By / Feb 22

Welcome to the ERLC Podcast where our goal is to help you think biblically about today’s cultural issues. Today on the podcast, we’re talking about pro-life advocacy with author and speaker, Scott Klusendorf.

As part of the ERLC Podcast, we will feature special episodes from the Research team from time to time to help equip you to think deeply about the most pressing questions we face in the public square.  

As we continue our series on life, the Research team is bringing you a special interview today with Scott Klusendorf, the author of The Case for Life. Scott is a respected pro-life speaker and advocate, best known for his work with the Life Training Institute which prepares Christians to be able to articulate and defend the pro-life movement with rational and theological arguments. He has participated in debates against abortion advocates such as the Planned Parenthood directors and attorneys who have argued for abortion access before the Supreme Court. Each year, he trains thousands of pro-life students how to share their beliefs with their classmates and helps them understand the common objections to ending abortion. 

We hope that this long-form interview will help you begin to understand that Christian pro-life advocacy must be rooted in the image of God and is an intellectually defensible and coherent worldview. 

Thanks for listening to this production of the ERLC Podcast. Join us next time as we focus on the ERLC’s policy work, especially as it relates to life. 

The ERLC podcast is a production of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission. It is produced by Lindsay Nicolet and Elizabeth Bristow. Technical production is provided by Owens Productions. It is edited and mixed by Mark Owens.

By / Jan 31

NASHVILLE (BP) – The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) has joined several pro-life organizations and advocates in calling on Congress to pass an expansion of the Child Tax Credit (CTC), which they believe will benefit low-income families and children.

This proposed expansion is part of a larger tax bill, known as the Tax Relief for American Families and Workers Act of 2024 (H.R. 7024), which aims to increase access to the CTC for lower-earning families.

The bipartisan tax package passed the House of Representatives’ Ways and Means committee (the House’s chief tax-writing committee), on Friday, Jan. 19, with a vote of 40-3. It is expected to receive a vote on the House floor in the coming days.

The ERLC, along with other pro-life partners, signed a Jan. 29 letter urging Congressional leaders to pass this expansion to the CTC.

“The ERLC was proud to join many of our pro-life partners in calling on Congress to take this modest, but significant, step toward policy that wraps around vulnerable families,” said Hannah Daniel, ERLC public policy director.

The letter points to the growing cost of raising children as a need for the legislation.

“As pro-life organizations, we support making sure mothers, fathers and their children have every tool and resource available to choose life and support families,” the letter states. “American families face unprecedented challenges with higher costs of the most essential items for families such as food, gas, energy, health care, and housing.

“H.R. 7024 improves the CTC to better serve all families in need by adjusting the CTC for inflation so that they receive tax relief. This means as the costs of having a family increase, so will the resources moms and dads have to make ends meet and provide for their kids.

“The legislation would also stop penalizing parents for having more than one child by treating all children equally. This is not only fair for families no matter their size but also ensures support for growing families. … H.R. 7024 provides commonsense protection for families and supports growing families at a time when the cost of raising children continues to increase.”

The letter is addressed to Speaker of the House Mike Johnson (a Southern Baptist and former ERLC trustee), U.S. House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, U.S. Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer and U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.

Other pro-life organizations and advocates to sign the letter include Concerned Women for America, Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America, radio host Eric Metaxas, National Association of Evangelicals and Americans United for Life.

Read the full Baptist Press article here.

By / Jan 29

Congress is considering an expansion of the Child Tax Credit (CTC) that could significantly benefit low-income families and children. The proposed expansion is part of a larger tax bill that aims to increase access to the CTC for lower-earning families. While the proposed expansion of the CTC is smaller than the 2021 expansion, it is expected to have a significant impact on low-income families and children. The ERLC joined a letter with other pro-life partners expressing our support for the CTC deal that has come together.

The proposal is part of a larger bipartisan, compromise tax package that also includes tax benefits for businesses. The package passed the House of Representatives Ways and Means committee with a vote of 40-3 and is expected to receive a vote on the House floor in the coming days. The expansion of the CTC is part of a broader conversation about the role of tax credits in supporting low-income families and reducing child poverty.

Here is what you should know about the proposed legislation:

What is the current Child Tax Credit?

The current child tax credit provides a nonrefundable credit of $2,000 per child under age 17 for families earning up to $200,000 ($400,000 if filing jointly). There’s also an additional child tax credit, which is meant to help families with insufficient tax liability to claim $2,000 per eligible child. The refundable amount is currently capped at 15% of the family’s income above $2,500.

What are the proposed changes to the Child Tax Credit?

The proposed expansion would change the way the CTC is calculated by allowing families to multiply the credit by the number of children they have. For instance, a family that makes $13,000 a year with two children would receive $1,575 per child, instead of $1,575 overall.

The proposal also includes an increase in the refundability cap, or the maximum child tax credit families can earn per child, to adjust for inflation. The cap was previously $1,600 and would increase to $1,800 in 2023, $1,900 in 2024, and so forth.

What would be the impact of this expansion of the Child Tax Credit?

The proposed expansion is expected to benefit about 16 million children in low-income families. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities estimates that the expansion could lift as many as 400,000 children above the poverty line.

The expansion would be particularly beneficial for families with multiple children. Under current regulations, families with multiple children earn the same child tax credit as others with the same salary but fewer children. The proposed changes would allow these families to receive a larger amount of the credit.

The CTC was previously expanded in 2021 as part of the American Rescue Plan. This expansion increased the CTC to a maximum of $3,600 per child, increased the age limit, and made it fully refundable, with half the sum available in advance monthly payments. However, these changes were only for that tax year. The 2021 expansion contributed to a record low child poverty rate and helped reduce food insufficiency and increase families’ ability to meet their basic needs.

Why do some Christians support this expansion?

Christians can disagree about whether direct payments from the government is the most prudent way to spend taxpayer dollars. Yet the proven benefits of this program have led many believers to champion it as an effective means of reducing child poverty and providing more support to low-income families.

Additionally, while the proposed CTC expansion provides financial assistance to families, it also encourages self-sufficiency by helping families cover the costs of raising children and potentially enabling parents to invest in education or job training. This aligns well with an emphasis, shared by many Southern Baptists, on the importance of work and personal responsibility for promoting flourishing and dignity. 

Just as the tax code—not often a place where Christians think of advancing pro-life policy—confers benefits to marriage because of the recognition of its societal good, the aim of these payments to alleviate child poverty is one way to recognize children as a social good. Particularly in a post-Roe environment, we are eager to support vulnerable mothers and families who might be considering abortion due to their financial situation and help them choose life.

Even if we would prefer another method or our political preference advocates a different way, a society that begins to have a greater appreciation for children and advances the protection of the vulnerable is clearly something pro-life Christians should appreciate.

By / Jan 5

As we enter 2024, the complex political landscape in the United States, marked by division and a struggling Congress, presents unique challenges and opportunities for Christian engagement in public policy. It is in the midst of this dysfunction and division that we must find a way to press forward on the issues relevant to the mission of the ERLC: protecting life, safeguarding religious liberty, bolstering marriage and families, and upholding human dignity. Here are some of the top policy issues to watch in 2024.

Life: Beyond Dobbs

The overturning of Roe v. Wade in the Dobbs decision has reshaped the pro-life landscape. However, challenges like the rise of chemical abortions and “abortion tourism” persist. The sanctity of life is foundational (Gen. 1:27), and our advocacy must extend to all life stages, echoing our commitment to life and human dignity. 

Here are some federal pro-life legislative issues to be aware of:

  • Pro-life riders in congressional appropriations: A key legislative priority is maintaining and including historic pro-life amendments, known as riders, in Congressional appropriations bills. For example, the Hyde Amendment, a significant pro-life rider for over 40 years, prevents government-funded abortions and protects citizens’ consciences from funding actions they consider unjust. An effort will be made this year to extend Hyde Amendment-like protections to prevent taxpayer funding for abortion-related travel and services.
  • Proliferation of chemical abortions: The use of chemical abortions, which accounted for 53% of all abortions in 2021, has been on the rise, and the number likely increased following the Dobbs decision. The FDA has even increased access to these drugs, including mail delivery and availability at retail pharmacies, raising concerns about the risks to women and preborn children. Legislation like the SAVE Moms and Babies Act would help to regulate this industry.
  • The Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine v. FDA decision: The U.S. Supreme Court is set to hear a case challenging the deregulation of the abortion drug mifepristone. The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals previously ruled to reinstate significant restrictions on the drug including in-person medical visits, halting mail-order distribution, and limiting its use to the first 7 weeks of pregnancy. By upholding this decision, the Supreme Court would be helping to protect preborn lives and women’s health.
  • The Women’s Health Protection Act: This act would remove all abortion restrictions and limits. The result would be to allow abortions up to birth, remove pro-life protections, and force taxpayer funding for abortions. 
  • Pro-life legislation: Several new pieces of pro-life legislation may be considered this year: The No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act, which aims to codify the Hyde Amendment; and the Support for the Born Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act, which requires healthcare practitioners to provide the same level of care to children born alive after a failed abortion as they would to any child born at the same gestational age. The Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act and the Heartbeat Protection Act would also impose further federal restrictions on abortion. 

Religious Liberty: A Baptist distinctive

The Baptist tradition, with its strong emphasis on religious liberty and separation of church and state, informs our approach to issues like The Equality Act and attacks on the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. This principle, grounded in Scripture’s teaching on the conscience (Rom. 14:23), is not just for Christians but for all, reflecting God’s Lordship over the conscience and our call to live in a society that respects diverse convictions.

Some legislative and regulatory issues of particular concern to this issue in 2024 include:

  • The Equality Act: The Equality Act, which passed the House in February 2021 and amends the 1964 Civil Rights Act to include sexual orientation and gender identity as protected classes, is likely to curtail religious freedom, impacting healthcare professionals and faith-based hospitals, and undermining rights for women and girls.
  • The Do No Harm Act: This act is a threat to the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), as it could weaken religious freedom protections. 
  • The Child Welfare Provider Inclusion Act: This act aims to prevent government discrimination against child welfare agencies based on their religious beliefs, ensuring a broader range of child welfare providers are available.
  • The Conscience Protection Act: This act offers protections for healthcare workers with religious or moral objections to participating in or providing insurance coverage for certain medical procedures, including contraception.
  • Regulatory actions under the Biden administration: As with the past few years, the regulatory changes proposed by the Biden administration could threaten religious liberty and conscience rights, including those affecting foster care, healthcare, and college campuses.
  • The Universal Charitable Deduction: This policy encourages charitable giving by allowing all taxpayers to claim deductions for donations, regardless of whether they itemize their deductions.

Marriage and Family: Upholding biblical standards

In a post-Roe world, the focus on marriage and family policies becomes even more critical. Advocacy for adoption, opposition to “gender transition” surgeries, and supporting pro-family policies are not merely social stances but are deeply theological, reflecting God’s design for the family (Eph. 5:31-32) and the value of children (Psa. 127:3).

Some aspects of particular interest in 2024 include the following:

  • Adoption and Foster Care policies: Congress might consider various proposals, including the Adoption Tax Credit Refundability Act, which would ease the financial burden of adoption.
  • The Adoptee Citizenship Act: This act aims to grant immediate citizenship to foreign-born children adopted by U.S. citizens who were excluded from the Child Citizenship Act of 2000.
  • Marijuana expansion and related banking legislation: Proposed efforts to legalize marijuana federally, including the SAFER Banking Act, would contribute to the drug epidemic. The Biden administration’s is also attempting to reclassify marijuana under the Controlled Substances Act, which is a further leap toward federal legalization.
  • Gender “transitions” and parental rights: In recent years, we have seen alarming increases in the number of individuals, many of whom are minors, undergo physically damaging “gender transition” surgeries and procedures. This issue is also being pushed forward in all contexts, often without the knowledge of consent of parents. Many pieces of new legislation are seeking to outlaw these harmful practices and empower parents.

Human Dignity: Addressing global and societal issues

Our focus on issues such as the persecution of Uyghurs in China, anti-Semitism, and human trafficking aligns with the biblical mandate to “do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with God” (Micah 6:8). These issues challenge us to recognize the imago Dei in all people, leading to advocacy that transcends national and ethnic boundaries. Here are a few examples:

  • The Afghan Adjustment Act: This legislation would provide a path to permanent legal status for Afghan evacuees brought to the U.S. under humanitarian parole following the fall of Afghanistan in 2021.
  • Gambling expansion: As nearly every state across the country has loosened restrictions on gambling, Americans spent approximately $213 billion on legal betting alone in 2021. Online sports betting has spread rapidly, making it easier than ever to become trapped in the addictive and destructive cycle of gambling. Lawmakers at the state and federal level will be thinking about how to push back on this trend. 

The road ahead 

These issues are just a sampling of areas that require our attention in the days ahead. Throughout 2024, the ERLC is committed to leading the way for Christian engagement in a world marked by division and ethical complexity. Because, as guided by Scripture, we value the sanctity of life, religious liberty, marriage and the family, and human dignity, we are called not only to advocate for policies but also to embody the transformative power of the gospel in public life. As we engage these issues, our ultimate hope rests not in legislative victories but in the sovereign grace of God, who calls us to be salt and light in a world in need of the hope found in Christ alone.

By / Dec 15

The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission exists to assist Southern Baptist churches by helping them 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 churches and other Southern Baptist entities.

Under the leadership of Brent Leatherwood, elected as president in 2022, the ERLC has consistently shown a steadfast commitment to its foundational principles while adeptly navigating the evolving challenges of our time. From our offices in Nashville, Tennessee, and Washington, D.C., our work is rooted in the truths of Scripture and can be categorized in four main areas: life, religious liberty, marriage and family, and human dignity.

Here are some of the highlights from our work in these areas featured in our 2023 Annual Report.

Life

In the wake of the landmark Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision, the ERLC reinforced its dedication to pro-life advocacy. This pivotal ruling, which overturned Roe v. Wade, brought new challenges and opportunities for the Commission. The ERLC remains resolute in its mission to foster a culture where life is cherished at every stage, advocating for the dignity of all, from conception to natural death.

During the ongoing Fiscal Year 2024 appropriations session, ERLC has prioritized safeguarding life and religious liberty. In recent years, we were concerned with the removal of pro-life and conscience protection riders, including the Hyde Amendment, from the initially proposed 2022 and 2023 appropriations bills. At the 2021 Southern Baptist Convention, a resolution was passed condemning efforts to remove these pro-life riders. The ERLC thoroughly reviewed the appropriations bills and continues to advocate for these riders and against pro-abortion funding.

Post-Dobbs, the Biden administration pushed policies promoting abortion access such as expanding access to abortion pills, funding abortion travel, and using taxpayer funds for abortion access education. This included changes by the VA and the Department of Defense to facilitate abortions, and the adaptation of HIPAA by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), which could hinder investigations into illegal abortion and gender-transition procedures, raising concerns about the protection of those who have been abused.

The Food and Drug Administration also made chemical abortion drugs more accessible, despite a high complication rate. And we continue to monitor a court case challenging the FDA’s approval of the abortion drug mifepristone.

At the state level, the ERLC collaborated with North Carolina Baptists to impose a 12-week abortion limit in North Carolina and with Nevada Baptists to prevent Nevada from becoming a destination for assisted suicide. We are committed to working with state conventions to protect life from conception to natural death.

Religious Liberty

The ERLC’s defense of religious liberty has been unwavering. In 2023 we championed this cause through significant legislative and Supreme Court victories. By upholding the Baptist principle of a “free church in a free state,” the ERLC has ensured that the proclamation of the gospel continues unimpeded by governmental constraints.

We’ve recently focused on responding to two significant Supreme Court decisions impacting religious liberty: Groff v. Dejoy and 303 Creative v. Elenis.

In the Groff case, the Supreme Court unanimously ruled that the standard for religious accommodations in the workplace, set by a 1977 decision, had been misinterpreted. This unanimous ruling clarifies that employers face a higher burden before denying religious accommodations. As Southern Baptists, we firmly believe in the inseparability of our faith from our work. Reflecting this belief, we filed an amicus brief to support the expansion of religious accommodations.

The 303 Creative case was another crucial victory. The court sided with Lorie Smith, a web designer who chose not to create websites for same-sex marriages, against a Colorado law that had targeted others for their beliefs, like cake artist Jack Phillips. This ruling not only upheld free speech but also acknowledged the constitutional protection of creative expression. It’s a significant win for individuals wanting to express their faith publicly.

At the federal level, we’ve been actively countering efforts by Congress and the administration that threaten religious liberty. We’ve opposed the Respect for Marriage Act and the Equality Act, both of which we find detrimental to religious freedom. The administration’s push to expand regulations on sexual orientation, gender identity, and abortion access often undermines religious liberty. We’ve responded through public comments pushing back against these changes across various federal departments including Education, Health and Human Services, Labor, Justice, Veterans Affairs, Homeland Security, Housing and Urban Development, and USAID.

At the state level, our partnership has extended to various SBC groups. With the Arkansas Baptists, we encouraged the adoption of a state-level Religious Freedom Restoration Act. In Wisconsin, we joined the Minnesota-Wisconsin Baptists in an amicus brief supporting a Catholic charity’s right to operate according to their religious convictions. Our advocacy always aims to protect the ability of religious organizations to function without undue government interference.

Marriage and Family

Upholding the God-ordained institutions of marriage and family remains a cornerstone of the ERLC’s advocacy. In 2023, we actively engaged in policy discussions, supporting legislation aligned with biblical values and opposing acts like the Equal Rights Amendment and the Respect for Marriage Act, which deviate from these principles.

We achieved a significant victory in the area of marriage and family with the defeat of the “transgender mandate.” This mandate, part of the Affordable Care Act and implemented through the HHS, would have compelled medical professionals to provide gender-transition care, conflicting with their religious beliefs and medical judgment. Since its inception, we have actively opposed this policy.

In early 2022, we reiterated our stance by submitting public comments to HHS, calling for the repeal of the mandate. Thankfully, two federal court cases challenged the mandate and successfully struck it down as unconstitutional. The Biden administration chose not to appeal these decisions, preserving religious liberty and conscience protections.

We believe that this gender ideology directly contradicts God’s design for family and human flourishing. Our commitment remains strong to oppose any future policies that would undermine these values or infringe upon religious and conscience protections.

Part of our advocacy includes supporting parents in their pivotal role within the family. We collaborated with the Iowa Baptists and Minnesota-Wisconsin Baptists to file amicus briefs in state-level cases. These briefs emphasized the critical role of parents and contested any efforts by schools to intervene in matters of gender and sexuality, which are sensitive and significant for a child’s upbringing.

In Congress, our advocacy continues to focus on policies that support and strengthen families. In the post-Dobbs environment, there’s a growing momentum to support vulnerable women and families. While there’s ongoing debate about the most effective policies, it’s heartening to see congressional recognition of family needs and the exploration of creative solutions. The ERLC is dedicated to endorsing policy changes that bolster family and marriage, enhance child welfare, respect the dignity of work, and responsibly manage financial resources.

Human Dignity

The ERLC’s commitment to human dignity is evident in its wide-ranging efforts. From criminal justice reform to the care of immigrants, the Commission has been a vocal advocate for policies that recognize the inherent value of every person because each individual is made in the image of God (imago Dei).

Our work in promoting human dignity faced challenges due to a divided Congress, hindering the passage of significant legislation in areas like immigration and criminal justice reform.

Regarding immigration, we actively advocated for improvements in border security and a permanent solution for “Dreamers.” Despite our efforts, a compromise was not reached in time. We also championed a secure legal status pathway for Afghan and Ukrainian evacuees in the U.S. under “humanitarian parole.” Although these individuals are essentially refugees, they lack formal pathways to permanent status. Disappointingly, the Afghan Adjustment Act, despite having broad bipartisan support, was not included in the final legislative package.

Our commitment to immigration issues led us to join other Southern Baptists on an educational trip to the border. This experience significantly informed our approach, especially in light of the anticipated end of Title 42. Working with SEND Relief, we prepared border states for this policy change and urged Congress to take the necessary actions.

In the realm of criminal justice, we hoped to see the passage of the Eliminating a Quantifiably Unjust Application of the Law (EQUAL) Act in the fiscal year 2023 appropriations. This bill aimed to address sentencing disparities that disproportionately affect Black Americans. Despite its passage in the House and substantial bipartisan Senate support, it was not included in the final appropriations package.

Despite these setbacks, we remain committed to engaging in these critical issues. Our efforts extend to regulating predatory gambling and lending practices, supporting human rights and religious freedom globally, and fighting against human trafficking. Our dedication to these causes is unwavering, even in the face of slow progress, as we continue to advocate for policies that uphold human dignity and justice.

Shaping public policy for Southern Baptist interests

Throughout 2023, the ERLC diligently represented Southern Baptist interests in public policy while navigating complex legislative landscapes. Our work, particularly in defending pro-life and pro-religious liberty provisions in appropriations bills, underscores our influential role in shaping policies that resonate with Southern Baptist beliefs.

As we look to the future, the ERLC remains dedicated to guiding churches in addressing the pressing moral and social issues of our times, continuing our vital role in the service of truth and gospel proclamation.

Editor’s Note: Will you give this year so that the ERLC can do more to support Southern Baptists and represent your interests in 2024? Click here to help us bring hope to the public square.

By / Dec 4

Everyone can take part in caring for vulnerable children in the foster care system, whether through prayer, donations, financial support, or serving in some way. My role as a volunteer Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) means that I advocate for the best interests of children who are in the foster care system due to abuse or neglect.

What does a CASA do?

CASAs are appointed by the juvenile court in their area to a specific case involving one or more precious children and agree to remain with that case until a safe, permanent home is achieved. A CASA’s aim is to provide the judge with the best information possible so that they may make a well-informed decision when they rule on the case. 

I have been shocked to learn the sheer number of children currently in foster care, more than 14,000 in my state of Alabama alone. Some of the common criticisms are fair. The system may be unnecessarily complex, and the wheels of justice often move very slowly, but contrary to some assumptions, the dedicated professionals I’ve worked with—social workers, lawyers, foster parents—genuinely desire what is best for the children in their care. However, they are often operating under the weight of an insurmountable case load. 

Here is where a CASA can make a difference. As the eyes and ears of the court, a CASA is not only able to speak out for the child’s well-being but is also able to be a consistent presence in that child’s life. They are true advocates: those who plead the cause of another both by their testimony and by their presence in the child’s life. A CASA advocates by lending their voice, time, and help to children who may not have a voice of their own.

The CASA process

When I go before the court as a CASA, I present a report that summarizes my interactions with the case and the recommendations I am making. I answer questions from four different attorneys representing four different interested parties, all in reference to the well-being and welfare of the child(ren) in foster care. 

In order to compile my report and make my recommendation, 

  • I visited the child in her foster home multiple times. 
  • I visited the home of her biological parent at least twice. 
  • I observed her parent’s supervised visit on several occasions. 
  • I made phone calls, researched records, and pored over legal documents and court orders. 
  • I consulted her social worker in regard to how the state views the child’s best interests.

CASAs seek to learn all they can about the child, his or her family and situation, and any other contributing factors that may have a bearing on his or her circumstances. A CASA may be called on, as I was, to testify regarding the child’s best interests when it comes to placement, services that may benefit the child, as well as any other recommendations the CASA believes will contribute to a thriving future for the child. 

Caring for the vulnerable

At my first home visit, I quickly realized that despite all my training, I still had a lot to learn about the family court process—itself complex and complicated—as well as the scary and heartbreaking situations these young children have had to navigate as part of their “normal” day-to-day existence. 

No doubt, you’ve heard horrific stories. Though not all children have experienced such extreme circumstances, in my limited time as a CASA, I’ve talked to a young girl who was beaten with a curling iron, another who hid in the closet while one parent pulled a gun on the other, and a child who didn’t attend school for two years. These aren’t stories told in the abstract; they are events—real, live experiences of real, live children. 

The Bible instructs us to care for the orphan and widow. This is true, genuine religion. In other words, one mark of authentic faith is care for the most vulnerable (James 2:27). As we extend mercy and love—and advocacy—to the helpless and the needy among us, we point to our Savior. He looked to the interests of others even as he made himself a servant (Phil. 2:4-7). Not only that, but Jesus tells his disciples that their compassionate care for those most needy, “the least of these,” was the same as if done to Jesus himself (Matt. 25:40). We serve him by serving like him. CASA is one way I hope to do just that.

If you’re interested in knowing more, check out nationalcasagal.org, where you can find out about your state and local CASA organizations and ways you can make a difference in a child’s life.

Editor’s Note: When you give, the ERLC can do more in 2024 to continue to advance the pro-life movement in ways like shaping policies that provide care and support for vulnerable mothers and families in a post-Roe America. Consider giving a year-end gift here to bring hope to the public square.

By / Oct 9

SBC’s policy arm filed public comments, calls bill sponsors to file with EEOC

Nashville, Tenn., Oct. 9, 2023 The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention filed comments calling for the removal of abortion language from the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act regulations. 

The comments were filed in a letter to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The federal commission is tasked with issuing regulations to carry out the newly passed law, but the EEOC’s proposed regulations include abortion procedures in the list of “pregnancy related medical conditions”—directly contradicting Congress’ stated legislative intent and endangering preborn lives.  

“We urge each sponsor of the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act to file an official comment on this proposal and demand abortion be dropped from this regulation,” said Brent Leatherwood, ERLC president and the signatory of the letter. “Failure to do so will only empower a radical agency to completely disregard clear congressional intent and, more alarmingly, turn a law meant to help mothers and children thrive into the abortion regime’s newest tool to destroy life.”

The ERLC affirms the important objective of the bipartisan PWFA to ensure women are given accommodations in the workplace in consideration of their health and the health of their preborn children. 

“Every human being has inherent dignity and every life should be protected,” the ERLC states in its letter to the EEOC. “In the context of the PWFA, Scripture makes it clear that mothers and children are precious and worthy of protection.” 

The Southern Baptist Convention is America’s largest Protestant denomination with more than 13.6 million members and a network of over 47,000 cooperating churches and congregations. The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission is the SBC’s ethics, religious liberty and public policy agency with offices in Nashville, Tenn., and Washington, D.C.

To request an interview, contact Elizabeth Bristow
by email at [email protected] or call 202-547-0209
 Visit our website at www.erlc.com
Follow us on Twitter at @ERLC.

By / Sep 27

The Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission has a full-time presence in Washington, D.C., based out of the Leland House, and has a scope of policy work that covers religious liberty, life, human dignity, and marriage and family. In the following interview, President Brent Leatherwood discusses the fundamentals of representing Southern Baptists on the Hill and the ultimate work the ERLC hopes to accomplish. 

Jill Waggoner: What is the ERLC? What do we do here?

Brent Leatherwood: When we are talking to the man on the street, we tend to describe the ERLC as the public policy arm of the Southern Baptist Convention. What that means on a practical level is that we speak both for and from our churches. I use that purposely because we can only effectively speak in the public square for our churches if we are actually working alongside and serving our churches. I like to tell people it is from that service that we’re rendering to our churches that we’re able to effectively speak on the issues of the day, the issues that our churches are dealing with, or the issues that may affect their ability to do ministry. 

We have been doing this for over 100 years now, and I’d like to remind folks that this institution has always sought to be a voice that represents the principles of our convention of churches, whether that’s to policymakers or to the media. We’re always trying to make sure that we are bringing the thoughts, cares, and principles that guide our churches to the issues of the day.

JW: There are a lot of groups in Washington, D.C., advocating for their various policy concerns. What is so unique about the ERLC and our role on Capitol Hill?

BL: The best way I can answer that question is from an experience I had last summer on Capitol Hill. We were invited into a meeting with a U.S. senator who was looking forward, at that point, to the post-Roe moment when there would be no more Roe v. Wade. This senator was saying, 

“I brought you here to this meeting because I really want to map out what actual pro-family policy will look like. And I want you as representatives of the ERLC to be here because I look at you and I know that you are guided by eternal and unchanging truths. And I can’t say that about a number of other organizations that do good work in Washington. Oftentimes, they are driven by political items, the political calendar, or maybe even sometimes political expediency.” 

Knowing that a U.S. senator recognizes that about the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission is the best kind of endorsement that I could offer here, because it shows that we are different than a number of our peers. A lot of our peers do really good work, but oftentimes they want to do that work and immediately turn it into fundraising appeals or trying to get some sort of grassroots activism.

Instead, we’re coming because we’re saying, “This is what our pastors care about. This is what Southern Baptists have said they care about. This is what the Bible has to say about this issue.” And that really resonates with those policymakers because they have a number of activists and lobbyists in their ear at any given time. But when they invite us to the table, they know that they’re getting something that has a much longer-range view in mind.

JW: In broad terms, what do we hope to accomplish with the ERLC’s policy work?

BL: At a basic level, we want to make this a better world. We live in this time between times—a fallen world that is racked by sin. In a sense, we’re doing Kingdom work because we are trying to point policymakers toward a better world. And that Kingdom that we learn about in Scripture actually has principles that can be enacted now. That’s what we’re driving for. It’s a hope-filled kind of work, knowing that at the end of the day, for eternal flourishing, one needs to have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. 

In a conversation with a member of Congress, a staff member for a senator, or some other representative from the committees on Capitol Hill, we may not get a policy passed, but you never know how those conversations are allowing you to plant gospel seeds in that person’s life.

That reality underlies the work that we do, whether it’s at the federal, state, or local level. Are we always being attuned to how the Lord might be opening an avenue to spread the gospel? I never want to diminish or forget that because I think, in many respects, the work that we do on Capitol Hill or in the policy arena is akin to missional work. We are missionaries in the public square.

For more on the ERLC’s policy work, listen to this episode of the ERLC Podcast.

By / Sep 7

Welcome to the all-new ERLC Podcast! In this first series of our new format, we will explore the issues of gender and sexuality and discover what the Bible teaches us about these controversial, but important cultural topics. 

During this episode, you will hear from expert voices about:

  • What it means to be made in the image of God;
  • God’s good design for all people;
  • How the world was corrupted by the fall in Genesis 3; and
  • How to live out countercultural beliefs about these topics. 

While the format is new, our goal for the podcast remains the same. The ERLC seeks to help you think biblically about today’s cultural issues.

We’ve been listening to you to better understand the questions you’re facing and how the ERLC can help on matters related to gender and sexuality. 

On this updated format of the ERLC Podcast, we want to give you brief, informed, practical, and biblically-based answers to important cultural issues.

You are not the only one asking these questions. Just like you, we want to hold fast to the teachings of Scripture as we seek to raise our families, serve our churches, and love our neighbors in an ever-evolving and often challenging cultural landscape. 

We are glad you are here and look forward to walking alongside you as we challenge one another to think biblically and critically on matters of gender and sexuality so that we can live in the world, but not of it—all for the sake of the gospel.

By / Sep 5

In today’s digital world, how can we help children find their identity in Christ? Every child is looking for a place to anchor his or her identity, whether that be in the search for a best friend on the preschool playground, trying to make the team, or joining the right club in their teen years. It is essential that Christian parents guide their children toward their identity in Christ while protecting against spiritual identity theft in today’s digital age.

Internally, all people are asking three questions: 

  • Who am I?
  • Where can I have meaningful human relationships? 
  • And what should I do with my life? 

In Deuteronomy 6, God gave parents the task of forming their children’s spiritual identity. In that day, they spent time raising crops and herding flocks (Deut. 6:7-9). In our day, we spend time on social platforms and streaming platforms. In the middle of this digital age, we cannot replace the essential need for our children to find their identity in Christ, their calling in God’s mission, and deep community in God’s family If we can turn down some of the noise, they will hear the beauty of God’s design for their identity.

In order to nurture our children’s spiritual vitality, we must find ways to lessen the noise that is drowning out the beautiful symphony of God’s design for them. We need to protect our children’s spiritual identity from being hijacked by a digital identity. We have to challenge and propel kids toward real-life impact instead of virtual experiences. In a world in which many children have a myriad of superficial connections, we have to encourage them to cultivate real-life, meaningful connections.

Digital identity theft 

We live in a digital age where most of our day is a dance between screens. We are curators of our own content and sometimes pawns of algorithms that plunge us down rabbit holes of digital content. For many children, their dance between screens has begun to define them. 

Nearly 2/3 of teenagers are on screens for more than four hours a day. Research has shown that dopamine levels produced in the brain in response to social media interaction are comparable to that of drug or gambling addiction. It is not a stretch to say that children are addicted. Perhaps like me, you have witnessed a child melt down and exhibit withdrawal symptoms when a device is taken away. The child’s identity is so wrapped up in their digital identity that it is actually painful to be away from it. 

Pursuing a digital identity leads to addiction, but it is also leading to increased levels of anxiety and depression. Between 2006 and 2016, the suicide rate for those between ages 10 and 17 rose by 70%, and clinical depression rates rose by 40%.

Our children are swimming in a sea of digital content that misinforms them about their identity. As parents, we have the opportunity to anchor our children’s identity in what God says about them. My wife and I often remind our son to listen to the people who love him when he is trying to decide what he will believe about himself. Often, our children are listening to people who do not love them as we do or as God does.

Our job as parents is not to instill self-esteem in our children, but to guide them to the foundational truths about who God says they are. The God who breathed everything into existence says that they have inherent dignity and worth and that they are irreplaceable (Luke 12:7, Jer. 1:5). Once your child trusts in Christ, you can take them to even greater depth of identity through their adoption into God’s family, the indwelling in the Holy Spirit, the shepherding care of Jesus, and so much more. These realities will not shake with the wins and losses of the digital world, because they are rooted in the character, nature, and activity of God.

Differentiating between digital wins and real-life impact 

For many children, the rise and fall of their lives depends upon what happens in the digital world. We must separate digital identity from spiritual identity as we lead and empower our children to embrace their calling in the real world, not by living vicariously through YouTube or video games.  

A few weeks ago, I was talking with one of our children’s ministry leaders. He asked our church’s elementary-aged kids to name a challenge they faced recently. Almost every tough scenario named was faced in a video game. We have an opportunity to help call our kids to join God’s mission and gain a sense of accomplishment outside of their digital world.

We often undervalue the influence that our children can have, but preteens and teenagers have made a big impact throughout history. Think about young men and women like David, Daniel, Joseph, Samuel, and Esther. Perhaps part of the problem is that we are not giving our teenagers any challenges to face in the real world, so they are fleeing to a digital world.

Helping your children cultivate an awareness of God and desire submission and obedience to him is the biggest gift you can ever give them. Calling them to see his glory and purpose while inviting them to embrace their unique personality, gifting, and calling is the greatest privilege and joy of parenthood. The Bible says our children are like arrows, so let us aim them so that they hit the bullseye of eternity (Ps. 127:3).

From superficial digital connections to biblical community 

Finally, we need to model and prioritize biblical community for our children. When we do so, they will be able to distinguish deep connections from superficial digital interactions. We set the example for our children when we spend more time engaging in deep relationships at our church and in our neighborhoods than in our online communities or on social media. Orienting our lives around spending time with God and people will become the true source of our identity—for parents and for children.

The digital world is an extension of the real world, not a replacement for it. Although disconnection is not caused by devices, our devices can multiply our disconnection. Children need to understand that relationships are messy, but they are a mess worth making. In a digital confrontation, you do not have to look a real, living person in the eye. In the digital world, personality is often removed from intimacy and people can hide their flaws while magnifying their strengths. We need to figure out ways to get our children involved in deep relationships and invest in people rather than digital experiences. 

When Jesus was asked to summarize the Old Testament, he responded, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength, and love your neighbor as yourself” (Luke 10:25-28). Jesus took the same identity that God gave his people in Deuteronomy 6 and paired it with a missional imperative. When we listen to these passages, we hear God beckoning our kids to find their identity in Christ, their relationships in biblical community, and their purpose in their God-given calling. There are no perfect parents that handle this dance with screens perfectly, but all of us can help point our kids toward God’s glory and their good.