By / Apr 23

A little over a week after the women’s NCAA basketball championship viewer ratings crushed that of the men’s, critics are saying that the Biden Administration’s new set of Title IX regulations will eventually cripple women’s sports.

Any measure allowing schools to prevent biological males from participating in athletics against females is noticeably, yet unsurprisingly, absent from the recent changes to Title IX.

The Final Rule under Title IX says it will work to “protect against all sex-based harassment and discrimination,” “promote accountability and fairness” and “empower and support students and families.” That includes provisions in place for LGBTQ+ students and changing methods by which to adjudicate claims of sexual harassment and assault claims on school campuses.

Regulations about sports participation “is still ongoing,” said the U.S. Department of Education.

“The Department proposed amendments to its athletics regulations in April 2023, and received over 150,000 public comments, which by law must be carefully considered,” it reads. An unofficial version of the final regulations has been made available.

The regulations come during a nationwide debate over the impact of transgender athletes on female sports. On April 16, an appeals court ruled against a West Virginia transgender sports ban.

The Biden administration’s actions have placed it in opposition to Title IX’s historical meaning and endangered its accomplishments.

After 50 years of working to advance professional and educational opportunities for women, Title IX has been co-opted by the sexual revolution. Rather than protecting spaces where women can flourish, achieve and compete, the Biden administration has chosen to prioritize the advancement of sexual orientation and gender identity politics.

Southern Baptists believe our biological realities cannot be ignored and any attempt to do so will inevitably bring harm to women and our society.

Hannah Daniel, director of public policy, Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission

Read the full Baptist Press article here.

By / Apr 19

WASHINGTON (BP) – A law criminalizing gender transition care for minors in Idaho can be applied while two anonymous teenage plaintiffs’ challenge to the law continues in court, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled April 15.

In the meantime, the two plaintiffs in the case can continue to receive such care, which to date has included puberty blockers and estrogen, according to court documents in the case of Labrador v. Poe. But Idaho can otherwise apply the Vulnerable Child Protection Act, passed in 2023, to regulate or prevent various procedures intended to alter the gender of children under the age of 18.

Miles Mullin, vice president and chief of staff for the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC), applauded the High Court’s ruling.

This important ruling by the Supreme Court rightfully preserves Idaho’s right to protect its children. To be clear, the state has a responsibility to intervene when harm is being done to its citizens – especially its most vulnerable citizens.

Miles Mullin

“That is just what Idaho has done. For it must be recognized, that while couched in the language of ‘gender-affirming care,’ these medical and surgical procedures do great, permanent harm to children.”

“The ERLC has long maintained that children must not be pawns in the sexual revolution,” Mullin said, “and we will continue to advocate against harmful gender-transition practices even as we also continue to pray for those who are suffering from gender dysphoria.”

Read the full Baptist Press article here.

By / Mar 1

Nearly one-third of Generation Z (the youngest generation for which we have statistics) identify on the LGBT spectrum. It may have (arguably) taken longer for the sexual revolution to reach our churches, but the time is long gone when we could assume it would pass us by completely. That is why the ERLC gathered together a group of experts in theology, ethics, public policy, and law to think through how best to respond to this moment. Working together, they created a framework grounded in Scripture and shaped by theological categories faithful to the Baptist Faith & Message 2000 and outlined practical scenarios many churches are facing.

It is our hope that “God’s Good Design: A Practical Guide for Answering Gender Confusion” will start (or continue) the conversation in your churches about how to serve those broken by the sexual revolution with the hope of the gospel.

Below, is a sample of the resource, outlining the theological framework for gender and sexuality and providing samples of the practical scenarios. 

A Theological Framework for Gender and Sexuality

  1. God created humanity.
  2. God intentionally created humanity with physical bodies.
  3. God’s good design for bodies is sexed: male and female.
  4. God created men and women to complement one another.
  5. The Fall affects how we see our body and sexuality.
  6. God meets the refugees of transgender ideology.
  7. The Church compassionately proclaims God’s design for gender and the body.

Practical Scenarios 

How would your pastoral team counsel a teen visiting the youth group that is considering undergoing a social transition to a different gender?

  • The pastoral team should be clear that they love the teen and want them to continue attending.
  • They should also acknowledge that they are grateful that the child feels comfortable telling them this information and is willing to talk to them about their decision. And just like every other teen who comes to the youth group, their desire is that this teenager would know who God is and enter a relationship with Jesus.
  • Because of this, they will be unable to support and participate in the social transition. They should point back to the church’s policies and encourage the teenager to participate as much as they can.
  • Also, as they would in any counseling situation, they should ask what it is that is leading the teenager to think a social transition is necessary. It might be that the child is dealing with cultural assumptions about masculinity/femininity that are tied more to cultural stereotypes than reality (i.e., A guy who wants to be a gymnast or a girl who enjoys sports does not need to deny their biological sex because of that personal interest).
  • In addition, they should default to not using pronouns or a new name because they do not want to tacitly endorse the notion that pronouns correspond to self-identity rather than biological realities.

If you had a MtF (male-to-female) transgender teen visiting your youth group insistent on being called by their preferred gender, name, and pronoun—how should the youth minister respond to this request?

  • Like the case above, the youth group should make clear that the individual is welcome and that they desire to see them know God and have a relationship with Christ.
  • To the question of pronouns and names, the youth minister should clarify that as Christians we are to be truth tellers, and as such he would be unable to use their preferred pronouns.
  • In most instances, it is possible to avoid using pronouns at all, defaulting to names, but there may be instances where the youth minister would have to use their biological pronouns. He should make clear that it is not just about the student’s self-identification, but that what he is requesting of the minister is for him to affirm that identity which is fundamentally untrue by using pronouns and this new name.
  • Additionally, the youth minister needs to think about how he will help his students think through this topic.
  • For students who worry that not agreeing to the request would pose actual relationship consequences, he should encourage them to be faithful to Christ. At the same time, he should help them to ask, “Am I doing this to avoid social friction or to build a bridge for the gospel?” Given the reality that there will be people who transition and detransition (to varying degrees), students can be present in their lives and be a witness to their peers even as they don’t compromise truth.

Download your free copy of God’s Good Design: A Practical Guide for Answering Gender Confusion.

By / Feb 27

NASHVILLE, Tenn., Feb. 26, 2024—The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention announced a new resource to serve as a guide for answering questions about gender confusion, produced by the ERLC research team.

“God’s Good Design: A Practical Guide for Answering Gender Confusion” was assembled by the ERLC research team through consultation with pastors and ministry leaders who helped apply the framework to practical situations on the ground. 

In the forward of the resource, ERLC President Brent Leatherwood said his hope is that the guide will serve churches who are ministering to people broken by the sexual revolution with the hope of the gospel.

“It is our hope that this theological framework and the practical scenarios will start (or continue) the conversation in your churches about how to serve those broken by the sexual revolution with the hope of the gospel. There will inevitably be questions you face that are not contained here, but this will give you a place to begin, a conversation with your staff; not out of fear or a need to protect ourselves, but rather to ensure that we are ready to offer others an answer for the hope that is within us (1 Pet. 3:15), pointing them to the One who promises that there is a day when the brokenness of our body, our sense of self, and our own failed attempts to be God will be made right.” 

Alex Ward, ERLC research associate and project manager for the ERLC’s research initiatives, commented on the launch of the guide.

“Churches are grappling with contemporary gender challenges, navigating questions and scenarios inconceivable just years ago. ‘God’s Good Design: A Practical Guide for Answering Gender Confusion’ is a resource for addressing these issues, offering a theological framework for fidelity to scripture on sexuality, masculinity and femininity. Developed with input from theologians, ethicists, policy experts and ministry leaders, it provides guidance to practical scenarios derived from real church experiences. While not exhaustive, it serves as a guide for churches navigating their unique contexts amid cultural shifts. The theological framework created by these experts also can help orient ministries as they create policies and procedures for how to respond in the future. In a time of many perspectives that err away from God’s desires, the ERLC aims to provide a hopeful message that adhering to God’s design for our bodies and sexuality is ultimately for our good.”

The guide can be downloaded for free online.

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]

By / Feb 27

NASHVILLE (BP) – The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) has released a practical resource to help churches navigate difficult questions and scenarios surrounding the topic of gender confusion.

The resource, released Monday (Feb. 26), is titled “God’s Good Design: A Practical Guide for Answering Gender Confusion.”

The guide contains a theological framework addressing the topic of gender from a biblical worldview and offers answers to practical scenarios that churches or pastors may face or have faced regarding the topic. The guide also contains links to additional resources on the topic of gender confusion from a variety of Christian sources.

In the guide’s foreword, ERLC President Brent Leatherwood spoke about the need to address the topic in the church today.

“The rate of teenagers who identify as transgender has doubled in the United States according to one estimate,” Leatherwood wrote.

“Nearly one-third of Generation Z (the youngest generation for which we have statistics) identify on the LGBT spectrum. It may have (arguably) taken longer for the sexual revolution to reach our churches, but the time is long gone when we could assume it would pass us by completely.”

Alex Ward, ERLC research associate and project manager for the ERLC’s research initiatives, said the guide is meant to point to God’s good design for gender and sexuality.

“Churches are grappling with contemporary gender challenges, navigating questions and scenarios inconceivable just years ago,” Ward said.

“‘God’s Good Design: A Practical Guide for Answering Gender Confusion’ is a resource for addressing these issues, offering a theological framework for fidelity to scripture on sexuality, masculinity and femininity. Developed with input from theologians, ethicists, policy experts and ministry leaders, it provides guidance to practical scenarios derived from real church experiences. While not exhaustive, it serves as a guide for churches navigating their unique contexts amid cultural shifts.

“The theological framework created by these experts also can help orient ministries as they create policies and procedures for how to respond in the future. In a time of many perspectives that err away from God’s desires, the ERLC aims to provide a hopeful message that adhering to God’s design for our bodies and sexuality is ultimately for our good.”

Read the full Baptist Press article here.

By / Feb 26

“God’s Good Design: A Practical Guide for Answering Gender Confusion” is a resource for pastors and church leaders that includes a theological framework and practical scenarios that will start (or continue) the conversation in your churches about how to serve those broken by the sexual revolution with the hope of the gospel.

Send me the guide

Gender confusion among the next generation

The rate of teenagers who identify as transgender has doubled in the United States according to one estimate. Nearly one-third of Generation Z (the youngest generation for which we have statistics) identify on the LGBT spectrum.

It may have (arguably) taken longer for the sexual revolution to reach our churches, but the time is long gone when we could assume it would pass us by completely.

Theological framework and practical scenarios to address gender confusion

That is why the ERLC gathered together a group of experts in theology, ethics, public policy, and law to think through how best to respond to this moment. Working together, they created a framework grounded in Scripture and shaped by theological categories faithful to the Baptist Faith & Message 2000.

We know that this is not just a thought experiment, so the ERLC also gathered pastors and ministry leaders who helped apply the framework to situations on the ground.

  • Most of us will not face a question about our theological anthropology and how it defines our understanding of the categories of male and female.
  • But, we may meet an individual who has adopted a new identity and has preferred pronouns.
  • So these pastors, ministry leaders, and subject-matter experts considered what to do in a number of scenarios drawn directly from questions posed to actual churches and pastors.

There will inevitably be questions you face that are not contained here, but this will give you a place to begin a conversation with your staff; not out of fear or a need to protect ourselves, but rather to ensure that we are ready to offer others an answer for the hope that is within us (1 Pet. 3:15), pointing them to the one who promises that there is a day when the brokenness of our body, our sense of self, and our own failed attempts to be God will be made right.

Send me the guide

By / Feb 15

NASHVILLE (BP) – The first season of the Ethics & Religious Liberty’s relaunched podcast primarily focuses on a highly requested topic, gender and sexuality.

Before launching the retooled podcast in the fall of 2023, the ERLC spent months conducting research and surveying Southern Baptists to learn which issues or questions were at the forefront for pastors and churches.

Lindsay Nicolet, ERLC editorial director and podcast host, said among the feedback received, “this set of issues (gender and sexuality) rises to the top.”

In a culture that has redefined marriage, thinks being male or female is something that can be changed and has no boundaries regarding sexuality, we want to equip you to be confident about what the Bible says and how to live that out.

Lindsay Nicolet

Read the full Baptist Press article here.

By / Jan 19

Within the scope of modern history, the year 1964 remains a seminal moment, due largely to the enactment of the Civil Rights Act, which fundamentally transformed the societal landscape of the United States. The Civil Rights Act of 1964, a landmark piece of civil rights legislation, sought to dismantle the entrenched structures of racial segregation and discrimination. The legislation also outlawed discrimination on other grounds other than race such as color, religion, sex, or national origin. But the language of the 1964 act, initially crafted to combat racial injustice, has been increasingly co-opted in the discourse surrounding Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity (SOGI) policies.

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 marked the culmination of a prolonged struggle for racial equality, led by figures like Martin Luther King Jr., whose receipt of the Nobel Peace Prize that same year symbolized global recognition of the moral legitimacy of the Civil Rights Movement. Over the next several decades after its passage, the law brought profound changes in American workplaces, schools, and public facilities, and served as a declaration of the intrinsic value and dignity of every individual.

Co-option of civil rights language by advocates of SOGI laws

SOGI is an initialism commonly used to refer to laws which would include sexual orientation and gender identity as protected classes under the law. For example, the SOGI legislation known as the Equality Act intends to expand the definition of “sex” to include “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” and would revise every title of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to add these categories as new protected classes in the federal code.

Such repurposing of civil rights terminology represents a significant deviation from the original purpose of the Civil Rights Act. Indeed, the ERLC believes this expansion of SOGI as a protected class represents the most significant threat to religious liberty ever considered in the United States Congress. Opposing the Equality Act has thus been among our topic public policy priorities since 2021.

SOGI laws discriminate against other groups

Including SOGI as protected classes would discriminate against everyone who holds the belief in distinct, complementary genders and that sexual activity outside of marriage is immoral. Applying civil rights language to SOGI advocacy would thus lead to infringement on religious beliefs as individuals and organizations would be forced to act contrary to their religious convictions.

We believe the extension of Civil Rights Act language to encompass SOGI issues is a misappropriation, as it shifts the focus from addressing a legitimate historical grievance—race-based discrimination—to advocating for matters of individual preference, such as sexual orientation and gender identity. Biologically, SOGI issues differ from immutable realities such as race or sex. Theologically, SOGI issues are different from the morally neutral category of national origin because they are condemned by both general and special revelation.

Amending the 1964 Civil Rights Act to add sexual orientation and gender identity as protected classes under federal civil rights law would curtail religious freedom protections, hinder the work of healthcare professionals and faith-based hospitals, undermine civil rights protections for women and girls, and ultimately steamroll the consciences of millions of Americans.

SOGI legislation would ignore the rights of women by effectively erasing the biological distinctions of male and female. Furthermore, girls’ and women’s sports would be forced to include biological men, setting an unfair and impossible standard. In all cases, women would be put in danger, potentially forced to share bathrooms, locker rooms, and other private spaces. 

Additionally, people of faith would have their religious freedom violated by being forced to affirm SOGI categories, directly violating their deeply held beliefs, or face consequences; whether it’s through their vocation as a healthcare worker who is forced to perform a gender-transition surgery, the leader of a Christian nonprofit organization that has to shut down because of refusing to adhere to SOGI categories, or the Christian couple denied a child in foster care because they will not affirm harmful gender ideologies.

Balancing rights and freedoms

A critical issue facing all levels of government—from local to federal— is finding a way to strike a balance between the rights of individuals identifying with various sexual orientations and gender identities and the religious freedoms of those holding traditional biblical views. The expansion of anti-discrimination laws to include SOGI is portrayed, in theory, as a reasonable and just accommodation. But in reality, SOGI laws have been used to overrule and marginalize the most fundamental rights of religious liberty. 

For instance, the legislation would explicitly curtail the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993. As mentioned, a consequence of this action would be forcing faith-based child welfare organizations to either abandon their deeply held religious beliefs or be shut down. States such as Colorado have already used SOGI laws in this way—and at a time when multiple societal crises increase the need for children services. Additionally, 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.

“The truth is, the Equality Act is not just a bad bill; it’s a dangerous one,” said Josh Wester. “ It does not represent a good faith effort to protect LGBT Americans from discrimination. It is, in fact, an effort to codify into law the progressive orthodoxy of the sexual revolution and to legally silence those who dissent.”

Upholding the original spirit of the Civil Rights Act

As we mark the 60th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, we should honor its foundational aim by protecting it from misappropriation. Allowing the act’s language to be changed to include SOGI would be a betrayal of the original spirit of the legislation as it would curtail discrimination against sex and religion and undermine both antidiscrimination protections for women and religious freedoms for all Americans.

SOGI laws erode foundational constitutional freedoms in its pursuit of fleeting cultural ideas. We must protect and preserve the core values of the Civil Rights Act in order to safeguard religious freedoms for all Americans. That is why the ERLC will continue to oppose the Equality Act and similar SOGI legislation introduced in Congress. We will continue to advocate for a public square solution that protects and upholds the dignity of all people regardless of how they identify and the rights of all, while ensuring that religiously motivated individuals and institutions are free to live and act according to their deeply held convictions.

By / Dec 28

On this last episode in our gender and sexuality series in The ERLC Podcast, we’re going to focus more on how pastors can address gender and sexuality. We discuss how they can shepherd their people to better understand the biblical sexual ethic and how to apply that to their daily lives. 

On The ERLC Podcast, our goal is to help you think biblically about today’s cultural issues. Throughout this series, we’ve been seeking biblical answers and practical wisdom to apply to questions of gender and sexuality swirling around in our culture, our churches, and in our hearts. It’s been a joy to explore these issues with you and spur one another on to hold fast to Christ and love our neighbors.

Joining us on today’s podcast to share how pastors can address gender and sexuality is Dr. Bart Barber and Matt McCullough.

Bart is the pastor of First Baptist Church of Farmersville, Texas and president of the Southern Baptist Convention. Bart has a B.A. from Baylor University in their University Scholars program, an M.Div. from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas, and a Ph.D. in Church History, also from Southwestern. 

You’ll also hear from Matt McCullough, pastor of Edgefield Church in Nashville, Tennessee. Before joining Edgefield, Matt helped to plant Trinity Church near Vanderbilt University and served as pastor there for 10 years. He completed a Ph.D. in American religious history. Matt and his wife are the parents of three boys.

As we discuss these important topics, you might have additional questions. We’d love to hear from you. Please e-mail us at [email protected] and let us know how you’re processing this conversation. 

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

By / Dec 20

Since its creation 12 years ago, the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) Unaccompanied Child (UAC) program has helped 410,000 children who have arrived at our borders without a parent or legal guardian by providing basic services and placing such children with foster families. Federal law provides that the ORR through the UAC program is responsible for “coordinating and implementing the care and placement,” “identifying a sufficient number of qualified individuals, entities, and facilities to house,” and “overseeing the infrastructure and personnel of facilities” as needed to ensure these children are placed in safe environments, free of exploitation. In November, the ORR released proposed rulemaking that both provided helpful updates and added concerning measures regarding abortion and “gender transitions” to ORR’s guidelines.

The ERLC responded to this proposal by submitting comments in response to the proposed rule, requesting that the ORR review and revise the rule and remove concerning elements that violated religious liberty protections, conscience rights, and endanger the preborn.

Southern Baptists have stated our desire to see meaningful government policy enacted that ensures clear borders and clear legal pathways while protecting the lives of children made in God’s image and worthy of protection and care. In the resolution “On Wisely Engaging Immigration” earlier this year, Southern Baptists committed to “urge our government to take swift and bold action to protect and prevent the exploitation of unaccompanied immigrant children arriving to the United States.” 

Beneficial proposals

The ORR states that under this proposed rule,

“ORR would be required to plan and provide care and services based on the individual needs of and focusing on the strengths of the unaccompanied child … these collaborative approaches to care provision allow for the recognition of each child’s specific needs and strengths while providing opportunities for unaccompanied children to become more empowered, resilient, and self-efficacious.”

This shows a shift toward a more individualized placement approach within the ORR, leading to better care and protection for these children who may have undergone trauma, abuse, or various other forms of neglect prior to arrival.

As we stated in our comments,

this proposed rule does much good in establishing stronger standards to ensure that these vulnerable children are not exploited and receive proper care. This proposed rule helpfully codifies many standards and practices established in the Flores settlement, individualizes assessment in placements to prioritize the best interest of the child, improves standards for placements that will assist in preventing trafficking, and increases legal representation for these unaccompanied children.

Three primary concerns

The ERLC flagged three primary types of concerns related to abortion, religious liberty, and “gender transition” issues.

Firstly, the ORR explicitly states that the office would continue to fund abortion-related travel for minors in the UAC program. While the ORR claims this is permissible under current appropriations law, the ERLC and pro-life advocacy partners have argued that it is not permissible, with the ERLC stating in the submitted comments:

As the ERLC has repeatedly advocated, abortion-related travel is inherently included as a prohibited measure under the Hyde Amendment since doing so subsidizes the abortion industry with federal funding. There is no meaningful argument the ORR can make to separate abortion from abortion-related travel, and this type of argument has not proven successful in circumventing other federal appropriations restrictions.

Additionally, the ORR does not make any attempt to retain conscience and other religious liberty protections for ORR staffers and foster care parents whose deeply held beliefs may be infringed upon as a result of these newly established guidelines. For example, ORR staffers and foster parents will likely be required to aid in ensuring unaccompanied minor children have access to abortion under the proposed rule. Although the rule states that the program is operated in compliance with the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), it is not specified how the agency actually intends to navigate conflict between this proposed rule and the religious liberty protections provided in RFRA.

Lastly, the ORR includes a provision whereby an unaccompanied child is able to request medical services “requiring heightened ORR involvement” and potentially requiring transport across state lines. While the rule does not specifically state “gender transition” procedures and prescriptions are included within this definition, it also does not specify which types of medical services would require such heightened ORR involvement. In keeping with a larger agenda of the Biden administration, it is clear that such language is intended to circumvent laws prohibiting such “gender transitions” in some states.

How does this issue affect Southern Baptists?

Thousands of Southern Baptists have fostered children, launched foster care organizations, and created ministries in their congregations to support the physical and financial needs of foster families. Additionally, congregations across the country have hosted training for foster families to ensure they are trauma informed and have all the knowledge and resources they need to be “safe and appropriate” placements for children in crisis.

Since these unaccompanied children will be placed into foster care, it’s likely this issue will directly affect the religious liberty of Southern Baptists faithfully living out our deeply held religious convictions.

As Southern Baptists, we believe that caring for the vulnerable, including unaccompanied children, is deeply connected to our faith, and we desire to see these children provided with proper care. The necessary and helpful work the ORR does should remain so without capitulating to an agenda that harms the very children we desire to see protected. We encourage fellow Southern Baptists to join us in praying that this rule is revised, for opportunities to equip and care for the foster families serving these children, and for God to continue to grant his wisdom to the staff members of the ORR in ensuring safe and protected environments for these children.