By / Feb 10

The ERLC affirms that God created every person—male and female—in His own image endowed with equal value and dignity. We also affirm that every life is worthy of protection and that women should be treated justly under the law. Unfortunately, the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) debate is tainted with abortion politics. Abortion denies precious lives, both boys and girls, personhood and protection.

The ERA could eliminate any federal or state restrictions on partial-birth abortions or third-trimester abortions. Protecting vulnerable life should be a top priority of any just government. The United States is one of only a handful of countries that provide late term abortions. Ending elective abortion of human beings who feel pain is a necessary step in cultivating a culture of life in our nation. Government’s basic duty is to protect human life from bodily harm and provide justice for victims of violence.

The ERA could require taxpayer funding for abortions by eliminating the Hyde Amendment. Americans are divided on abortion policy, and many object to the use of their tax dollars for such a great moral wrong. In 1976, Illinois Congressman Henry Hyde proposed an amendment to an Appropriations bill to prohibit the use of federal funds for abortion. Since then, the Hyde Amendment passed every Congress for over forty years.

The ERA could eliminate conscience protections for medical professionals. No healthcare worker should be forced to participate in abortions or other medical procedures which conflict with their religiously informed conscience. Every American ought to be able to legally defend their inalienable right to freedom of conscience.

The ERA could eliminate distinctions based on sex, and effectively erase sex-segregated spaces, leaving women vulnerable. Spaces segregated on the basis of sex for reasons of safety and privacy, such as women’s shelters and prisons, could be viewed as discriminatory and opened to biological men. This loss of equal protection would make women and girls vulnerable. The ERLC urges Congress to not add the language of the 1972 Equal Rights Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

By / Oct 28

The Biden administration released the “first-ever national gender strategy” in our nation’s history Oct. 22. According to the administration, it is intended to bring about greater gender equity and equality for all people, whether in the United States or abroad. This strategy is made up of 10 interconnected priorities and will be led by the newly formed White House Gender Policy Council (GPC). It is designed to develop a roadmap for the entire nation on gender issues.

The White House release explains that this strategy is desperately needed given the “overlapping” pandemics of COVID-19 as well as a “shadow pandemic” of gender-based violence in the U.S. and around the world. The strategy is described as a pathway toward overcoming the “longstanding gender discrimination and the systemic barriers to full participation that have held back women and girls.” This national plan is primarily based on an intersectional approach to identity and has far-reaching implications for much, if not all, of public and civic life. 

One important and revealing aspect of this federal strategy is that gender equity and equality is framed as the natural next step in America’s pursuit of recognizing the inherent dignity of all people — in line with the Emancipation Proclamation, the passage of the 19th Amendment, the Voting Rights Act, the Civil Rights Act, reproductive rights, and even marriage equality. Portrayed in this historical lineage, the Biden Administration is intentionally arguing that gender equity and equality—namely LGBTQI+ issues—are on the same level of importance with the abhorrent practice of slavery and inhumane Jim Crow laws alongwith the historic unjust subjugation of women as of lesser value and position in our society than men.

Who developed this strategy?

In celebration of International Women’s Day, which occurs annually on March 8, President Biden signed an executive order establishing the Gender Policy Council under the executive branch and mandating the release of this national strategy. The White House states that this council works in collaboration with other White House policy councils — including the Domestic Policy Council, National Security Council, and National Economic Council — and across all federal agencies. 

The council is co-chaired by Jennifer Klein, who also serves as the executive director, and Julissa Reynoso, who also serves as First Lady Dr. Jill Biden’s chief of staff. The council is also made up of various domestic and international gender policy experts, including a senior advisor on gender-based violence. This national strategy on gender equity and equality was among the first public aspects of the council’s work and was announced at a White House press conference last week.

What does the strategy contain?

The strategy is detailed in 42-page report that touches on a host of issues ranging from “abortion rights and immigration to the creation of a National Intelligence Officer for Gender Equality to analyze the relationship between gender and violent extremism.” Council Co-Chair Klein highlighted the historic nature of this first national gender strategy and whole-of-government approach both domestically and internationally in an interview with Foreign Affairs

The report states that its goal is to provide a federal vision based on intersectionality to ensure equity for all communities including “Black, Latino, and Indigenous and Native American persons, Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders, and other persons of color; members of religious minorities; lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and intersex (LGBTQI+) persons; persons with disabilities; persons who live in rural areas; and persons otherwise adversely affected by persistent poverty or inequality.”

According to the White House release, the strategy highlights 10 “interconnected” priorities of the Biden/Harris administration including: 1) economic security; 2) gender-based violence; 3) health; 4) education; 5) justice and immigration; 6) human rights and equality under the law; 7) security and humanitarian relief; 8) climate change; 9) science and technology; and 10) democracy, participation, and leadership. The specifics of these priorities are wide-ranging and include an emphasis on overcoming gender discrimination in the workplace, eliminating gender-based violence, addressing sexual violence at home and abroad, promoting the safe and fair treatment of “all people in the justice and immigration systems,” and advocating for the “leadership of women and girls in addressing the challenge of climate change.”

The plan is described by the co-chairs as “aspirational,” not tied directly to any piece of legislation. It also is designed to encourage the private sector to join with the administration in promoting gender equity and equality throughout our society as well.

What is intersectionality?

Intersectionality is considered an analytic tool used to identify various power dynamics and relations through various overlapping identities among minority groups in society. As scholars Patricia Hill Collins and Sirma Bilge describe in their influential introduction to the subject, “Intersectionality investigates how intersecting power relations influence social relations across diverse societies as well as individual experiences in everyday life. As an analytic tool, intersectionality views categories of race, class, gender, sexuality, class, nation, ability, ethnicity, and age — among others — as interrelated and mutually shaping one another.” 

This concept is often used to highlight the unique perspectives that each person has given their intersecting and overlapping identities. Intersectionality is also closely related to various critical theories as well, given how each frames our true identities in light of the pronounced power dynamics that exist in society, often defined around various economic realities.

GPC Co-Chair Klein explains that this strategy will employ an “intersectional approach that recognizes overlapping forms of discrimination on the basis of gender, race, ability, immigration status, sexual orientation, gender identity” as the core and guiding principle of the entire strategy. 

The concept of intersectionality is routinely applied to many of the issues highlighted in this national strategy, which is concerning for people of faith, particularly Christians, who do not see our true identities as grounded in mere power dynamics or economic activities, but rather as people created in God’s image (Gen. 1:26-28) with infinite value, worth, and dignity. While Christians rightfully acknowledge our sin has both a personal and social component to it, some of these tools highlight the differences among people as paramount instead of what actually binds people together — that all human beings are created in the imago Dei

Referencing the need for evangelicals to support biblically defined social justice, famed theologian and ethicist Carl F. H. Henry wrote in God, Revelation, and Authority that “Social justice is not simply an appendage to the evangelistic message; it is an intrinsic part of the whole, without which the preaching of the gospel is truncated. Theology devoid of social justice is a deforming weakness of much present-day evangelical witness.”

Christians understand that as believers we are given a new identity in Christ and that this new life in Christ doesn’t seek to be colorblind or overlook our differences, but rather reframes them as unique gifts from God to the world and the church for his glory.

How should Christians think about this strategy?

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. While this plan may contain some elements that could gain bi-partisan support, these issues are completely overshadowed by the intersectional approach to issues and the unwavering support for a constitutional right to abortion nationwide. While the strategy does not have any immediate authority and Congress would have to authorize many of the priorities listed as part of the normal legislative process, the framing of these issues reveals the deep-seated tensions in our society over public expressions of faith and some of crucial issues in the public square today. 

Notably, the strategy rarely mentions the plight of religious minorities around the world, among them many women and girls, nor does it enumerate religious freedom among the many human rights it claims, especially in the midst of the ongoing religious genocide among the Uyghur people in the Xinjaing province in China. This is striking given the persistent practice of authoritarian regimes around the world that strip their people of all basic rights, including religious freedom and free expression. Religious freedom is of paramount importance domestically and around the world because it is a basic human right and good for a flourishing society.

Of particular interest, many of these interconnected priorities align with the administration’s goal to solidify a right to abortion under, ironically, the auspices of healthcare. The strategy states that this administration is fully committed to promoting “access to sexual and reproductive health and rights both at home and abroad.” This commitment is a part of the whole-of-government approach that President Biden declared in light of the recent Texas Heartbeat Act, also known as Texas SB 8, that “bans abortion once a fetal heartbeat is detected, which typically occurs anywhere between five and eight weeks into a pregnancy.” The strategy also calls for a concerted effort to uphold the practice of abortion in light of how the Supreme Court is preparing “to hear the greatest challenge to Roe in a generation, putting women’s fundamental rights on the line.” This particular reference is to Dobbs vs. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which begins oral arguments at the Supreme Court Dec. 1. 

It also remains to be seen what this National Strategy and/or the GPC may seek to do to promote greater online regulations or digital content moderation for hate speech and violence online, especially given the emphasis of many social media platforms on expansive definitions of what constitutes hate speech. These hate speech definitions now include conflating the misgendering or deadnaming of individuals—meaning using the name prior to one’s gender transition—with actual threat of physical violence and hate crimes. In recent years, ideas — particularly those rooted in biological realities and historic Christian teaching — have been deemed as inherently bigoted and harmful. But, as Brookings scholar Jonathan Rauch eloquently states in his recent work, The Constitution of Knowledge, “words are not bullets . . . stopping words does not stop bullets, and . . . confusing words with bullets is a tragic error” (203). Hate crimes and violence cannot be equated with words online, especially words speaking to the realities of how God made both men and women in his image.

The ERLC will be closely watching the developments, including any potential recommendations or future legislation, surrounding the National Strategy on Gender Equity and Equality. We are committed to providing further resources from a biblical worldview on the concerning aspects of the federal government’s approach to gender and various social issues.

By / Mar 19

On Wednesday, the Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing on the Equality Act. The ERLC submitted written testimony for the hearing’s official public record opposing the bill.

Last month, the U.S. House of Representatives voted in favor of a controversial bill. The vote was 224-206, with all Democrats and three Republicans voting in favor of the legislation. On Wednesday, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D–N.Y.) used a Senate rule called “Rule 14” that allows a bill to bypass a Senate committee and be placed directly on the Senate Calendar of Business. This means that, even though the Judiciary Committee held a hearing today, Leader Schumer could bring H.R. 5 to the floor at any point.

What is the Equality Act?

This legislation, filed as H.R. 5, seeks to expand the definition of “sex” to include “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” (SOGI) and would revise every title of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to add these categories as new protected classes in the federal code. Last Congress, the Equality Act passed in the House, but the bill died in the Senate.

The bill defines “sexual orientation” as homosexuality, heterosexuality, or bisexuality, and “gender identity” as the gender-related identity, appearance, mannerisms, or other characteristics of an individual, regardless of the individual’s sex at birth.

The bill also explicitly states that, “The Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 (42 U.S.C. 2000bb et seq.) shall not provide a claim concerning, or a defense to a claim under, a covered title, or provide a basis for challenging the application or enforcement of a covered title.”

What does this bill mean for religious liberty?

The ERLC believes this bill represents the most significant threat to religious liberty ever considered in the United States Congress.

This bill would substantially undermine religious liberty protections in the United States. America has long been a place where people with different views and beliefs have lived at peace alongside each other. Though America has not perfectly lived up to this ideal of a shared nation, it was central to our founding as persecuted religious minorities sought safe harbor in this land. Though cleverly named, the Equality Act is out of step with that American ideal. Equality cannot be achieved while eliminating other basic, fundamental freedoms. Of particular note, the bill would essentially gut the 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), a bill which passed with broad bipartisan support and was signed by President Clinton.

By undermining RFRA, H.R. 5 would force faith-based child welfare organizations to abandon their deeply held religious beliefs or be shut down by the state. The state-forced closures of such agencies is especially detrimental at a time when multiple crises—including the COVID-19 pandemic and the ongoing opioid epidemic—have led to increases in the number of children in need of services.

What are the pro-life concerns in the Equality Act?

As ERLC noted in the written testimony to the judiciary committee, the Equality Act would be the most pro-abortion bill ever passed by Congress.

The Equality Act would force healthcare workers and pro-life healthcare providers to participate in and provide abortions. Central to a Christian’s understanding of government is that government exists to secure rights granted by God. One of these inalienable rights is the freedom of conscience, not to be infringed by the state. H.R. 5 would redefine the term “sex” to also include “pregnancy, childbirth, or a related medical condition.” This language would roll back federal law that protects the consciences of pro-life nurses and physicians who object to participating in abortions because of their deeply held religious or moral beliefs. These conscience protections carry decades of bipartisan consensus—a consensus that no person should be compelled to participate in an act they believe to be gravely immoral.

What happens next with this bill?

The bill currently faces many obstacles to passage in the Senate.

In the Senate, Susan Collins of Maine was the only Republican in 2019 to co-sponsor the bill while Joe Manchin of West Virginia was the sole Democrat who was not a co-sponsor. Collins said this past February that she will not co-sponsor the legislation in the U.S. Senate this year. “There were certain provisions of the Equality Act which needed revision,” said Collins. “Unfortunately the commitments that were made to me were not [given] last year.”

Manchin also said in 2019 he would not support the legislation without changes. “I strongly support equality for all people and do not tolerate discrimination of any kind. No one should be afraid of losing their job or losing their housing because of their sexual orientation,” said Manchin. “I am not convinced that the Equality Act as written provides sufficient guidance to the local officials who will be responsible for implementing it, particularly with respect to students transitioning between genders in public schools.”

When the bill was introduced in the Senate in 2019, the GOP held the majority (53 seats) and Majority Leader Mitch McConnell refused to allow the bill to be voted on. This year the Senate is evenly divided, with 50 Republicans, 48 Democrats, and two Independents (Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Angus King of Maine) who caucus with the Democrats. If the Senate voted on the measure and Collins voted in favor while Manchin opposed, the result would be a 50-50 tie, which would be broken by Vice President Kamala Harris.

But before the bill would even come up for a vote, the bill would have to overcome a filibuster, an attempt to block or delay Senate action on a bill or other matter. The only formal procedure that Senate rules provide for breaking a filibuster is invoking Rule 22, which requires 60 members to end debate on most topics and move to a vote. This Senate rule is the reason almost all partisan legislation in the Senate, with a few notable exceptions, requires 60 votes rather than a 51 vote majority.

Key Resources

By / Mar 17

Overview

The Equality Act would curtail religious freedom protections, violate the consciences of pro-life healthcare professionals and faith-based hospitals, undermine civil rights protections for women and girls, and ultimately overrule the consciences of millions of Americans. 

The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) is an entity of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC). The ERLC is dedicated to engaging the culture with the gospel of Jesus Christ and speaking to issues in the public square to protect religious liberty and promote human flourishing. Our vision can be summed up in three words: kingdom, culture, and mission. 

The ERLC exists to help churches understand the moral demands of the gospel, apply Christian principles to moral and social problems and questions of public policy, and to promote religious liberty in cooperation with the churches and other entities of the Southern Baptist Convention.

The ERLC affirms the full dignity of every human being. At the 2018 Annual Meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention, the Messengers passed a resolution to “reaffirm the sacredness and full dignity and worthiness of respect and Christian love for every single human being, without any reservation.” The SBC’s commitment to love of neighbor is grounded in the truth that “God created man in His own image; He created Him in the image of God; He created them male and female.” (Gen. 1:26-27)

Baptists and Religious Liberty

Baptists have always defended the separation of church and state and liberty of conscience. The Equality Act threatens both of these critical American ideals. The separation of church and state means that the government is not empowered to dictate or suppress doctrine and practice. This benefits all Americans by placing clear boundaries around the state’s authority. This bill would not merely erode but dissolve those boundaries, bringing the full weight of government against religious institutions and individual Americans simply for holding fast to their fundamental beliefs about anthropology and personhood. As Russell Moore, president of the ERLC, has said, “A government in the business of running the church, or claiming the church as a mascot of the state, invariably persecutes and drives out genuine religion.” Similarly, when the government stifles the freedom to dissent, whether from religious doctrine, political ideologies, or views related to human sexuality, it abandons its constitutional duty to protect civil liberties.

John Leland, a Baptist champion of religious liberty, challenged James Madison to ensure that religion and rights of conscience would be protected under the United States Constitution. Madison subsequently introduced the Bill of Rights as amendments to the Constitution, and Baptists have been faithful and ardent supporters of these bulwarks of freedom. Pluralism is a defining feature of our nation, and Baptists have long recognized that neither ideological conformity nor religious coercion are necessary for effective government. Instead, tolerance and persuasion are the instruments of civil discourse. The freedom of expression and robust and vigorous debate are critical elements of American society. The Equality Act would not advance but eradicate these instruments and ideals.

It is difficult to describe how tragic it would be for the Senate to pass a bill that repudiates the moral center of American government. The very premise of the Bill of Rights is that human beings, simply by their nature, enjoy fundamental liberties that the government has an obligation to protect. The Equality Act does more than threaten these freedoms; if enacted, it will contradict them explicitly. No American should ever be forced to compromise his or her religion or violate conscience to avoid punishment at the hands of their government. This legislation would needlessly penalize and discriminate against millions of Americans who possess no animus toward those this bill purports to aid. As law, the Equality Act would undermine pluralism, legalize coercion, imperil religious liberty, eliminate conscience protections, and erode the very freedoms enshrined in the First Amendment.

Analysis of H.R. 5

1. If enacted, the Equality Act would bring sweeping and historic changes to religious liberty with devastating effects to this foundational freedom.

Through the Equality Act, Congress would punish faith-based charities for their core religious beliefs about human dignity and marriage. While the proposed intention of H.R. 5 is to protect individuals who identify as LGBT, the bill fails to respect people’s freedom of conscience. H.R. 5 erodes foundational constitutional freedoms in its pursuit of fleeting cultural ideas.

H.R. 5 threatens the efforts of faith-based adoption and foster care agencies. The legislation would explicitly curtail the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 which would force faith-based child welfare organizations to either abandon their deeply held religious beliefs or be shut down. The state forced closures of such agencies is especially harmful at a time when multiple societal crises increase the need for children services.

H.R. 5 hinders the work of healthcare professionals and faith-based hospitals. While religiously affiliated hospitals routinely serve patients of any background, including those who identify as LGBT, providers who hold moral or religious beliefs cannot perform every procedure a patient requests. For example, doctors and nurses who object to gender reassignment surgeries for moral, religious, or scientific reasons would be forced to provide the procedure or risk losing their jobs.

2. The Equality Act would be the most pro-abortion bill ever passed by Congress.

The Equality Act would force healthcare workers and pro-life healthcare providers to participate in and provide abortions. Central to a Christian’s understanding of government is that government exists to secure rights granted by God. One of these inalienable rights is the freedom of conscience, not to be infringed by the state. H.R. 5 would redefine the term “sex” to also include “pregnancy, childbirth, or a related medical condition.” This language would roll back federal law that protects the consciences of pro-life nurses and physicians who object to participating in abortions because of their deeply held religious or moral beliefs. These conscience protections carry decades of bipartisan consensus—a consensus that no person should be compelled to participate in an act they believe to be gravely immoral. 

H.R. 5 would also jeopardize the longstanding Hyde Amendment that protects federal taxpayer dollars from funding abortion. There is nothing equalizing about forcing Americans to fund abortion through taxpayer dollars. Preventing taxpayer dollars from abortion protects consciences, saves lives, and respects the freedom of Americans to seek to persuade one another without state-sanctioned conscience intrusion. Every person is made in the image of God, and the United States has a responsibility to reflect that truth in its laws. 

3. H.R. 5 undermines decades of hard fought civil rights protections for women and girls.

The Equality Act disregards the privacy and safety concerns that women rightly have about sharing sleeping quarters and intimate facilities with the opposite sex. Single gender spaces, such as locker rooms or shelters, would no longer be protected by law. This departure from a legal understanding of gender as male and female makes women and girls vulnerable to biological males being in their private spaces. For example, shelters for those women and girls escaping domestic abuse or homelessness would be forced to house biological men who identify as female. 

Another example of the harm this legislation poses to women and girls is in athletics and academics. Since 1972, Title IX has advanced women’s sports and scholarship in remarkable ways. If enacted, the Equality Act would threaten female competition as both areas would then be open to biological males as well.

• • • •

In sum, H.R. 5 would undermine the ability of Americans who disagree to work together for the common good. These legislative changes represent a dramatic departure from the foundations of tolerance and civil discourse. If enacted, the Equality Act would bring sweeping and historic changes to religious liberty with devastating effects to this foundational freedom. As Russell Moore often notes, “A government that can pave over the consciences of some can steamroll over dissent everywhere.”

By / Mar 17

Today, March 17, the Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing on H.R. 5, the Equality Act and the ERLC submitted written testimony for the hearing’s official public record.

This legislation seeks to expand the definition of “sex” to include “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” (SOGI) by revising every title of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to add these categories as new protected classes in the federal code. The ERLC has often referred to the Equality Act as misleadingly named because it seeks to achieve its aims by undermining fundamental freedoms of conscience and religious liberty and the biological distinctions of sex. H.R. 5 is out of step with the basic American ideal of tolerance — where neighbors can respect one another and work together toward the common good, even when they disagree. 

Since it was first introduced in the last Congress, the ERLC has actively engaged with lawmakers on the harms this bill would create. We will continue promoting and defending the dignity and religious liberty of all people on Capitol Hill, before the courts, and in the public square. 

Today’s Senate hearing was an important marker in the public debate. Judiciary Chairman Dick Durbin (D–Ill.) and Ranking Member Chuck Grassley (R–Iowa) hosted a number of witnesses, including the following two that are highlighted in this piece: Mary Rice Hasson, the Kate O’Beirne Fellow in Catholic Studies at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, and Abigail Shrier, an independent journalist and author. The following are key quotes from the Congressional members and these two witnesses.

For more on this bill and its troubling implications, see this explainer as well as this helpful resource page with articles, podcast episodes, and our policy brief. 

Sen. James Lankford (R–Okla.): No person should be discriminated against in America.

Mary Rice Hasson: Unjust discrimination is always wrong.

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R–Iowa): What will happen to Catholic or Methodist affiliated hospitals which provide excellent service to the public if this bill is enacted? In some areas these facilities may be the only hospitals for miles around. If a faith-based organization has partnered with a community to provide very needed social services that would otherwise not exist, like a soup kitchen, or an adoption agency for the hard to adopt special-need kids, what happens to the people who relied most heavily on those services? To whom do they turn?

Sen. James Lankford (R–OK): For those of us that believe a baby is not just a medical condition, for the people that believe children of any age, or size, or degree of development are worthy of life, we’re not bigots. We’re people who live by our genuine faith and see a child as a child. I believe that we can respect each other, we can have real dialogue over these issues that are complicated and difficult, and we can find a way to be able to pass something that honors every American but doesn’t discriminate against people of faith.

Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R–Tenn.): Women’s safety is fundamental to the fight for women’s rights. . . . Women should never have to fear for their safety because they’re forced to share spaces with men.

Rep. Vicki Hartzler (R-MO-04): [H.R. 5] threatens to halt federal assistance for students at single sex colleges and universities … and the same applies to sororities and fraternities.

Rep. Vicki Hartzler (R-MO-04): [H.R. 5] … endangers women’s safety in locker rooms, bathrooms, dorm rooms, and homeless shelters.

Abigail Shrier: The great American, Allison Felix, ran the 400 meter in 49.26 seconds. In 2018, nearly 300 high school boys could beat her. So [if H.R. 5 had been law] America would never know the name Allison Felix.

Abigail Shrier: No one who wrote [H.R. 5] appears to consider what it would mean for women and girls. By enshrining gender identity as a protected category, this bill would make it impossible ever to legally distinguish between a woman and a biological male who claims a female identity—for whatever amount of time and for whatever reason or purpose.

Abigail Shrier: Should a female abuse survivor at a domestic violence shelter be forced to sleep and undress next to a biological male? The plain truth is that it is not sensible, not safe and certainly not just to end these hard-won protections for women and girls in the name of equality.

Mary Rice Hasson: Biological sex matters in law, medicine, and for many of us, in the pracitce of our faith.

Mary Rice Hasson: [H.R. 5] threatens serious harm to religious believers and organizations. It strips away crucial protections provided by the Religious Freedom Restoration Act and attacks First Amendment rights as well—tipping the scales against religious believers. 

Mary Rice Hasson: [H.R. 5] seeks to coerce religious believers to exit the public square unless they’re willing to trade their religious beliefs for today’s reigning ideology.

Mary Rice Hasson: [H.R. 5] also reaches far beyond Bostock, which pertained to the workplace, by expanding public accommodations to mean wherever Americans gather—even virtually. Churches, synagogues, temples, faith-based schools, soup kitchens, women’s shelters, will be subject to government coercion. Compromise your religious beliefs or risk endless litigation.

Mary Rice Hasson: Religious liberty is not just the right to believe, but freedom of action … We have a robust civil society of people of all faiths, whether they are Muslim or Jewish or Christian or Catholic, that contribute to caring for the most vulnerable because their faith inspires them to do so.

Mary Rice Hasson: [H.R. 5] by stripping [Religious Freedom Restoration Act] protections, puts the thumb on the scale against people of faith. 

Mary Rice Hasson: [H.R. 5] tips the scale and says to people of faith “you’re not welcome” … which is unnecessary. We can protect the vulnerable without telling people of faith that there’s no place for them.

Mary Rice Hasson: Any religious, house of worship, faith based charity that abides by restrictions based on biological sex … is going to be subject to a discrimination lawsuit. [H.R. 5] is a complete and radical change for the rights of religious Americans.

Mary Rice Hasson: Anything that a church is doing that is opened up to the public, you are going to have discrimination claims brought [if H.R. 5 becomes law].

What happens next?

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D–N.Y.) used a Senate rule called “Rule 14” that allows a bill to bypass a Senate committee and be placed directly on the Senate Calendar of Business. This means that, even though the Judiciary Committee held a hearing today, Leader Schumer could bring H.R. 5 to the floor at any point. As the ERLC works to inform members of the U.S. Senate on the harms of the Equality Act, we will also work against attempts to pass components of the Equality Act in other places.

By / Mar 16

Last month, H.R. 5, the Equality Act passed the U.S. House of Representatives by a vote of 224-206, with all Democrats and three Republicans voting in favor of the legislation. The legislation seeks to expand the definition of “sex” to include “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” (SOGI) and would revise every title of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to add these categories as new protected classes in the federal code. This sweeping bill was voted on in the House without a hearing at the House Judiciary Committee. The bill first passed the House in the 116th Congress, but did not receive a hearing or floor vote in the Senate under a Republican majority.

For more on this problematic bill and its alarming implications, see this previous explainer from the ERLC staff as well as this helpful resource page with articles, podcast episodes, and our policy brief. 

The ERLC affirms the full dignity of every human being. At the 2018 Annual Meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention, the Messengers passed a resolution to “reaffirm the sacredness and full dignity and worthiness of respect and Christian love for every single human being, without any reservation.” However, the Equality Act does not advance the cause of human dignity. If passed, the bill would punish faith-based charities for their core religious beliefs about human dignity and marriage and would undermine decades of civil rights protections for women and girls. 

This bill would also substantially undermine religious liberty protections in the United States. America has long been a place where people with different views and beliefs have been able to live at peace with one other. This bill would undermine fundamental protections that allow Americans of good will to disagree with one another without penalizing those with dissenting beliefs.

What will happen next with the Equality Act?

The Senate Judiciary Committee will be holding a hearing on the Equality Act this Wednesday. Due to the Democrat’s narrow control of the Senate, it is possible that the Equality Act will be voted out of committee, making it eligible for a vote on the Senate floor. However, under Senate rules, 60 votes are required to overcome the filibuster when the Senate is considering new policy. In its current form, H.R. 5 would likely fall short of this threshold. 

The ERLC is actively engaging lawmakers on this issue. We will continue promoting and defending the dignity and religious liberty of all people on Capitol Hill, before the courts, and in the public square.

H.R. 5 is out of step with basic American ideals. It seeks to end debate on critical issues by using the legal system to crush ideological opponents. Equality cannot be achieved by eliminating fundamental freedoms. 

How else might the Equality Act become law?

The ERLC is closely monitoring efforts by the LGBT lobby to append components of the Equality Act to other legislation under consideration by Congress through the amendment process. This includes spending or appropriations bills as well as legislation that is focused on other aims and objectives.

These efforts would also expand the definition of sex to include gender identity and sexual orientation or create new references to “sexual and gender minorities.” Depending on the context, such language can pave the way for the government to have the power to punish faith-based agencies charged with serving our nation’s most vulnerable children or undermine hard-fought protections for women and girls.

What’s next?

As the ERLC works to inform members of the U.S. Senate on the harms of the Equality Act, we will also combat attempts to pass components of the Equality Act in other places. This week, join us in praying that members of the Senate Judiciary Committee will see clearly, perhaps for the first time, the myriad problems the Equality Act would create. 

By / Apr 16

On April 2, the House Judiciary Committee held its first hearing for H.R. 5, the Equality Act. This legislation would reopen the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to redefine “sex” to include “sexual orientation and gender identity” as a federally protected classes. Jeff, Travis, and Chelsea welcome Andrew Walker from the ERLC’s Nashville office to discuss the cultural background of this bill and how the Equality Act would devastate the legal protections for sex, women’s equality, and the country’s first freedom of religious liberty. The group also gives an update on the movement happening with the Born Alive Act in the House.

Guest Biography

Andrew T. Walker is the ERLC’s Director of Research and Senior Fellow in Christian Ethics. He researches, speaks, and writes about the intersection of Christian ethics, public policy, and the church’s social witness. He also oversees the ERLC's academic initiatives and directs the ERLC's Research Institute. Andrew holds a B.A. from Southwest Baptist University, and an M.Div., Th.M., and Ph.D. in Christian Ethics from the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He is married to Christian, and they have three daughters. He blogs at andrewtwalker.com.

Resources from the Conversation

By / Aug 26

Today is Women’s Equality Day, commemorating the passage of the 19th amendment of the United States Constitution, which granted women the right to vote. The ongoing observance of this day is an opportunity to draw attention to the plight of women not just in our own country, but around the world. For me, it is a moment to pause and think about the world I want my daughter to know.

When we watch “Mary Poppins,” and she sees British suffragists singing about “Votes for Women,” she finds it inconceivable that women in the United States were granted the right to vote only 95 years ago. Indeed, many things have changed in favor of women in the past century.

And yet there is much to be done before we can say women are truly given equal rights and status in our country.

I long for my daughter to see a world when women are appreciated not just for their appearance or their contributions to the world, but for their very existence. When she scrolls through iTunes to purchase music, I want her to see strong women singing powerful music, popular not because they sing about sex or pose suggestively for publicity photos, but because their music resonates with the world we want to live in. I hope she sees strong roles for women as the new normal in Hollywood — roles that portray who women really are, rather than mere caricatures. And I hope she sees a world where the value of each woman is recognized, regardless of age or ability.

Sadly, this is not the world in which she lives today.

Today a little girl in the womb could be loved and wanted desperately, or she could be extracted and dismembered in order to obtain whatever part of her body is considered valuable. A pregnant teen might be welcomed and cared for with loving arms, or she could be dropped at the door of a clinic and retrieved after she has taken care of an unwanted inconvenience. A woman could be loved as a fellow image-bearer, or she could be abused at the hands of a should-be protector.

The recent release of videos exposing the sickening practices of several Planned Parenthood leaders and clinic staff members shines a light on the horrific plight of women in distress and the babies they carry.

During a wanted pregnancy, an expectant mom might sign up to receive emails updating her on the size of her baby each week (This week it’s a peanut! Oh, now it’s the size of an avocado!). And yet those same developing body parts, each lovingly designed by the Creator, under other circumstances may be sold with no regard to the person from whom they were taken. As women across the country wonder if their own babies were sold to labs without their knowledge, a Christian love for women compels us to point them to our Savior.

Jesus was the ultimate nonconformist in His treatment of women, and particularly of women in distress.

In John 4, we see Him reveal His true identity to the woman at the well, a woman who was an outcast for her sexual exploits and whose Samaritan race would have been repulsive to any other Jewish man. Yet Jesus lovingly exposes her true problem, which is not her sexual sin, nor her disagreements about Jewish and Samaritan worship practices. He tells her what she really needs is something only He can provide — Living Water. He sees her, values her and meets her deepest need.

Again in John 8:1-11, we find Jesus subversively recognizing the value of a woman in distress — a woman caught in the very act of adultery. Her accusers conveniently neglect to bring her partner in crime to judgment, blaming only her for this sin and readying their stones to exact their justice against her. And yet, Jesus sees her not just as a woman who has sinned, but as a woman who is desperate for love and is looking for it in all the wrong places. He does not condemn her, but offers her a better way — a life of hope and purpose.

It is Jesus who taught us how to view all women, especially those in distress. This includes tiny women in the womb and the mothers who carry them.

If we desire to see true equality, we will champion the cause of the unborn and the unwed — of those we cannot see, and those who feel invisible.

We may not hold the stones, ready to punish others for their mistakes, but if we stand by and watch, we are complicit in the act. May we extend the love of Christ to all women, and may my daughter’s daughter grow up and find abortion just as foreign as a world in which women did not vote.

By / Feb 5

Russell D. Moore, ERLC, and Matt Hall, SBTS, discuss why the history of the civl rights movement should not be forgotten by Baptists or anyone else.

By / Jan 31

Russell D. Moore explains the Bible’s teachings on the equality of all men.