By / Jan 30

Public policy advocacy is one of the primary ways that the ERLC fulfills its ministry in the public square. We recently released our 2023 Public Policy Agenda, which outlines more than three dozen policy issues that will shape our work in Washington, D.C., this year.

What will make advocacy challenging?

The first session of the 118th Congress is now underway, and it begins as the nation is grappling with war around the world, inflation at home, and deep division across our citizenry. This also begins a new era of divided government with a Democratic president, a narrow Democratic majority in the U.S. Senate, and a slim Republican majority in the House.

This dynamic ensures legislating and governing will be a difficult task, and that broadly speaking, only legislation with substantial bipartisan consensus will be able to pass both chambers and be signed by President Biden. Amidst these realities, the ERLC will work to advance and make progress on our public policy agenda in these divided times at the federal level.

Below is a sample of our policy priorities in the areas of religious liberty, sanctity of human life, family and marriage, and human dignity. Some of these issues have been a part of the ERLC’s public policy agenda for the last several years; other issues are new and a product of the political moment in which we find ourselves.

Religious Liberty

Oppose The Equality Act

There have been multiple pieces of legislation introduced in recent years which aim to, at their most extreme, codify the demands of the sexual revolution and radically reshape religious freedom in the United States. In February 2021, the House passed The Equality Act—a bill that would amend the 1964 Civil Rights Act to add sexual orientation and gender identity as protected classes under federal civil rights law. 

The bill 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.

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

We will continue to lead efforts to oppose the Equality Act and any similar legislation introduced this session. As we do so, we will advocate for a public square solution that protects and upholds the dignity of all people and their rights, while ensuring that religiously motivated individuals and institutions are free to live and act according to their deeply held convictions.

Support Conscience Protections for Healthcare Workers

No healthcare worker should have to compromise their deeply held beliefs in order to administer care. Now, both in a post-Roe world and as our country’s views on issues of sexuality and gender have shifted rapidly, healthcare providers are being increasingly mandated to participate in or provide insurance coverage for procedures and practices that conflict with their religiously informed consciences. 

The Conscience Protection Act provides conscience protections for Americans with religious or moral objections to health insurance that covers contraception methods.

We believe such legislation is critical to curb conscience abuses across the country. 

Additionally, the ERLC has submitted public comments on a number of regulatory actions from the Biden administration that further threaten the consciences of medical professionals. One such recent action to which the ERLC will be filing comments in opposition is the rescission of the Department of Health and Human Services’ Trump-era “Conscience Rule.”

The ERLC will continue to advocate for the protection of consciences in legislation and will oppose any regulatory actions that attempt to rescind similar protections in federal law.

Respond to the Decision in 303 Creative v. Elenis

In December 2022, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in this important religious liberty case. Lorie Smith, a creative professional who has created many kinds of custom websites for all types of people, refuses to use her “design skills and creativity to express messages that violate her deeply held religious convictions.” The state of Colorado views Smith’s work as a public accommodation. This would subject it to Colorado’s Anti-Discrimination Act, which prohibits discrimination, including refusal of service, against any protected class, including sexual orientation or gender identity. This puts Smith’s desire to run her business according to her beliefs in direct conflict with Colorado’s law. 

Though the results of this case will have ramifications for religious liberty, the primary issue centers on speech.

The central question before the court is “whether applying a public-accommodation law to compel an artist to speak or stay silent violates the free speech clause of the First Amendment.” A decision in this landmark case is expected this summer.

Continue the China International Religious Freedom Initiative

Over the past several years, the Chinese government has severely escalated its persecution of religious minorities, including Christians. Since April 2017, China has systematically detained more than one million Uyghur Muslims and placed them into “re-education camps” where they are prevented from engaging in their religious practices and subjected to physiological and, oftentimes, physical persecution.

The ERLC has grave concerns about the trajectory of China’s approach to Christians and other religious minorities and is committed to working with other nongovernmental organizations to direct both United States and international pressure towards alleviating their persecution.

In 2021, the Southern Baptist Convention was the first denomination to pass a resolution rightly calling what is happening to the Uyghur people a genocide. The ERLC has hosted events to highlight these atrocities, advocated for the genocide determination with both the Trump and Biden administrations, and worked for the passage of the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act. We will continue to be a voice for the persecuted in China.

Sanctity of Human Life

Protect Pro-life Riders in the Congressional Appropriations Process

Each year as we carefully analyze Congress’s appropriations bills, we work to ensure that historic pro-life riders are maintained and included. Pro-life amendments have been attached to appropriations bills as “riders” for years. For over 40 years, the Hyde Amendment has protected American consciences and been recognized by each Congress as they passed it into law through the appropriations process.

In 2022, we saw a serious threat to the Hyde Amendment, as the House abandoned its inclusion in appropriations legislation for the second time since it was enacted. It was ultimately a significant victory for these riders to be included in the fiscal year 2023 appropriations package. An end to the Hyde Amendment is a major priority of groups that oppose our pro-life views.

We will work to preserve the Hyde Amendment not only because it prevents government-funded violence against preborn children but also because it prevents the government from coercing citizens to act against their consciences in the taxpayer incentivization of something we believe to be unjust. 

Other pro-life amendments include the Weldon Amendment, protecting the consciences of healthcare workers from discrimination on the basis of their refusal to provide, pay for, or refer women for abortion. The Siljander Amendment prohibits United States funds from being used to lobby for or against abortion. We will seek to ensure that we do not sacrifice other riders such as the Dornan Amendment, the Kemp-Kasten Amendment, the Dickey-Wicker Amendment, or the Helms Amendment at the expense of saving the Hyde Amendment.

All of these pro-life riders are important and must be protected.

Ending the Proliferation of Chemical Abortions

Chemical abortion (sometimes referred to as medication abortion or pharmaceutical abortion) is a method that uses an abortifacient to stimulate uterine contractions and end the pregnancy in a process similar to miscarriage. As surgical abortion procedures have declined, chemical abortions have risen, making up 53% of the total in 2020. As many states severely restricted or banned access to abortion following the Dobbs decision, it is likely that this number will continue rising. 

Because these drugs not only take the life of a preborn child but also pose serious threats to the women who take them, the ERLC has asked the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to categorize the abortion pill mifepristone, sold under the brand name Mifeprex, as an “imminent hazard to the public health.”

However, the FDA in 2021 moved to increase access by permanently allowing these abortion pills to be delivered by mail. In January of 2023, the FDA moved to allow local retail pharmacies to dispense these drugs in states where it is legal, furthering the accessibility of these life-taking drugs and putting more women and preborn children at risk.

The ERLC supports federal legislation such as the SAVE Moms and Babies Act that would begin to regulate this predatory industry.

Oppose the Women’s Health Protection Act

The Women’s Health Protection Act removes all restrictions and limits on abortion and allows for abortion up to the point of birth. Additionally, this bill removes all pro-life protections at the federal and state levels and eliminates a state’s ability to legislate on abortion. This bill also fails to protect the consciences of American taxpayers by utilizing taxpayer dollars to pay for abortions.

This bill was passed by the House of Representatives twice last year—the most pro-abortion bill to have passed the House—but did not receive a vote in the Senate. The ERLC and the pro-life community strongly opposed this bill and will continue to do so in the upcoming year.

Family and Marriage

Support Pro-Family Policy in a Post-Roe World

If the family is the most foundational unit of society, it is crucial that all aspects of federal policy provide a platform for families to thrive and flourish.

An essential aspect of our advocacy for life in this new, post-Roe world must be for policies that address financial insecurity and other key factors that drive women to seek abortions.

The ERLC will be advocating for policies that remedy marriage penalties, empower abortion-vulnerable women to choose life, and provide baseline levels of support for new parents. This is consistent with the 2022 SBC Resolution that urged a focus on “pro-life and pro-family policies that serve and support vulnerable women, children, and families” as we work to “eliminate any perceived need for the horror of abortion.”

Support the Adoptee Citizenship Act

Prior to the Child Citizenship Act of 2000, the administrative steps required of families adopting internationally were unnecessarily burdensome. The Child Citizenship Act of 2000 granted automatic citizenship to all foreign-born children brought to the United States who had at least one parent who was a United States citizen.

Unfortunately, that act only applied to adoptees under the age of 18 when the bill was enacted, leaving an entire population of adopted children without full U.S. citizenship. The Adoptee Citizenship Act closes the loophole to provide immediate citizenship to these children already adopted by U.S. citizens yet left out of the previous bill.

Ensure Intercountry Adoption Remains a Viable Option

In fiscal year 2021, only 1,785 children were welcomed into families through intercountry adoption. There has also been a decline in stateside adoption agencies facilitating intercountry adoption, narrowing the options for prospective parents. Many countries and cultures are becoming more open to domestic foster care and adoption, which is certainly good news and ought to be encouraged.

However, there are still millions of orphans worldwide waiting to be raised in a family where they are known and loved instead. Intercountry adoption must remain a viable option for welcoming children into homes, and we must do all we can to facilitate those adoptions.

The ERLC is working with like-minded partners and the U.S. Department of State to ensure that intercountry adoption remains a viable option for families and vulnerable children around the world.

Human Dignity

Support a Permanent Solution for Dreamers

After multiple attempts to rescind the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, litigation that went all the way to the Supreme Court, and new litigation that is likely headed back to the high court, those young immigrants who were brought to the United States by their parents remain in an unstable situation. These immigrants broke no law, and yet they remain without permanent legal status. Now young adults, these Dreamers—many of whom have families of their own with children who are U.S. citizens—are workers, students, and positive contributors to their communities.

At the same time, we continue to see record numbers of individuals seeking asylum at our southern border, creating a humanitarian crisis.

As part of desperately needed immigration reform, we will continue to work closely with Congress and the Biden administration to create a permanent legislative solution for our Dreamer neighbors that also addresses necessary border improvements. 

Support Further Criminal Justice Reform

Following on the heels of the historic First Step Act, which was passed at the end of 2018, the ERLC will continue to advocate for reforms that focus on transformation and rehabilitation.

Two such bills are the Recognizing Education, Employment, New Skills, and Treatment to Enable Reintegration Act (RE-ENTER Act) and the Eliminating a Quantifiably Unjust Application of the Law Act (EQUAL Act). The RE-ENTER Act allows eligible individuals with federal convictions to apply for a certificate of rehabilitation from a district court, attesting to a law-abiding future and a commitment to successful reintegration into society. 

Several states already issue such certificates, which have proven successful in aiding recipients with employment and housing—two factors necessary for successful reintegration. The EQUAL Act would remedy the disparity in federal sentencing for crack and powder cocaine related crimes. Over 40 states have already corrected this unjust, inconsistent practice.

Both of these bills have broad bipartisan support, and the ERLC will continue to advocate for their swift passage.

Rebuild the Refugee Resettlement Program

Though President Biden set an ambitious goal of resettling 125,000 refugees in fiscal year 2022, the United States only successfully resettled about 25,000 individuals. This is largely due to previous cuts to the program and to the network of nonprofits and community organizations that support refugee resettlement. For the last several years, the United States has not carried its share of the burden at a time of historically high levels of refugees and internally displaced people worldwide. 

These changes to the refugee resettlement program have had devastating effects on those who have been persecuted for their faith, particularly our brothers and sisters in Christ.

Additionally, a well-functioning refugee system is an important tool to relieve pressure at the U.S.-Mexico border, where asylum seekers have continued to come in record numbers. President Biden has again set a goal of resettling 125,000 refugees in fiscal year 2023.

The ERLC is working to ensure that resettlement agencies and churches working with these refugees are able to fully rebuild and welcome these vulnerable people well. We will continue to advocate for fully restoring the refugee resettlement program and America’s legacy as a beacon of hope to those fleeing persecution.

By / Jan 27

We didn’t need to see it. 

The sorrow expressed by law enforcement officials. The pleas from community leaders to not riot in response. The labels of “appalling” and “inhumane” used to describe the footage. All of these comments told us what we were about to see would be revolting.

They were right.

Video footage from the brutal beating of Tyre Nichols during a police confrontation is now public. It ought to sicken all who care about the city or work for racial unity or simply seek the wellbeing of our neighbors.

It now sits before us. Enraging us. Dispiriting us. Condemning us. Challenging us. Even questioning us: asking what we intend to do about such an act of brutality.

Memphis has been asking itself that for weeks. The city has been on edge waiting for this moment. Colleagues in Memphis have described the palpable tension in the air. A close friend has been worried about his hometown for the last several weeks.

Officials have been quick to act. Last week, the police chief fired the officers involved in Mr. Nichols’ death, and, yesterday, their arrests were announced. Each of them was charged with murder, along with several other crimes. The breadth of the charges was another sign of the appalling nature of what took place during the arrest. 

Some will read about this case and say we cannot jump to conclusions. Others, upon learning that the officers involved were Black, will feel relieved, thinking that at least the racial element of a white officer and an unarmed Black man is absent from this tragedy. Still, others will think they are too far removed from Memphis to spend much time thinking about this.

But if you see this footage, all of that will fade away as you view the sheer horror inflicted upon Tyre Nichols.

I am stirred to anger because another life has been lost in this way. That the officers happened to be Black serves as confirmation that this is a systemic problem in our justice system requiring real reform. The distance of this atrocity does not matter, because my faith places no geographic qualification on who is my neighbor (Luke 10). We should pray, in this instance, that evil will be exposed in the course of the investigation and punished (Rom. 13).

The result of our collective devaluing of life

But as with other tragedies, deeper reflection is required.

There will be unhelpful voices which call us to ignore this as a single case of bad apples, already dealt with by a system working as it should. There will be those who call for radical proposals such as eliminating the police and defunding them, a proposal that ignores the very real benefit that officers and government bring when they are doing their duty to promote order and protect citizens from evildoers. Both of these extremes must be avoided if we are to address the real problems at this moment. 

No, the real solution for this actually goes beyond law enforcement. It calls us to consider both the societal and individual results of a culture of death.

It should be abundantly clear to all that we have witnessed a devaluing of human life across our society in nearly every sector. 

A nation that has so easily eradicated the unborn for generations spawns a culture where a man can be pulverized to death mere yards from his home by those who should be there to serve and protect. 

A nation that separates children from their mothers in the name of border security creates a culture where security officials eagerly take on the role of executioner without thinking to involve the judge and jury in the equation.

A nation that views elderly life as discardable enables a culture where no one dares to intercede as a bludgeoned man cries out for his mother in his final moments.

We should resist the temptation to decouple any of these things. They are all connected because they reveal that we do not fully see, fully appreciate, or fully comprehend the awesome responsibilities we have toward one another because each of us is made in the image of God (Gen. 1). This principle spans across fields of occupation. The doctor, the educator, and, yes, the law enforcement officer all have as much responsibility as every pastor and minister to see the inherent dignity and value the immeasurable worth of every individual.

When we fail to do so, it leads to tragedies like this in Memphis.

But it is precisely because of this city that I have some optimism that real action will come from this moment. The faith community there is strong––and resilient. They’ve faced adversity like few cities. The ministers of the gospel there have been forged in the fires of previous tragedy. There’s a bond that ties together the churches and ministries in Shelby County that I have personally witnessed and worked alongside. If there is any community that can come back from the devastation of this video, it will be Memphis.

We should pray for this outcome. We desperately need an example of the Church shepherding a community and leading broken, sin-torn hearts to the suffering Savior. And we need leaders and activists responding with real reforms that bolster the police force and work toward safer neighborhoods. This will ensure the weighty calling of protecting a community begins with the vital foundation that every person has value and will be treated accordingly throughout our justice system.

I long for a day when we have moved beyond events like this. Where every individual feels respected and protected by every officer of the law. The evidence that our culture has moved to a better place will be that life itself is seen as invaluable throughout our society.

We all should long and plead that God would usher in that day, because repulsive and heartbreaking videos like this are almost too much to bear. The grief is so heavy. It shows that day is very far off indeed, and that now is a time for weeping. 

By / Jan 6

In this episode, Lindsay and Brent discuss the latest development with abortion pills, the ongoing deliberations regarding Speaker of the House, and Damar Hamlin’s terrifying collapse on the football field. They also talk about the latest issue of Light magazine. 

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  • Dobbs Resource Page | The release of the Dobbs decision marks a true turning point in the pro-life movement, a moment that Christians, advocates and many others have worked toward tirelessly for 50 years. Let us rejoice that we live in a nation where past injustices can still be corrected, as we also roll our sleeves up to save preborn lives, serve vulnerable mothers, and support families in our communities. To get more resources on this case, visit ERLC.com/Dobbs.
  • Sexual Ethics Resource Page | Do you ever feel overwhelmed by the constant stream of entertainment and messages that challenge the Bible’s teachings on sexual ethics? It often feels like we’re walking through uncharted territory. But no matter what we face in our ever-shifting culture, God’s design for human sexuality has never changed. The ERLC’s new sexual ethics resource page is full of helpful articles, videos, and explainers that will equip you to navigate these important issues with truth and grace. Get these free resources at ERLC.com/sexualethics.
By / Jan 3

The post-Roe world we live in is a fulfillment of the faithful work of pro-life advocates for 50 years. While there is certainly more work to be done to end abortion in all 50 states, it is a moment for celebration. Just as abortion existed before Roe v. Wade tragically made it legal, the pro-life movement faces an abortion industry committed to furthering a regime that ends life at all costs, with “abortion tourism” and the abortion pill making it easier than ever to evade bans and restrictions in the United States.

With that in mind, in addition to making abortion illegal, we must turn our focus to serving and supporting families. Messengers of the Southern Baptist Convention committed to “partnering with local, state, and federal governments to enact pro-life and pro-family policies that serve and support vulnerable women, children, and families” in order to “eliminate any perceived need for the horror of abortion,” during its annual meeting in June 2022.1 Our goal is not just for abortion to be illegal but for it to be viewed as an unthinkable act of cruelty by all of our neighbors and for our nation to truly embody a culture of life.

A scriptural foundation

God has spoken clearly throughout Scripture: Every human being is created in the image of God and possesses immeasurable dignity and worth; Every aspect of his design for human life in accordance with his will is good (Gen. 1:26-30). In the beginning, we see the institution of marriage—one man and one woman for life—as something that God creates for our good (Gen. 2). The married couple is then instructed to bear fruit and multiply as part of God’s plan for their flourishing (Gen 1:28; Ps. 127:3). 

The biblical framework for the nuclear family is a desirable end, and the good work of protecting and promoting the family in all its biblical forms is central to the ethic, life, and mission of the church. Local churches—and the parents, teachers, counselors, and foster care and adoptive families within them—walk alongside couples through difficult times, aid in the discipleship of their children, and help bring healing to broken families and hope to forgotten children. 

This pro-family work is invaluable and an essential part of our calling individually and collectively. Even as culture changes, Southern Baptists must remain committed to advancing a distinctly Christian vision for the family in the public square and safeguarding the integrity of this crucial biblical institution for the good of our neighbor.

Current realities

As a nation, our policies incentivize what we want more of and disincentivize what we want less of. The allocation of resources, as well as how we structure our tax code, reveal where our national priorities lie. Currently, many of our policies economically disincentivize marriage.2 Similarly, our laws make abortion incredibly less difficult and less expensive than adoption. According to Planned Parenthood, the cost of an abortion is generally less than $750.3 Meanwhile, the average cost of an adoption can run between $20,000–$50,000.4 Little has been done to combat the soaring costs of childcare, housing, food, and other necessities that greatly affect families. Due to inflation, it is estimated that raising a child through high school now costs approximately $300,000.5 Moreover, financial insecurity is cited by 73% of women who choose to have an abortion as the primary driver of their choice.6

For Christians, these realities should represent a sobering challenge. If we truly value life, family, and marriage, then we should advocate for laws that do the same, thereby making it easier for citizens of our country to choose these good things. While we will continue to work relentlessly through policy and law to make abortion illegal across the country, that simply is not enough. To create a culture of life, we must also redouble our efforts to holistically care for women and families in times of crisis and prioritize support for the flourishing of families. 

A vision for a pro-family world

As part of that commitment to bolstering the institution of the family, we should advocate for creative and responsible policies that remove unnecessary legal or economic roadblocks to marriage, ensure families—with an emphasis on abortion-vulnerable women—have the resources to parent their children, and promote full participation of both parents in the raising of children. Though the state can never be a replacement for the vital work of the church in supporting families, it is an important component that cannot be ignored (Rom. 13). 

In the post-Dobbs world, there has been growing support among lawmakers from both parties to do more to support women in crisis and families. Additionally, House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy indicated that if Republicans retook the House in November—which they did by a narrow margin—their pro-family framework would be a legislative priority.7 There is much to still be debated on which of these policies are best and which can find the necessary bipartisan support to become law, but it is encouraging that many members of Congress are beginning to recognize a need for programs that support families and are thinking creatively on how best to do that. 

As we consider these proposals, the ERLC will advocate for policy changes that strengthen families and marriages, promote the well-being of children, recognize the dignity of work, and wisely steward financial resources. To that end, we would strongly encourage lawmakers to develop policies in the following areas that would vastly improve the ability to raise a child and ensure families can flourish: 

  • Legislation that provides abortion-vulnerable women with information about all of their options and avenues for support, countering the false notion that abortion is their only choice. 
  • Policies that protect pregnant women in the workplace and allow them to safely continue providing for their families throughout pregnancy. 
  • Policies that bolster the important work of pregnancy resource centers and fund them to care for women in need. 
  • Policies that eliminate tax code discrimination against the traditional family and reduce the onerous tax burden on families with children. 
  • Strategic aid programs targeted to low-income mothers and families that stimulate economic stability and independence, sparking sustainable, communal financial growth trends while also ensuring that the necessary resources are available around the birth of a child. 
  • Adoption of policies that provide a baseline of security for new families to bond with their children without economic harm. 
  • Collaborative partnerships between civil society and government that bolster social support and increase excellence, availability, and affordability in maternal healthcare and childcare without trampling on conscience rights. 
  • And policies that make adoption more affordable and accessible. 

We long for a world where a woman experiencing an unplanned pregnancy would have such overwhelming support from her community, that she feels confident that she can keep and raise her child. We desire for our nation’s laws to incentivize family formation and prioritize using our resources to support families. Ultimately, we seek justice and flourishing for our neighbors so that they may see and seek the joy, fulfillment, and eternal life only found in Christ. Public policy that prioritizes the family serves that end and is an essential piece in creating a culture that truly values life.

View the latest issue of Light magazine here.

By / Dec 22

Marriage and the family unit were established by God at the very beginning of creation as the first institutions. Genesis 1 and 2 shows us how God fashioned man and woman in his image, brought them together as one flesh, and gave them the charge to be fruitful and multiply, or bear children. God works in many ways, but it’s through marriage and family that some of his greatest blessings abound to the world and bring about flourishing.

Because of the importance of these God-ordained institutions in preserving and prospering our society, the ERLC will continue to advocate for policies that maintain and protect these essential aspects of life together. God’s ways are for our good, whether or not our culture recognizes this to be true. While marriage and family will not be perfect in the midst of a fallen world, it’s our responsibility as Christians to continue to champion God’s design and see it upheld for the good of our neighbor. 

Sexual Ethics event

One of the ways the ERLC carried out this aspect of our mission this year was by devoting significant attention to sexual ethics. Specifically, we addressed this topic in the month of June because of its unavoidable cultural designation as “Pride Month.” 

Jason Thacker hosted an online event called, Discipling Your Church For a World in Sexual Crisis, which featured Andrew T. Walker, Dean Inserra, and Katie McCoy, and sought to equip churches and individuals to understand this current cultural moment and engage in these important discussions. In addition to this event, we featured much-needed resources on the topic of sexual ethics including:

House Passage of the Adoptee Citizenship Act

Another way we sought to promote the health of families was through legislation. Prior to the Child Citizenship Act of 2000, the administrative steps required of families adopting internationally were unnecessarily burdensome. The process included applying for and moving through a lengthy naturalization process for their children, in addition to the lengthy and costly adoption process. The Child Citizenship Act of 2000 granted automatic citizenship to all foreign-born children brought to the United States who had at least one parent who was a U.S. citizen. Unfortunately, that act only applied to adoptees under the age of 18 when the bill was enacted, leaving an entire population of adopted children without full U.S. citizenship. The Adoptee Citizenship Act closes the loophole to provide immediate citizenship to these children already adopted by U.S. citizens yet left out of the previous bill.

The ERLC has supported the Adoptee Citizenship Act for years. We have been engaged with a broad coalition invested in child welfare to urge members of Congress to swiftly pass this bill and secure permanent citizenship for the thousands of impacted adoptees. In March of 2021, the ERLC wrote a coalition letter to the House of Representatives urging them to swiftly pass this vital piece of legislation. 

In February of 2022, the House of Representatives passed H.R. 1953, the Adoptee Citizenship Act of 2021. An amended version of the bill passed the Senate, but the House disagreed with the Senate’s amendments and left the bill in limbo. The House’s bipartisan action on this bill is a promising first step, but we urge members of both houses of Congress to agree on legislative language and pass this crucial bill.

The Equality Act

One of the greatest legislative challenges the ERLC has engaged with is The Equality Act. In February 2021, the House passed The Equality Act (H.R. 5.)—a bill that would amend the 1964 Civil Rights Act to add sexual orientation and gender identity as protected classes under federal civil rights law. The bill 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.

The Equality Act would also gut the 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA). The removal of this act would force faith-based child welfare organizations to abandon their deeply held religious beliefs or be shut down by the state. The Equality Act would also force healthcare workers and pro-life healthcare providers to participate in and provide abortions. 

The ERLC has worked tirelessly to defeat this bill. We have partnered with a broad coalition of more than 85 faith-based nonprofits, religious entities, and institutions of higher education to highlight the dangers of H.R. 5. We have raised these concerns with members of Congress and the administration through coalition letters and countless meetings with members, administration officials, and their staff. We have also engaged in public advocacy against the bill by producing a suite of resources available on our website to inform Christians and the broader public about the pernicious threat of H.R. 5. 

We will continue to lead efforts to oppose the Equality Act and any similar legislation introduced this Congress. As we do so, we will advocate for a public square solution that protects and upholds the dignity of all people and their rights, while ensuring that religiously motivated individuals and institutions are free to live and act according to their deeply held convictions.

Advocacy against SOGI provisions

The ERLC has also spoken out against the Department of Education’s proposed changes to Title IX, which would expand the definition of “sex” to include “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” (SOGI). These dangerous federal guidances would allow biological men to participate in collegiate women’s sports and would penalize institutions that fail to expand the definition of sex to include SOGI. The ERLC submitted public comments urging the department to alter this proposed rule. 

In addition, the ERLC has also spoken out against the Department of Health and Human Services’ addition of sexual orientation and gender identity language to multiple nondiscrimination provisions of the Affordable Care Act. This rule would mandate gender-affirming care and would impede the work of healthcare professionals and faith-based hospitals. The ERLC submitted public comments to the HHS urging them to alter this proposed rule. 

In all of these challenges, the ERLC will continue to advocate for the recognition of God’s good design for biological sex and for the protection of religious liberty.

By / Dec 22

On Dec. 22, 2022,, the Senate passed the fiscal year 2023 omnibus appropriations bill. The bill received significant bipartisan support in the Senate and is expected to be quickly passed with slim bipartisan support in the House of Representatives before being sent to President Biden’s desk to become law. The bill averts a government shutdown and will fund the federal government through the end September 2023. 

The massive, nearly $1.7 trillion bill was over 4,000 pages long and has significant implications for issues of life, religious liberty, and human dignity. The ERLC communicated our concerns with previously released versions of the appropriations bills to Congress and was pleased to see many of these concerns resolved in the final package. In addition to providing our analysis on these proposals, the ERLC has also advocated for multiple immigration reforms, including the incorporation of legislation that would provide permanent protections for Afghans evacuated to the United States last year, a solution for Ukrainian refugees, and a permanent pathway for Dreamers, all of which should be matched with enhanced measures for our nation’s border security. We also advocated for legislation that would end a disparity in drug sentencing and would be a helpful reform to our nation’s criminal justice system.

What was included in the bill?

Though originally excluded from the proposed bills, the final spending package included the “Hyde-family” of riders. This includes:

Though the inclusion of these riders after their initial exclusion was a significant victory for life and conscience protection, the omnibus bill also included significant funding for domestic family planning programs and similar international funds like the United Nations Population Fund which funnel money into pro-abortion organizations. Though these riders keep money from funding the actual abortion procedure, these organizations can use government funding to cover all other operational costs. While we would like to see no funding go toward the predatory abortion industry, it is noteworthy that the final funding levels were significantly lower than originally proposed earlier this year.

Also included as amendments were two proposals known as the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act and the PUMP Act. Together, these bills provide substantial protections for pregnant and nursing mothers in the workplace. Though encouraged by the direction taken by the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act proposal, we believe it needed to be improved through amendments, such as the one proposed by Sen. James Lankford (R-OK), to create robust religious liberty protections, as well as ensure it excludes abortion as an available option for employees. Of note, an amendment offered by Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-LA) was adopted and included some helpful religious liberty safeguards. Ultimately, these proposals signal policymakers are proactively thinking through how to support mothers and families in the post-Roe moment. We believe this is best done in ways that protect preborn lives and bolster family formation, and policy development in this area will be a focus for the ERLC in coming legislative sessions.

Beyond these policies, there was a strong push for many more to be included in the omnibus package. It is worth noting that the Electoral Count Act was included. This bipartisan bill is largely a response to the Jan. 6, 2021 attack on the Capitol and seeks to revise and clarify the process of “casting and counting electoral votes for presidential elections” with specific attention given to the role of the vice president in certifying election results.

Harmful policies that were stopped 

We also want to draw attention to a number of harmful components from the originally proposed appropriations bills that, after significant advocacy work, were ultimately removed from the final package. Destructive policies were removed regarding funding for abortion tourism and requirements around leave for federal employees to obtain an abortion. Additionally, harmful language that would have prevented organizations who operate consistent with deeply held religious convictions—including adoption and foster care agencies—from receiving funding from HHS if they did not violate their consciences to provide services to same-sex couples was excluded from the final bill. 

Another piece from the original versions of the appropriations bills that was excluded was the expansion of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom’s (USCIRF) mission. As we argued in a letter sent this fall, “USCIRF is the only agency dedicated exclusively to the monitoring of and advocating for religious freedom. It has been this narrow scope that has allowed the Commission to be highly effective since its inception, even with a relatively small budget.” If USCIRF’s mandate had been unwisely widened in scope to include monitoring and working against laws and policies of foreign governments that “permit or condone discrimination against, or violations of human rights of, minority groups and other vulnerable communities on the basis of religion” as originally proposed, it would have significantly hindered the important work for people of all faiths of this vital institution. We consider these moves to be important policy wins for our convention of churches.

What else was excluded from the final package?

As we briefly mentioned above, two issues we had hoped to see Congress address through the omnibus bill were immigration and criminal justice reforms. Though we had advocated for the inclusion of both needed border security improvements as well as a permanent solution for “Dreamers,” negotiators ran out of time for a compromise to be included. 

We also advocated for a secure pathway to legal status for Afghan and Ukrainian evacuees who were brought to the United States using “humanitarian parole.” Though these vulnerable individuals are essentially refugees, they lack the pathway to permanent status given to those formally designated as refugees. Unfortunately, despite broad bipartisan support for the Afghan Adjustment Act, it was ultimately excluded from the final bill. 

From a human dignity perspective, we also had hoped to see the inclusion of the Eliminating a Quantifiably Unjust Application of the Law (EQUAL) Act in the final package. This bill, which passed the House of Representatives with a vote of 361-66 and has 11 Republican co-sponsors in the Senate, would eliminate a sentencing disparity that is especially harmful for Black Americans. This effort is a logical next step following the historic signing of the First Step Act under President Donald Trump. Southern Baptists have long believed drug abuse “erodes the physical, moral, and spiritual well being” of our neighbors and our nation. At the same time, we have consistently advocated for efforts that will bring about helpful reforms to our justice system, especially those that will reduce high incarceration rates. This proposal aligns with that call and, regrettably, was not included in the final version of the bill.

Each year the appropriations process presents an important opportunity for the ERLC to raise the concerns of Southern Baptists on issues of life, religious liberty, and human dignity. As this appropriations cycle ends only a short time before the next one begins, we will be ready to once again advocate on these important matters.

By / Nov 18

In this episode, Lindsay and Brent talk about Brent’s trip to Washington, D.C., and his productive meetings with lawmakers. They also discuss the Senate’s vote to move forward with the Respect for Marriage Act, the Republicans’ narrow victory to win the House, and Nancy Pelosi’s future. 

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  • Dobbs Resource Page | The release of the Dobbs decision marks a true turning point in the pro-life movement, a moment that Christians, advocates and many others have worked toward tirelessly for 50 years. Let us rejoice that we live in a nation where past injustices can still be corrected, as we also roll our sleeves up to save preborn lives, serve vulnerable mothers, and support families in our communities. To get more resources on this case, visit ERLC.com/Dobbs.
  • Sexual Ethics Resource Page | Do you ever feel overwhelmed by the constant stream of entertainment and messages that challenge the Bible’s teachings on sexual ethics? It often feels like we’re walking through uncharted territory. But no matter what we face in our ever-shifting culture, God’s design for human sexuality has never changed. The ERLC’s new sexual ethics resource page is full of helpful articles, videos, and explainers that will equip you to navigate these important issues with truth and grace. Get these free resources at ERLC.com/sexualethics.
By / Aug 6

This weekend, the Senate is delaying their long-awaited August recess to consider a major funding package. The Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) of 2022 is a smaller version of President Biden’s failed Build Back Better package that included over $2.4 trillion in new spending. The IRA introduces $485 billion in new spending on energy subsidies, stricter tax enforcement, and healthcare provisions, and the bill promises to reduce deficits by $305 billion through 2031. Senators will spend their weekend debating and amending this large omnibus package using a complex legislative tool known as “reconciliation.” As Christians seek to be well informed on the workings of our government, play an active role in our democracy, and ensure the well-being of our neighbors, it is important to more fully understand this complicated procedure.

What is the reconciliation process?

Normal legislative debate is guided by long-standing filibuster rules. The filibuster requires 60 votes to invoke cloture, a key vote that ends otherwise endless debate and blocks the offering of unrelated amendments. But legislation considered under the reconciliation process is not subject to filibuster rules. Instead, the Congressional Budget Act of 1974 automatically limits Senate debate to 20 hours, blocks germane amendments, and only requires a simple majority vote to advance a reconciliation package from the chamber. These adjusted rules empower a simple majority of senators to bypass legislative gridlock and fast-track legislation to the president’s desk.

Since the process’ inception, many landmark reconciliation packages have had major implications for federal spending and tax policy. Over almost 50 years, Congress and the president have enacted 22 reconciliation packages, including deficit reduction bills in the 1980s and 1990s, the Clinton welfare reform package in 1996, the Bush tax cuts in 2001 and 2003, the Obama Affordable Care Act amendments in 2010, the Trump tax cuts in 2017, and the American Rescue Plan supported by President Biden in 2021.

What is the Byrd Rule?

While the reconciliation process can be a useful tool to pass heavily partisan legislation, Senate rules strictly limit the scope and content of any reconciliation bills. A reconciliation directive known as the Byrd Rule instructs Congress to only consider budgetary provisions that modify federal spending, revenues, or the public debt limit. Typically, reconciliation only affects mandatory spending programs that do not require annual authorization: Medicare, Medicaid, SNAP, and federal civilian and military retirement. The Byrd Rule also specifically prohibits Congress from modifying Social Security programs.

Under the Byrd Rule’s complicated review process, often called a “Byrd bath,” any senator can raise a point of order to block “extraneous” provisions that fall outside the aforementioned budgetary categories. The non-partisan Senate parliamentarian interprets whether the provision is indeed incidental to the process’ budgetary purposes and can delete such extraneous provisions, called “Byrd droppings,” from the package.

For example, during Byrd bath review of the American Rescue Plan of 2021, an expansive COVID-19 relief package, the Senate parliamentarian struck down a proposed amendment to raise the federal minimum wage to $15 per hour, much to the consternation of Senate Democrats.

What is a “vote-a-rama”?

While the special reconciliation procedures limit the amount of debate, the rules do not restrict the number of amendments that can be offered on the Senate floor. Once the 20-hour debate limit has ended, any remaining amendments are considered with little to no debate—a process known as a “vote-a-rama.” 

Each party is allotted about 30 seconds to comment on the proposed amendment, then the entire body immediately votes on the amendment. Depending on the amount of amendments offered, a vote-a-rama can last for hours, even overnight. The IRA vote-a-rama is expected to begin Saturday evening and end sometime Sunday afternoon.

The minority party typically leverages this amendment process to force majority-party senators to stake out politically unpopular positions. Given that, viewers should expect Republicans to propose hundreds of amendments on climate policy, inflation, and immigration.

How is the ERLC involved?

The ERLC will be carefully tracking the proposed amendments to the reconciliation bill and are committed to ensuring that pro-life and religious liberty protections are maintained. We had deep concerns about the Build Back Better package that was negotiated at the end of last year. We will always defend life and conscience protections, and are grateful for the members of Congress that will offer amendments protecting the pre-born and American consciences.  

By / May 29

I confess that I find politics exhausting and discouraging in our current societal climate. Important differences can’t be debated without vilification and the worst kind of assumptions. People on opposite sides of the ideological spectrum don’t treat one another with respect, recognizing the inherent dignity in their opponents. And worse yet, Christians are some of the chief offenders. Far from salt and light, we often come off more like vinegar and cast unhelpful shadows, both of which can tempt me toward a hands-off approach. 

But withdrawal is not the right course of action. That’s because government—however fallen—is a gift from God (Romans 13). And Christian participation in the public square is essential. Not everyone will be gifted or called to be involved in the same way, but we all have a role to play as salt and light in our nation’s governance. We may be compelled to serve in public office, passionate about legislating policy matters, or just eager to cast a wise vote during our local, state, and national elections. Regardless of the degree of participation, individual Christians, through their distinct difference from the nonbeliever made possible by the Spirit, should serve as a preservative in our culture and a light that illuminates the goodness of God’s ways and character. 

Our latest issue of Light magazine serves as a measure of encouragement and a reminder of our call as Christians to seek the welfare and flourishing of those around us through the way we live, speak, and advocate. Authors like Katie Frugé and Josh Wester discuss how Scripture compels us to seek our neighbors’ good through involvement in the public square. Gov. Bill Lee of Tennessee, D.J. Jordan, and Alex Harris share wisdom about a Christian’s character in public service based on their experiences. And members of the ERLC’s staff provide a look at the various ways we advocate on behalf of Southern Baptists in accordance with God’s Word. 

I would encourage you to evaluate your own heart as you read this edition of Light magazine. Have you contributed to the vitriol we witness online? Do you regularly make assumptions about those you only interact with as an avatar? Are you apathetic to the idea that anything good can come from the public square? 

Politics isn’t everything, but it is something. It is not our hope as believers, but it is a tool God uses to allow us to serve our neighbors and to cultivate an environment where the gospel can freely go forth. Ultimately, Jesus—and the hope of the gospel—is the reason we go through the pains of participating in the public square. Only he can bring us the peace and satisfaction we often look for in the public square. And only he can usher in a kingdom that cannot be shaken or stained by sin. 

Lindsay Nicolet
Managing Editor, Light Magazine

By / Apr 26

The announcement of the death of former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright brought to my mind many very pleasant memories of my interactions with her during both her tenure as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations (1993-1997) and her service as Secretary of State (1997-2001). 

As you would imagine, we had substantive disagreements about many important issues, foreign and domestic. However, I always appreciated her deep and abiding love for America — her adopted country. 

Madeleine Albright’s personal story

Her personal story was a compelling one, a very American one. 

Her family had to flee Czechoslovakia in 1938 one step ahead of the Nazis. As a young girl, she experienced the Battle of Britain and the London Blitz along with her family. She had to flee persecution along with her family once again when the Communists took over Czechoslovakia in 1948. She spoke eloquently about her first glimpse of the Statue of Liberty as she entered New York harbor and she and her family were granted asylum in America.

She went on to a brilliant academic career and worked her way up to serving with the National Security Council and then the U.N. and the State Department. She was the first woman to serve as secretary of state and the second foreign-born secretary of state. (Henry Kissinger was the first.) I doubt there is another country in the world where a foreign-born asylum-seeker could ascend to a position as exalted as secretary of state. 

Secretary Albright understood down to her bone marrow the unique nature of her adopted country and how critically important American participation in the world was to the flourishing of freedom and human dignity. That conviction was underscored and reinforced when she discovered, as she was being vetted for secretary of state in 1997, that she and her family were actually Jewish, not Catholic, and that more than a score of her relatives were murdered in the Holocaust, including three of her grandparents. 

This life story gave Secretary Albright an existential understanding of the stakes of the world if America does not fulfill its responsibility to be a friend and champion of freedom and human dignity. Secretary Albright believed, as do I, in “American exceptionalism,” and that it is not a doctrine of pride and privilege, but one of service and sacrifice. 

Several years ago I was asked in a public debate, “What is your biblical evidence for American exceptionalism?” I replied, 

“To whom much is given, much is required. No nation or people have ever been as blessed as the citizens of the United States. A blessing by definition is undeserved. I believe we have an obligation to be the friend of freedom and the defender of human dignity whenever we are asked and whenever we can. We can’t address all the world’s ills, but when we can make a difference, we should.”

I know Secretary Albright agreed with that belief because I asked her. 

Friends of freedom, defenders of human dignity

I believe that we, as Christians, should prayerfully consider whether or not God has called some of us to serve in diplomatic roles, serving our government and the cause of peace and freedom at the same time. After all, Jesus told us, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God” (Matt. 5:9). 

As Christians, we should be willing to go to extraordinary lengths to bring about peaceful resolutions of conflict and pursue the good of our neighbors. As just war theory asserts, all “just” war must be defensive in nature. If all countries followed just war theory, there would be no wars. 

As we look back on the past 120 years, it is clear that war has become increasingly deadly, and with the advent of nuclear weapons, war has become capable of leading to a near-extinction level catastrophe. In such a world, diplomacy and peacemaking should be an extremely high priority. We should always remember Winston Churchhill’s observation, “Meeting jaw to jaw is better than war.”

One major bonus of American diplomacy being oriented to prioritize freedom and human liberty is that it makes the world a safer and safer place. If you start with the calendar year 1800 and search history from then until now it is extremely difficult to find instances where a government elected by the people and accountable to their own people goes to war with another country where the government is elected by and accountable to their own people. In fact, I can find only one instance where that arguably occurred — the American Civil War.

I said it was “arguably true,” because the U.S. federal government was elected by white males only (rather than “the people”). And the Confederate government was similarly elected by white males only, excluding not only white women but also 100% of the 3.5 million slaves (38.8% of the total Confederate population) held in bondage in the 11 states of the Confederacy.

The best conclusion to be drawn from these facts is that to the extent we can maximize democratic self-governing countries in the world, the more rare warfare will become. As President George W. Bush so succinctly put it in his second inaugural address in 2005:

“The best hope for peace in our world is the expansion of freedom in all the world.

America’s vital interests and our deepest beliefs are now one. From the day of our founding, we have proclaimed that every man and woman on this Earth has rights, and dignity and matchless value because they bear the image of the maker of heaven and Earth.

Across the generations, we have proclaimed the imperative of self-government, because no one is fit to be a master, and no one deserves to be a slave. Advancing these ideals is the mission that created our nation. It is the honorable achievement of our fathers. Now it is the urgent requirement of our nation’s security and the calling of our time.”

President Bush then immediately added this clarification: 

“And when the soul of a nation finally speaks, the institutions that arise may reflect customs and traditions very different from our own. America will not impose our own style of government on the unwilling. Our goal instead is to help others find their own voice, attain their own freedom and make their own way.”

I believe President Bush laid out in his second inaugural address, and Secretary Albright modeled for us, what is indeed “the calling of our time.” If we embrace this calling, through diplomatic means, we will leave behind a more peaceful, free, and just world to our children and our children’s children.