will also begin to draft new executive orders so that they can be implemented as soon as the president-elect takes office, and work with Office of Management and Budget (OMB) career staff to develop a “shadow” presidential budget aligned with the president-elect’s top policy priorities.

The Presidential Transition Act requires the Trump administration to provide President-elect Biden with a classified summary of the nation’s national security threats and major military or covert operations. The briefing is generally given daily during the transition period. The law also requires the Trump administration to host interagency emergency preparedness and response exercises. Around mid-January, the transition team submits agency review reports and briefs incoming agency heads, prepares a Cabinet orientation/retreat, and takes care of other last minute items.

Under the Constitution, the President and the Senate share the power to appoint the principal officers of the United States. Since most of the highest-level political appointee positions in the federal government—including all cabinet members—are filled by such officers, the Senate has to hold confirmation hearings to fulfill its “advise and consent” role. The Senate typically also begins the process of holding confirmation hearings prior to Inauguration Day. But because the Georgia Senate race wasn’t decided until early January (thus determining who controlled the Senate) the process has been significantly delayed.

The Senate has set a date of January 19 for hearings on his nominees for Homeland Security, Defense, State, and Treasury. But those positions might not be confirmed and able to start work for days or even weeks later. Until the cabinet is officially confirmed, Biden will rely mostly on acting officials. (Under the Vacancies Act, acting officials can be chosen from among first assistants to the vacant position, Senate-confirmed officials in any agency, and agency workers who have served at least 90 days prior to the vacancy and paid at least at the GS-15 level.) Because the Senate’s trial for President Trump’s second impeachment takes precedence over other floor business in the chamber, the confirmation process may be delayed several weeks.

President-elect Biden will take the Oath of Office and become the President of the United States at noon on January 20. Following the inaugural ceremony at the U.S. Capitol, the outgoing President and First Lady normally leave to begin their post-presidential lives. But President Trump has said he will not attend the inauguration. (Three other presidents—John Adams in 1801, John Quincy Adams in 1829, and Andrew Johnson in 1869—refused to attend their successors’ inaugurations.) Later that day, after the completion of inaugural festivities, President Biden will move into the White House. Because of COVID-19, the federal government has increased White House janitorial and housekeeping work in order to perform a deep cleaning, allotting $127,249 for “2021 Inaugural Cleaning.”