By / Mar 6

VERSAILLES, France (BP) – Evangelicals in France voiced a measured objection to the enshrinement of abortion in the country’s constitution in advance of the historic move March 4, citing concerns for freedoms of conscience, expression and opinion.

France became the first country to enshrine abortion rights into a national constitution March 4. Its Parliament overwhelmingly amended Article 34 of the Constitution to specify that “the law determines the conditions in which the freedom of women is exercised, which is guaranteed to them, to have recourse to an abortion.”

The National Council of Evangelical Churches of France (CNEF) urged Parliament March 1 to protect the rights of conscientious objection for healthcare workers, and the freedoms of speech and opinion. But CNEF fell short of urging Parliament to strap the constitutional change that was first proposed just after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade.

Southern Baptist leader Brent Leatherwood, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, told Baptist Press March 5 he believes France will grow to regret the constitutional change.

“I believe, in time, the French will come to regret this villainous action. It is nothing short of a ghoulish thing to add the destruction of life to a national charter,” Leatherwood said. “Planned Parenthood rejoices while the preborn are terrorized. Despite what activists, politicians and parts of culture want you to believe, abortion is not healthcare and the leaders of France have made a heinous decision that will lead to innocent life being taken.”

We like to tell ourselves a story of progress, that we are making strides in human dignity and protecting the vulnerable. But terrible events like this reveal we have a long way to go before we truly love our neighbor, including the preborn, as ourselves.

Brent Leatherwood

Read the full Baptist Press article here.

By / Dec 31

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

Supreme Court to rule in Dobbs case

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

Beijing Olympics brings scrutiny to China’s human rights abuses

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

2022 midterm elections could lead to shift in partisan power

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

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

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

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

France and Brazil to hold presidential elections

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

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

By / Feb 19

In this episode, Josh, Brent, and Lindsay discuss the winter weather hitting the U.S. this week, the Texas power crisis, why Covid-19 cases are dropping and cutting life expectancy, Rush Limbaugh and Carman passing away, Ravi Zacharias investigation, and spring training starting up. Lindsay gives a rundown of this week’s ERLC content including the Policy Staff with “Explainer: How should Christians think about France’s “separatism” bill?,” Stephen Stallard with “3 ways to engage our neighbors during a pandemic,” Julie Masson with “Common questions about the COVID-19 vaccine.” Also in this episode, the hosts are joined by Carl R. Trueman for a conversation about life and ministry. 

About Carl

Carl R. Trueman (PhD, University of Aberdeen) is professor of biblical and religious studies at Grove City College. He is an esteemed church historian and previously served as the William E. Simon Fellow in Religion and Public Life at Princeton University. Trueman has authored or edited more than a dozen books, including The Creedal Imperative; Luther on the Christian Life; and Histories and Fallacies. Trueman is a member of The Orthodox Presbyterian Church.

ERLC Content

Culture

  1. Winter storm slams dozens of states and leaves millions without power
  2. Record-setting cold snap turns deadly
  3. Winter storm strikes much of US
  4. Texas power crisis
  5. Dispatch fact check on Texas power
  6. COVID-19 Cases Are Dropping Fast. Why?
  7. Axios: Covid cases drop
  8. Covid cuts life expectancy
  9. Rush Limbaugh, conservative media icon, dead at 70 following battle with cancer
  10. Carman, Christian music icon and Gospel Music Hall of Famer, dies at 65
  11. Open Letter from the International Board of Directors of RZIM
  12. Investigation reveals Zacharias’ years-long history of sexual abuse of women
  13. Spring training is here

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By / Feb 16

Today, the French parliament will vote on a controversial religious law called, “the Law to Uphold Republican Principles.” This 459-page bill has received dramatic public interest, and over 1,700 proposed amendments have been filed to the bill. The intent of this bill is to “combat the threat of Islamist radicals,” whom French President Emmanuel Macron has called “the enemy of the Republic.” 

In October 2020, French middle-school teacher, Samuel Paty was beheaded by the father of one of his students after discussing the freedom of expression in his classroom. Mr. Paty gave his students a chance to leave the classroom before showing them the cartoon at the heart of the 2015 attack on the Charlie Hebdo newsroom, which satirically depicted the Prophet Mohammed. 

Mr. Paty’s murderer posted a photo and message on Twitter addressed to French President Macron. Within minutes, police identified and killed the perpetrator of Mr. Paty’s murder. This attack comes after multiple terrorist attacks over the past six years, including the Charlie Hebdo attack, an attack during Bastille Day, an attack at a Christmas market, and a stabbing at the Nice cathedral. Since 2015, more than 250 people have been killed in these attacks. 

Mr. Paty’s murder has inspired the introduction of this new bill by French lawmakers that takes aim at the spread of radical Islam within the country. 

Some Muslim leaders support the legislation, including the French Council of the Muslim Faith, a large French Muslim organization, which called the bill “useful, [and] necessary to fight those who want to instrumentalize associations” in ways that undermine French society. The secular, progressive Foundation for Islam said that the bill is “unjust, but necessary.” These statements from Muslim organizations illustrate the real challenge radical Islam presents for France, even for the Muslim community. 

What are French evangelicals saying about this bill?

French evangelicals have been critical of the bill. The National Council of Evangelicals in France (CNEF) has been working to highlight the problems the bill would create. Clément Diedrichs, general director of CNEF, told Christianity Today, “It’s definitely a serious situation. Laïcité [the French concept of separation of church and state] should protect the free organization of religious groups, but this law will allow the prevention of religious expression in society.”

Although the bill is not targeted at French Protestants or Evangelicals, they do have legitimate cause for concern. France’s Interior Minister, Gérald Darmanin, said earlier this month that “Evangelicals are a very important problem,” qualifying later in the interview that evangelicals are “obviously not [a problem] of the same nature than the Islamism that makes terrorist attacks and deaths.” Darmanin appears to take issue with those who believe the law of God is supreme over any other man-made law. As Darmanin said in a separate interview, “We cannot discuss with people who refuse to write on paper that the law of the Republic is superior to the law of God.”

Ultimately, the bill raises questions central to the French conception of secularism—the idea of laïcité—which is focused on public neutrality on religion and the place of religion in the public square. To simplify and translate this complex idea into American terms, laïcité is similar to the U.S. Constitution’s Establishment Clause: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion.” By strengthening the separation of church and state, this bill would force religion even further from the public square. Diedrichs, the CNEF leader, said, “We have a unanimous position that recognizes the potential risks this law represents for religious liberty. No one is content with this law.”

Indeed, French evangelicals have raised a number of concerns with the bill. The bill would create a requirement that churches re-register with the government every five years, increasing the possibility that a church’s registration may be denied. In addition, churches and ministries would be required to publicly declare financial support from outside of France, including support of missionaries and direct support to churches from overseas. It should be noted that French evangelical churches are overwhelmingly self-supported. For evangelical families, permission to pursue home-based education would be required every year, and parents would not be permitted to choose to homeschool because of religious motivation.

Why is this bill a concern?

There is no question that France faces a difficult situation with the presence and spread of radical Islam and that efforts to curtail extremism are warranted and needed. Still, the “separatism” bill would create new restrictions on the rights to freedom of thought, conscience, and religion and would strengthen the French conception of separation of church and state in significant and harmful ways. Article 1 of the Constitution of France states: “France shall be an indivisible, secular, democratic and social Republic. It shall ensure the equality of all citizens before the law, without distinction of origin, race or religion. It shall respect all beliefs.”

France’s leaders should honor its own principles and its international commitments by ensuring that freedom of thought, expression, and religion are maintained for all peaceful religious communities. The Bible teaches that government authority is granted by God (Rom. 13). But government authority is limited and does not include the right to restrict religious beliefs or override a person’s conscience.

It appears that this bill would do just that, reversing the proper order of the law of man and the law of God in the process. Christians should oppose this clear example of government overreach that would trample upon the consciences of millions of French citizens and pray this bill does not pass as introduced. The ERLC will continue to monitor this bill and work with our partners in France and in Europe on these important issues.