By / Jun 20

On April 17, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) released a proposed rule under HIPAA privacy laws to limit sharing of personal reproductive health information. This new rule establishes that healthcare providers and other related entities may violate HIPAA if they comply with investigations into illegal abortion and gender transition procedures.

On June 16, the ERLC filed public comments in opposition to the change. HHS is obligated to respond to each comment before finalizing the rule.

 What is HIPAA?

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) was passed to protect sensitive health information from disclosure without the patient’s consent. Covered entities, which includes most healthcare providers and insurance plans, are required to obey HIPAA privacy regulations or face heavy fines.

HIPAA generally limits use and disclosure of protected health information (PHI) unless the individual grants permission for their information to be communicated. Exceptions to these protections include court orders and imminent threats to personal health and safety.

How would this proposed rule change HIPAA regulations?

The proposed changes would enact further HIPAA restrictions that limit the disclosure of PHI related to reproductive healthcare. HHS’ rule would prohibit healthcare providers from giving investigators access to abortion-related information, as well as information regarding other reproductive issues.

The stated intention of this proposed rule is to counteract “criminal, civil, or administrative investigations or proceedings that chill access to lawful health care and full communication between individuals and health care providers.” By redefining the nature and scope of healthcare privacy protections, HHS is seeking to halt future investigations into illegal abortions, gender transition surgeries, and other dangerous procedures.

HHS also proposes several definitional changes to key HIPAA provisions that would transform the meaning and application of the law. Under the proposed reinterpretation of HIPAA,

  • Unborn children are explicitly excluded from HIPAA protections, as the rule redefines “person” to mean “a human being who is born alive.”
  • HIPAA governance over normal “public health activities” is moved to a category separate from “reproductive healthcare,” which includes abortion, contraception, fertility treatments, and gender transition procedures. This arbitrary distinction prohibits government investigations of illegal healthcare practices from gathering any information broadly related to reproductive health.
  • Abortion cannot be a basis for considering an individual to be abused, neglected, or endangered. Under this provision, domestic abusers could more easily access the health records of those they are abusing or even force a minor in their care to get an abortion, all without fear of legal reprisal.

Contrary to HHS’ statement, this rule fails to protect vulnerable women and children and punishes healthcare providers for complying with investigations into illegal abortions and related procedures. By limiting investigators’ access to reproductive health information, the rule overrides state abortion laws and protects those who commit criminal healthcare activities as well as abusers.

Why is this problematic?

HHS’ proposed change would significantly expand HIPAA protections to further restrict necessary access to reproductive health information. Under this rule, healthcare providers possessing PHI related or connected to reproductive healthcare cannot disclose prudent information to the entity seeking it. As the rule grants special legal protection to abortion-related information, thereby limiting investigator access, investigative bodies and even patients themselves will face difficult hurdles to obtain permission to share health data.

By restricting investigative access to relevant PHI, this regulation advances individual privacy at the high cost of overriding all health, safety, and criminal interests of the state.

For example, under the proposed rule, a medical provider in California could not cooperate with an investigation in Texas, where abortion is in violation of state law. Medical licensing boards would similarly be barred from investigating doctors in abortion legal states even if they have an administrative subpoena.

States with some abortion restrictions would likely bear the regulation’s greatest burdens. If a government entity or medical licensing body attempts to investigate an abortion clinic for violating state law, perhaps for performing late-term abortions deemed illegal in that state, the investigatory entity would be barred from accessing health information necessary to ensure patient safety and prosecute criminal abortion providers.

By elevating a right to privacy in the area of reproductive health, HHS is also creating a safe harbor for criminals and abusers.

If a medical provider or doctor assists with an abortion or gender transition surgery illegal under state law, they will be protected from criminal and civil investigations. Even domestic abusers would benefit from the regulation’s newfound protections, as healthcare providers could not report suspected child abusers or limit their access to their dependent’s sensitive health records if the finding of abuse is primarily evidenced by reproductive health information, directly conflicting with Congress’ intent in HIPPA.

As our comments stated, “The lives and well-being of vulnerable women and children are not expendable for the sake of the Department’s political agenda surrounding abortion. These survivors of abuse deserve full protection of the law and every possible measure must be allowed to ensure their safety.” 

HHS is also leveraging this regulation to improperly assert federal jurisdiction over abortion regulation. The Supreme Court ruled in Dobbs v. Jackson that the Constitution grants no federal right to abortion, instead leaving regulation to Congress and the states. But under this proposed regulation, the federal government overrides state-level restrictions to elevate abortion to a special, protected status. There is no rational basis to overrule state law when there is no federal right to abortion.

As we argued in our comments:

“By allowing federal employees to interpret state laws and give the presumption of invalidity of entire categories of state laws, the NPRM is in direct conflict with (the Supreme Court’s) ruling.  The Department’s directive allows federal bureaucrats to be both the judge and jury for how to interpret state law and to make decisions on when such laws should be followed or not.”

How has the ERLC responded?

The ERLC has submitted public comments expressing these concerns about the proposed rule and urging HHS to retract its changes to HIPAA privacy regulations. The ERLC will continue to monitor these changes and advocate for the protection of life and human dignity at all stages.

By / Mar 14

Until the end of World War II, Christian healthcare professionals faced few threats to their ability to practice their profession according to their sincerely held beliefs. Several reasons contributed to this cultural harmony, the most prominent of which is that most of the population identified nominally with the Christian faith. However, this began changing in the 1950s as peace and prosperity grew in the United States, and then it accelerated significantly in the 1960s with the introduction of the birth control pill and the subsequent sexual revolution. 

The sexual revolution brought an increasing demand for individual sexual autonomy, unmasking those subscribing to a pretended Christianity who voiced increasing petitions for sexual liberty. With advances in healthcare, such as safer anesthesia and wide-spectrum antibiotics, it was inevitable these demands would eventually include access to “safe” abortion. 

The 1973 U.S. Supreme Court Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion in all 50 states presented Christian healthcare professionals with a major challenge to their ability to practice medicine according to their sincerely held Christian beliefs. While it took time for some Christian denominations to formalize their opposition to abortion, countless healthcare professionals instinctively knew that destroying preborn life inside the uterus was against God’s law. 

Fortunately, several federal statutes protecting conscientious healthcare professionals from being forced into performing or referring for abortions were initially passed in the mid-70s and have been maintained in the following decades. These statutes included the Church Amendments, the Public Health Service Act or the Coats-Snowe Amendment and the Weldon Amendment. These provisions provided healthcare professionals and healthcare entities protection from being coerced into abortion provision by threatening the withdrawal of federal funding.

This is important, because enforcement of these provisions requires the action of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to investigate and initiate the withdrawal of federal funds. If HHS is inclined toward promoting abortion, they are less inclined to enforcement of these federal statutes. Just recently, the Biden administration has proposed a new rule that weakens the enforcement mechanisms available for HHS to investigate violations of these protections. 

The new problem posed by chemical abortions

With the approval of mifepristone (trade name mifeprex) by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in September 2000, the era of chemical abortion began in the U.S., adding a new threat to the conscience freedoms of Christian healthcare professionals. The initial prescribing and dispensing of mifepristone were highly regulated. Only certified physicians were able to prescribe the medication after an in-person evaluation of the patient, and they directly dispensed and administered the medications during those visits.

These initial safety precautions have been progressively relaxed over the last 22+ years, so that chemical abortion drugs are now available by virtual appointment and subsequent mail delivery. Recently, the FDA also relaxed its dispensing requirements, allowing certified pharmacies to dispense the potent drugs that cause chemical abortion. 

This exceptionally relaxed prescribing environment for such potent drugs has increased pressure on Christian healthcare professionals to not only prescribe but also dispense this tragic regimen. This increasingly hostile environment created by our secular culture forced Christian Medical & Dental Associations (CMDA) to turn to the courts to protect its members from these increasing threats to their ability to practice medicine according to their God-given conscience. For example, HHS initiated a rule change with profound consequences in 2016 under the Obama administration. They proposed and successfully changed the traditional definition of sex discrimination within what is known as section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) to include pregnancy and gender identity. 

CMDA immediately recognized the implications of this radical change, which meant that any member who refused to refer for or perform an abortion could be accused and found guilty of sex discrimination with its consequent penalties. Furthermore, the rule change could also force CMDA members to engage in the prescribing of puberty blockers and/or cross-sex hormones as well as conducting surgeries assisting a patient who desires to change their secondary sexual characteristics. 

This deceptively small but radical change in terminology changed the concept of discrimination from prejudice against a whole person, something CMDA adamantly opposes, to the refusal to engage in certain procedures. CMDA filed suit in federal court against this unjust attack upon the conscience freedoms of conscientious healthcare professionals. It took six years and several court decisions for us to finally achieve victory through the provision of a permanent injunction protecting CMDA’s current and future members against direct HHS action based on Section 1557. 

This protection comes just in time, as HHS recently used the new Section 1557 rule to demand that pharmacists across the country provide certain abortifacient drugs such as the morning-after pill. 

CMDA is thankful that our pharmacist members are now protected from this new HHS “guidance” and won’t have to worry about HHS attempts to enforce this regulation. While this legal protection is limited to current and future CMDA members because of how our legal system works, we mourn the overall increase in threats to the conscience freedoms of all conscientious healthcare professionals who seek to practice according to Hippocratic values. Healthcare is transitioning from being a profession practiced by highly trained, conscientious practitioners into training providers who acquiesce to the autonomous desires of patients without concern for their overall spiritual and emotional health.

While CMDA is extremely thankful for the current protection achieved by this recent court victory, we know it does not protect our members from all attacks against their conscience freedoms. Previous surveys of our membership have revealed that more than 90% are likely or very likely to leave the healthcare profession if they are put into a position of having to perform or refer for a procedure that they morally oppose. So, this is a battle not only for the souls of Christian healthcare professionals but also for the soul of healthcare itself. 

Let us not grow weary in doing good, but let us successfully recruit the next generation to continue to stand in the gap protecting traditional Christian principles in healthcare. Our culture and the dignity of every life deserves nothing less. 

By / Mar 7

On Jan. 5, 2023, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) issued a proposed rule that would rescind and modify much of a 2019 Trump-era rule that expanded conscience protections for healthcare providers. Following the announcement, HHS allowed 60 days for organizations and individuals to comment with concerns. As that comment period closed Monday, HHS is obligated to respond to each of these comments before putting forward a finalized rule. The ERLC filed comments outlining our opposition to the change.

What does this rule do?

At its most basic level, this action by HHS is an attempt to overturn the wide ranging and strongly enforced conscience protections issued under the Trump administration. In 2019, President Trump issued regulations that covered all HHS laws protecting conscience. These regulations were enjoined in three federal courts before being fully implemented. That litigation is now on hold as the plaintiffs wait for President Biden’s new regulations. Because of that enjoinment, HHS is currently operating under a 2011 Obama-era rule.

The 2019 regulations covered all HHS laws protecting conscience and had clear enforcement measures. This means that HHS was required to investigate complaints, and if a violation was found, to take appropriate action. There were clear remedies spelled out for violations and also clearly defined penalties. 

Significant changes: The new rule proposed by the Biden administration makes several significant changes. First, it should be noted that this new rule maintains recognition of all the conscience protections that were mentioned in the Trump administration law. However, where the 2019 regulations required enforcement and investigation, this new regulation does not. Further, it removes definitions of discrimination and explanation, which are necessary for those who wish to lodge a complaint. 

What it means: Thus, an individual may file a complaint that their conscience rights have been violated because they were, for example, forced to participate in a sex-reassignment surgery or an abortion procedure, but the Office of Civil Rights (OCR) within HHS is not required to actually act on that complaint and investigate. Further, because the definitions of discrimination have been gutted, individuals have a weaker case because they cannot point to specific ways in which they were targeted.

Why is it problematic?

The regulations were written under the guise of balancing the rights of conscience protection and those of ensuring access to “health care” (a euphemism for abortion access and SOGI procedures). 

The problem is that the new regulation does not balance so much as tilt the scales toward the preferred position of the Biden administration. If individuals have no ability to seek resolution or accommodation for a violation of their rights, then they are compelled to provide these services or leave their jobs. That is not balance.

If the Biden administration truly cares about balancing these rights (though they ought not be in tension), then it must recognize that there will be individuals and organizations who will choose not to participate in or provide the services mentioned above, even as others do. 

However, on a principle level, the actions of the Biden administration in issuing new HHS regulations overstep a fundamental limit of the authority of the government. We have long recognized as a society the rights of individuals to not violate their consciences by providing medical procedures that run afoul of historic and reasonable religious objections. Southern Baptists have rejected this sort of government coercion and spoken clearly in their resolutions, decrying the actions of a government seeking to trample the consciences of faithful Christians serving in healthcare industries.

How has the ERLC responded?

The ERLC has submitted public comments laying out these concerns with the proposed rule and urging HHS to reconsider making these changes. As the Baptist Faith and Message states, “God alone is Lord of the conscience.” It is imperative that Southern Baptists and other people of faith who work as healthcare professionals be allowed to continue serving their communities without compromising their deeply held beliefs.

The ERLC will continue to monitor these changes and look for additional opportunities to raise our concerns and advocate for the protection of religious liberty.

By / Jan 13

In this episode, Lindsay and Brent discuss the South Carolina Supreme Court striking down the state’s 6-week abortion ban. They also talk about the pro-life organization and the March for Life happening next week.

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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 9

My OBGYN, Dr. John Bruchalski, used to be an abortionist. When he was conducting his residency in Virginia, an attempted late-term abortion he was performing turned into an unexpected delivery. Under Virginia law, he was required to send that living, breathing baby, even at just 1 pound, 1 ounce, to the neonatology unit for care. With his training as an abortionist, he saw this botched abortion as a problem. The neonatologist saw things differently. 

When Dr. Bruchalski called her, she scolded him for treating the baby like a “cancerous tumor,” instead of the living human being that the baby was.1Dr. John Bruchalski: From Abortionist to Pro-Life Doctor, https://divinemercycare.org/abortionist-to-pro-life-doctor/.

How could two doctors’ approaches to healthcare be so different—no, not only different, but inherently antithetical? How does the abortionist’s “care,” which prematurely ends the life inside the womb, cohere with that of the neonatologist’s, which seeks to nurture the prematurely born to health?

Indeed, does it even make sense to call what both of these doctors do “healthcare”? Is healthcare anything a doctor does for a living? Or is the location important—is it anything done in a hospital or clinic? Is healthcare anything we call it, anything we want it to be? 

Our relativistic, secular culture may say so, but a theologically orthodox account of healthcare is morally important to uphold. Embedded in the words “health” and “healthcare” is the word “heal,” a word that has deep historical and biblical significance. 

A biblical understanding of healthcare

The Hippocratic Oath, which physicians have been guided by for more than 2,000 years, begins with a vow to the healer (ἰητρὸν) deity, along with a promise to “benefit my patients according to my greatest ability and judgment.”2Greek text: Hippocrates Collected Works I. Hippocrates. W. H. S. Jones. Cambridge. Harvard University Press. 1868; English text: Hippocratic Oath. Hippocrates. Michael North. National Library of Medicine. 2002; both are accessible via http://data.perseus.org/texts/urn:cts:greekLit:tlg0627.tlg013.perseus-eng3 Certain practices and disciplines are off-limits to health professionals: physicians vow to “do no harm or injustice” to their patients, and they vow not to “give a lethal drug to anyone [even] when asked,” nor provide an abortion (οὐδὲ γυναικὶ πεσσὸν φθόριον δώσω).3Ibid. From the beginning of the profession, there was a distinction drawn from practices intended to heal and those, like euthanasia and elective abortion, which were not.

Likewise, in the Bible, “healer” is one of the most common identifiers for Jesus, as well as the Father, Jehova Rapha, “the Lord Who Heals.” Biblical healing is always about restoration: sight to the blind, hearing to the deaf, and strength to the weak and crippled. In fact, the whole biblical story is about healing: of a fall that took place in our bodies, cursed our bodies, and ultimately of a healer who will restore us to our bodies in glory. Restoration is an affirmation of the goodness of God’s original creation and a sign of our ultimate destiny as human beings with God in eternity. When Jesus heals, he restores nature to its intended state of being (Rom. 8:19-21). 

This is what healthcare is: the practice of healing, the restoration of the body’s integrity and wholeness, a recognition of and reprieve from the curse of sin, which separates our bodies from our sense of self, and ourselves from God. Healing is a gift. 

However, there are many things, some even seemingly mundane, that our modern secular culture considers “healthcare” that do not qualify as such under this traditional historical and biblical definition. In most of these cases, healthcare providers’ innate compassion for the sufferer compels them to try to solve their problems through the use of surgery or medicine. But if the “healing” is not restorative of the body’s integrity and wholeness, we’ve made a mistake: we’ve assumed that our suffering can be solved by medicine, technology, and yes, so-called “healthcare.” But in reality our suffering is rooted in a deeper problem: our alienation from God, which has resulted in our alienation from our own bodies. 

As Christians, we are called to suffer and to suffer well. This is countercultural, especially in today’s world. By all means, we should make use of the gift of healthcare that God, in his mercy, has granted to us through the brilliant minds of the doctors and researchers and scientists that He has created. But when that so-called healthcare reaches beyond the bounds of healing, we must abstain, even if it means our suffering could be greater for it.

Abortion is not healthcare

Perhaps one of the most insidious and lethal tactics used by abortion proponents is the equation of abortion with healthcare. Elective abortion is not and never can be healthcare, because elective abortion is the willful destruction of a body—the unborn body.4I am distinguishing here between elective abortion (abortion performed not for medical reasons but simply upon the request of the woman) and other types of medical practices that are often called “abortion” or coded as such in medical settings. Miscarriage is also called “spontaneous abortion,” and sometimes requires the use of medical tools used in abortions to evacuate the uterus. This is not abortion. Similarly, ectopic pregnancy care is medically and morally distinct from elective abortion, as ectopic pregnancies are lethal for the baby and the mother. For more on the difference between these legitimate medical practices and elective abortion, see the following: https://www.christianitytoday.com/news/2022/may/christian-ob-gyn-abortion-law-miscarriage-ectopic-pregnancy.html. Nothing with the explicit purpose of destroying the body can be considered healthcare. Indeed, the destruction of the body is antithetical to the true nature of reality: the biblical story of creation, fall, salvation, and glorification. The destruction of the body is satanic, in the most literal sense of the word: “the thief comes to steal, kill, and destroy”—this is what elective abortion is, no matter what our culture deigns to call it.5John 10:10

Regardless of one’s position or worldview, pregnant women, and especially pregnant women who do not wish to be pregnant, are deserving of compassion; as Dr. Bruchalski himself once told me, pregnancy and childbearing are affected by the curse of the Fall. As beautiful and miraculous as pregnancy is, it also comes with much pain and suffering, physically, mentally, and emotionally. But our compassion should not compel us to “solve” the pregnant woman’s suffering by killing the life inside of her womb. They are symbiotically connected, but they are separate human beings. They are two different patients deserving and in need of care. 

Not long after Dr. Bruchalski’s botched abortion attempt, a series of miraculous encounters transformed his life—and the lives of his future patients, born and preborn. He told his hospital he could no longer perform abortions, and eventually began what would become the largest pro-life obstetric and gynecological practice in the nation, Tepeyac OB/GYN. Dr. Bruchalski began practicing true healthcare: healthcare which recognized that there were two patients in the exam room upon which he was called to have compassion and care.6Dr. Bruchlski’s new book, Two Patients, details his conversion story and was released on October 11, 2022 via Ignatius Press: https://ignatius.com/two-patients-tpp/.

There are powerful historical, biblical, and moral arguments for insisting that abortion is not healthcare. But even more importantly, God has written his law into the hearts of every human being, “their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts sometimes accusing them.”7Romans 12:15 While we can take confidence in knowing the truth that abortion is not healthcare, ultimately we should be praying for those with whom we disagree: that God would trouble their hearts and reveal himself and the truth to them in a saving encounter, just as he did for Dr. Bruchalski.

View the latest issue of Light magazine here.

  • 1
    Dr. John Bruchalski: From Abortionist to Pro-Life Doctor, https://divinemercycare.org/abortionist-to-pro-life-doctor/.
  • 2
    Greek text: Hippocrates Collected Works I. Hippocrates. W. H. S. Jones. Cambridge. Harvard University Press. 1868; English text: Hippocratic Oath. Hippocrates. Michael North. National Library of Medicine. 2002; both are accessible via http://data.perseus.org/texts/urn:cts:greekLit:tlg0627.tlg013.perseus-eng3
  • 3
    Ibid.
  • 4
    I am distinguishing here between elective abortion (abortion performed not for medical reasons but simply upon the request of the woman) and other types of medical practices that are often called “abortion” or coded as such in medical settings. Miscarriage is also called “spontaneous abortion,” and sometimes requires the use of medical tools used in abortions to evacuate the uterus. This is not abortion. Similarly, ectopic pregnancy care is medically and morally distinct from elective abortion, as ectopic pregnancies are lethal for the baby and the mother. For more on the difference between these legitimate medical practices and elective abortion, see the following: https://www.christianitytoday.com/news/2022/may/christian-ob-gyn-abortion-law-miscarriage-ectopic-pregnancy.html.
  • 5
    John 10:10
  • 6
    Dr. Bruchlski’s new book, Two Patients, details his conversion story and was released on October 11, 2022 via Ignatius Press: https://ignatius.com/two-patients-tpp/.
  • 7
    Romans 12:15
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 27

My OBGYN, Dr. John Bruchalski, used to be an abortionist. When he was conducting his residency in Virginia, an attempted late-term abortion he was performing turned into an unexpected delivery. Under Virginia law, he was required to send that living, breathing baby, even at just 1 pound, 1 ounce, to the neonatology unit for care. With his training as an abortionist, he saw this botched abortion as a problem. The neonatologist saw things differently. 

When Dr. Bruchalski called her, she scolded him for treating the baby like a “cancerous tumor,” instead of the living human being that the baby was.1Dr. John Bruchalski: From Abortionist to Pro-Life Doctor, https://divinemercycare.org/abortionist-to-pro-life-doctor/.

How could two doctors’ approaches to healthcare be so different—no, not only different, but inherently antithetical? How does the abortionist’s “care,” which prematurely ends the life inside the womb, cohere with that of the neonatologist’s, which seeks to nurture the prematurely born to health?

Indeed, does it even make sense to call what both of these doctors do “healthcare”? Is healthcare anything a doctor does for a living? Or is the location important—is it anything done in a hospital or clinic? Is healthcare anything we call it, anything we want it to be? 

Our relativistic, secular culture may say so, but a theologically orthodox account of healthcare is morally important to uphold. Embedded in the words “health” and “healthcare” is the word “heal,” a word that has deep historical and biblical significance. 

A biblical understanding of healthcare

The Hippocratic Oath, which physicians have been guided by for more than 2,000 years, begins with a vow to the healer (ἰητρὸν) deity, along with a promise to “benefit my patients according to my greatest ability and judgment.”2Greek text: Hippocrates Collected Works I. Hippocrates. W. H. S. Jones. Cambridge. Harvard University Press. 1868; English text: Hippocratic Oath. Hippocrates. Michael North. National Library of Medicine. 2002; both are accessible via http://data.perseus.org/texts/urn:cts:greekLit:tlg0627.tlg013.perseus-eng3 Certain practices and disciplines are off-limits to health professionals: physicians vow to “do no harm or injustice” to their patients, and they vow not to “give a lethal drug to anyone [even] when asked,” nor provide an abortion (οὐδὲ γυναικὶ πεσσὸν φθόριον δώσω).3Ibid. From the beginning of the profession, there was a distinction drawn from practices intended to heal and those, like euthanasia and elective abortion, which were not.

Likewise, in the Bible, “healer” is one of the most common identifiers for Jesus, as well as the Father, Jehova Rapha, “the Lord Who Heals.” Biblical healing is always about restoration: sight to the blind, hearing to the deaf, and strength to the weak and crippled. In fact, the whole biblical story is about healing: of a fall that took place in our bodies, cursed our bodies, and ultimately of a healer who will restore us to our bodies in glory. Restoration is an affirmation of the goodness of God’s original creation and a sign of our ultimate destiny as human beings with God in eternity. When Jesus heals, he restores nature to its intended state of being (Rom. 8:19-21). 

This is what healthcare is: the practice of healing, the restoration of the body’s integrity and wholeness, a recognition of and reprieve from the curse of sin, which separates our bodies from our sense of self, and ourselves from God. Healing is a gift. 

However, there are many things, some even seemingly mundane, that our modern secular culture considers “healthcare” that do not qualify as such under this traditional historical and biblical definition. In most of these cases, healthcare providers’ innate compassion for the sufferer compels them to try to solve their problems through the use of surgery or medicine. But if the “healing” is not restorative of the body’s integrity and wholeness, we’ve made a mistake: we’ve assumed that our suffering can be solved by medicine, technology, and yes, so-called “healthcare.” But in reality our suffering is rooted in a deeper problem: our alienation from God, which has resulted in our alienation from our own bodies. 

As Christians, we are called to suffer and to suffer well. This is countercultural, especially in today’s world. By all means, we should make use of the gift of healthcare that God, in his mercy, has granted to us through the brilliant minds of the doctors and researchers and scientists that He has created. But when that so-called healthcare reaches beyond the bounds of healing, we must abstain, even if it means our suffering could be greater for it.

Abortion is not healthcare

Perhaps one of the most insidious and lethal tactics used by abortion proponents is the equation of abortion with healthcare. Elective abortion is not and never can be healthcare, because elective abortion is the willful destruction of a body—the unborn body.4I am distinguishing here between elective abortion (abortion performed not for medical reasons but simply upon the request of the woman) and other types of medical practices that are often called “abortion” or coded as such in medical settings. Miscarriage is also called “spontaneous abortion,” and sometimes requires the use of medical tools used in abortions to evacuate the uterus. This is not abortion. Similarly, ectopic pregnancy care is medically and morally distinct from elective abortion, as ectopic pregnancies are lethal for the baby and the mother. For more on the difference between these legitimate medical practices and elective abortion, see the following: https://www.christianitytoday.com/news/2022/may/christian-ob-gyn-abortion-law-miscarriage-ectopic-pregnancy.html.  Nothing with the explicit purpose of destroying the body can be considered healthcare. Indeed, the destruction of the body is antithetical to the true nature of reality: the biblical story of creation, fall, salvation, and glorification. The destruction of the body is satanic, in the most literal sense of the word: “the thief comes to steal, kill, and destroy”—this is what elective abortion is, no matter what our culture deigns to call it.5John 10:10

Regardless of one’s position or worldview, pregnant women, and especially pregnant women who do not wish to be pregnant, are deserving of compassion; as Dr. Bruchalski himself once told me, pregnancy and childbearing are affected by the curse of the Fall. As beautiful and miraculous as pregnancy is, it also comes with much pain and suffering, physically, mentally, and emotionally. But our compassion should not compel us to “solve” the pregnant woman’s suffering by killing the life inside of her womb. They are symbiotically connected, but they are separate human beings. They are two different patients deserving and in need of care. 

Not long after Dr. Bruchalski’s botched abortion attempt, a series of miraculous encounters transformed his life—and the lives of his future patients, born and preborn. He told his hospital he could no longer perform abortions, and eventually began what would become the largest pro-life obstetric and gynecological practice in the nation, Tepeyac OB/GYN. Dr. Bruchalski began practicing true healthcare: healthcare which recognized that there were two patients in the exam room upon which he was called to have compassion and care.6Dr. Bruchlski’s new book, Two Patients, details his conversion story and was released on October 11, 2022 via Ignatius Press: https://ignatius.com/two-patients-tpp/.

There are powerful historical, biblical, and moral arguments for insisting that abortion is not healthcare. But even more importantly, God has written his law into the hearts of every human being, “their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts sometimes accusing them.”7Romans 12:15 While we can take confidence in knowing the truth that abortion is not healthcare, ultimately we should be praying for those with whom we disagree: that God would trouble their hearts and reveal himself and the truth to them in a saving encounter, just as he did for Dr. Bruchalski.

  • 1
    Dr. John Bruchalski: From Abortionist to Pro-Life Doctor, https://divinemercycare.org/abortionist-to-pro-life-doctor/.
  • 2
    Greek text: Hippocrates Collected Works I. Hippocrates. W. H. S. Jones. Cambridge. Harvard University Press. 1868; English text: Hippocratic Oath. Hippocrates. Michael North. National Library of Medicine. 2002; both are accessible via http://data.perseus.org/texts/urn:cts:greekLit:tlg0627.tlg013.perseus-eng3
  • 3
    Ibid.
  • 4
    I am distinguishing here between elective abortion (abortion performed not for medical reasons but simply upon the request of the woman) and other types of medical practices that are often called “abortion” or coded as such in medical settings. Miscarriage is also called “spontaneous abortion,” and sometimes requires the use of medical tools used in abortions to evacuate the uterus. This is not abortion. Similarly, ectopic pregnancy care is medically and morally distinct from elective abortion, as ectopic pregnancies are lethal for the baby and the mother. For more on the difference between these legitimate medical practices and elective abortion, see the following: https://www.christianitytoday.com/news/2022/may/christian-ob-gyn-abortion-law-miscarriage-ectopic-pregnancy.html. 
  • 5
    John 10:10
  • 6
    Dr. Bruchlski’s new book, Two Patients, details his conversion story and was released on October 11, 2022 via Ignatius Press: https://ignatius.com/two-patients-tpp/.
  • 7
    Romans 12:15
By / Oct 5

On Aug. 4, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) issued a proposed rule that would significantly reinterpret the Affordable Care Act’s Section 1557 nondiscrimination provision by expanding the definition of “sex” to include sexual orientation, gender identity, and pregnancy-related conditions. Section 1557 of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) is a nondiscrimination provision that prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, age, or disability under any federally funded health program or activity, executive agency, or entity under Title I of the ACA.

Following the announcement, HHS allowed 60 days for organizations and individuals to comment with concerns. The ERLC submitted comments raising our concerns with the proposed rule. As that comment period closed Monday, HHS is obligated to respond to each of these comments before putting forward a finalized rule.

How has Section 1557 been interpreted historically?

During the Obama administration, new regulations expanded the scope of section 1557’s nondiscrimination policies by redefining “sex” to include sexual orientation, gender identity, and termination of pregnancy. The regulations raised a number of significant issues regarding religious liberty and freedom of conscience. For instance, physicians would be required to provide gender reassignment surgeries and administer hormones to facilitate gender reassignment, including to children. The regulations even required medical professionals to perform abortions in violation of their deeply held convictions.

In response to these new regulations, five states and three private healthcare providers filed suit to challenge the final rules. In Franciscan Alliance v. Burwell (2016), a federal district court held that HHS erroneously interpreted “sex” under Title IX and that the final rule was arbitrary and capricious, while Title IX “unambiguously refers to the biological and anatomical differences between male and female students as determined at their birth.” The court further ruled that the final rule’s failure to include religious exemptions likely violated the Religious Freedom and Restoration Act (RFRA) and the Administrative Procedure Act (APA).

In 2020, the Trump administration finalized a rule reversing the Obama administration’s regulations on Section 1557 and narrowing the definition of “sex.” Days after the final rule was issued, the Supreme Court handed down a 6-3 ruling in Bostock v. Clayton County that expanded the definition of “sex” to include “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” for the purposes of employment discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. This year, the Biden administration reversed the 2020 rule, then reinstated and expanded the Obama administration’s 2016 rule using the Bostock decision as a justification for its redefinition of “sex.”

Why is this change problematic?

While HHS allegedly plans to comply with the Religious Freedom Restoration Act and all applicable court orders involving section 1557 regulations, it is unclear what this proposed rule means for religious healthcare professionals and insurance providers. Medical professionals and providers could be forced to administer or cover gender reassignment treatments if they provide the same underlying treatments for other conditions, regardless of their objections to the treatment for religious or moral reasons. That is, if a physician performs hysterectomies for cancer patients or hormone therapy for patients with hormone imbalances, HHS may force that doctor to administer those same treatments for patients seeking gender reassignments.

This rule also expands the legal definition of “sex” to include “pregnancy-related conditions”—a term that prohibits discrimination on the basis of “pregnancy, childbirth, termination of pregnancy, or lactation.” While the exact implications of this expansive terminology are still unclear, advocates are concerned that the administration could again weaponize the “termination of pregnancy” language to mandate healthcare providers and other organizations to include abortions and abortifacents in their plans. The government should never fund abortions nor force healthcare professionals to violate their dearly held pro-life convictions. Pro-life appropriations riders such as the Hyde, Weldon, and Church amendments should always be included in the annual budgetary process and strictly followed by executive agencies like HHS.

How has the ERLC responded?

The ERLC has submitted public comments laying out our concerns with the proposed rule and urging them to reconsider making these changes. This proposed rule would have deeply concerning ramifications for life, religious liberty, and the good of our neighbors if enacted. As ERLC’s Jason Thacker said when the proposed rule was introduced, “No matter how quickly our society shifts on the fundamental issues of life and human sexuality, people of faith should not be forced to participate in or promote the myth that we can create our own realities outside of God’s good design for human sexuality and flourishing,” The ERLC will continue to monitor these changes and look for additional opportunities to raise our concerns and advocate for the recognition of God’s good design for biological sex and for the protection of religious liberty.

By / Feb 1

Down Ukrainian roads, cloaked in the golden hues of the vibrant but short-lived autumn, comes help and hope. A caravan of cars following a yellow panel van borrowed from a church carries suitcases and plastic tubs filled with medical supplies. A mission team, including healthcare professionals from both Ukraine and the U.S., prepares each day for the hours of work ahead, sometimes catching a needed nap on the journey to or from the day’s location.

The caravan of hope is part of an ongoing medical ministry of IMB teams in Ukraine to bring care to underserved communities. The need for medical care in eastern regions has been critical since violence began in 2014, part of the Russo-Ukrainian war, now considered a “frozen conflict.” After the height of the crisis, many local businesses, including clinics and hospitals, closed, leaving residents who have stayed with little or no access to medical attention.

This particular team is a unique group, a last-minute replacement for a team of volunteers that could not travel due to COVID-19 restrictions. The team is made of IMB missionaries, a Ukrainian doctor, a retired nurse, a volunteer paramedic and Ukrainian believers. When Ukrainian partners aren’t serving as interpreters, they fill in at an eye-glass station or make-shift pharmacy. 

In one church that hosted a clinic, chairs from a simple choir loft soon become a triage unit. Pews are unbolted from the floor to make room for tables where Svieta, a Ukrainian doctor, and Harrison Martin*, an IMB Journeyman nurse practitioner, will meet with patients. Women from the church work in a small kitchen adjacent to the sanctuary to prepare food for the mission team. A breakfast of tomatoes, potatoes, beet salad, crepes, and bread is waiting when the team arrives. Smells from the multi-course meal that will be served at lunch already waft through the small building.

IMB missionary Jack Gibbs* explains that the mobile clinics are a partnership between churches in the U.S. and in Ukraine. They are funded through Send Relief and through gifts given to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering®. Gibbs organizes the trips with local pastors and Ukrainian ministry partners, following the guidance of local governments.

For the least of these

Medical clinics give access to entire villages, Gibbs explains. 

“It’s amazing that a one-day clinic can give access to a local evangelist or church planter for years to come.” 

After each clinic, Gibbs gives the local host pastor the registration cards completed by visitors to the clinic. 

“These are people in your community who need care and the gospel. We will pray for you as you minister here,” Gibbs tells local pastors.

Dennis, his stained hands revealing work in the coal mines, comes with an eye infection, probably caused by coal dust. He leaves with antibiotic eye drops, vitamins and blood pressure medicine, provided through the generosity of Southern Baptists. These things would otherwise be very expensive for Dennis, if available at all in his region.

Nine-year-old Timothy comes with his father. Timothy has an abscess on his throat. Martin is able to lance and clean the wound. An old sofa in the corner of the church replaces a sterile medical table Martin would use in the U.S. But Timothy still receives the care he needs, plus a children’s Bible and stuffed tiger, and even comes to the team’s hotel the next morning for a follow-up visit.

Many senior citizens come with diabetes and high blood pressure. Parents bring children for well-child check-ups and allergies. All receive kindness and care and the love of Christ. At the end of the week, the team knows of six people who have chosen to follow Christ. One woman cries as she leaves the pharmacy, saying that she has never been treated with so much kindness by doctors.

Beauty of partnership

Vlad, a Ukrainian ministry partner who Gibbs calls “one of his very best friends,” says that people in the areas where they serve have little access to doctors or pharmacies. Some must travel more than two hours to find a clinic, if they have money for transportation. The clinics that come to them are welcomed.

Vlad is a former professional soccer player who now coaches soccer and teaches English, in addition to his ministry beside IMB missionaries. On clinic days, he translates, shares the gospel, entertains children, and fills in where needed. His stoic demeanor hides his tender heart for God and others. 

He shares the gospel that transformed his own life — a message he received when he heard a mission team leading a soccer camp in his community. He connected with Christians over his beloved sport and met his beloved Savior. 

“This is my family,” Vlad says of the IMB missionaries and Christian friends he’s met in his ministry. “We’ve done so many things together since 2012.” 

He recognizes that those who come to the clinics need more than physical care. “God is my Father; God is my direction. He is merciful and He is love. And He can be your best friend,” he shares in his testimony.

Vlad was one of the first workers to meet Ludmila, age 66. As she waited in a line of chairs against the small church sanctuary wall to have her blood pressure checked, Vlad asked her if she knew Jesus.  She explained that she was shy, too afraid to pray to receive Jesus, though she understood her need. Vlad asked the pastor of the hosting church to pray with him for Ludmila. As she went through the medical stations — first to the nurse for a temperature and blood pressure check, then to speak with the doctor, then to the table in the back corner of the sanctuary serving as a pharmacy — she felt her need for Jesus grow. When Vlad approached her again, she was ready. She followed Vlad and the pastor to the choir loft for space to kneel, pray, and accept Christ’s gift of eternal life. 

“She was so shy at the beginning, and then she was telling people about following Jesus as she was leaving!” Vlad recounts.

More relief must be sent

As Gibbs prays for more Send Relief teams to come to Ukraine, he also prays for a medical professional to join their team in a permanent missionary role to help facilitate the clinics and further the healthcare strategies in Ukraine. He sees evidence that God can use so many people if they are willing to serve.

“There’s so much need here. The medical needs give us an opportunity to come and to help, but at the same time we’re not going in to just meet just medical needs,” Gibbs says.

Gibbs, a church planter without medical training, believes that healthcare strategies are one of the greatest ways to engage adults with the gospel. As he leads the teams, he witnesses God work in and through team members, just as God works in the lives of those in need of care. 

“The Lord is gracious and anytime His children are walking in what He has laid out for them, you’re going to see amazing things. Things you can’t imagine. And God does those things and it’s amazing to be a part of it.”

Discover now how you or your church can serve through Send Relief and IMB healthcare strategies.

*The Lottie Moon Christmas Offering® is a registered trademark of Woman’s Missionary Union.

By / Sep 10

On Thursday, President Biden took the step of expanding the list of workers who would be required to receive a COVID-19 vaccine or submitting to regular testing. His announcement follows the recent decision to mandate that all federal employees receive the vaccine or face possible disciplinary action. These changes reflect a shift from the previous posture of the administration against federal vaccine mandates. While it is possible for individuals in private workplaces to opt out of a vaccine if they are tested regularly, this regulation does reflect a more aggressive posture by the administration to control the surge in cases of the delta variant that is sweeping the country.  

President Biden’s directive comes amid surging cases of the delta variant across the country, as well as new strains of the virus, lambda and mu. The rule will require all employers with more than 100 employees to ensure that their workers are vaccinated or submit to weekly testing. They also must provide paid time off for employees wishing to be vaccinated. The rule comes as many larger private employers are already implementing similar measures including CVS Health, Walmart, and Fox News. The rule faces legal challenges and has already faced opposition from state officials who claim this is an overreach of federal authority. Similarly, the rule will likely face implementation challenges as the vaccine and testing date from each employer will need to be stored and verified by OSHA for enforcement purposes. The penalties for noncompliance have not been released as of the time of publication.  

What does an OSHA temporary emergency standard mean?

The regulation will be drafted and implemented as part of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) of the Department of Labor. Established by President Richard Nixon in 1970, the agency’s mission is “to ensure safe and healthful working conditions for workers by setting and enforcing standards and by providing training, outreach, education, and assistance.” OSHA’s mandate covers most private and public sector employers, making the vaccine mandate announcement one of the most wide-reaching to date. 

The rule, issued as a temporary emergency standard, can be used when OSHA demonstrates that workers face a grave danger and that the rule will address that danger. Further, employers must have a reasonable chance of implementing the rule. These emergency standards would override existing state policies except in those states where there is an OSHA-approved state level agency. For those states, they would have a window of time to adopt a rule that is as effective as the federal standard. 

This is not the first time that OSHA has intervened in the COVID pandemic. In June of this year, they announced a rule requiring healthcare employers to provide protective equipment such as masks and gloves, ensure proper ventilation, and screen patients at risk for COVID. This emergency standard was limited to healthcare employers (because of the group’s high risk factors), though additional optional measures were disseminated for other industries such as manufacturing, retail, and food supply chains. 

How will this affect churches and religious organizations?

With the implementation of this standard, many churches will likely not be affected because they will not meet the requisite number of employees. There is a subset of churches who will meet the threshold and thus could face OSHA violation charges for not complying. Religious organizations such as Christian colleges and seminaries, as well as religious hospitals, will be more likely to be subject to the rule’s standards because of the size of the organization and the kinds of work that their employees perform.

Religious employers are subject to some oversight of OSHA depending on the kind of employment and jobs performed. Where the organization only employs individuals for religious services (a choir director, organist, clergy, etc.), they are not classified as an employer and therefore are not subject to OSHA oversight. However, where a religious employer employs a worker for secular purposes, they are subject to the rules set by OSHA. Examples of the latter would include a private hospital or school operated by a religious organization, administrative staff of the organization, or staff employed for commercial activity such as running a bakery. 

At the time of publication, the regulatory language is unavailable so it is unclear what type of medical or religious exemptions may be granted under this new OSHA standard concerning the COVID-19 vaccine. 

How should Christians think about this? 

While some have argued that widespread vaccine mandates infringe upon one’s religious freedom, Christians should be very judicious when making claims of religious liberty violations. As Jason Thacker recently wrote,

. . . it is important to remember that approaching questions about religious liberty claims is something of deep consequence. We must not allow or give support to mere personal or political preferences masquerading as religious liberty claims. Indeed, doing so is not only morally disingenuous but also can do long-term damage to the credibility of pastors, churches, and Christian institutions in our communities. At the same time, pastors should graciously and patiently consult with those seeking such exemptions or accommodations in order to determine whether the request is predicated on sincere religious grounds.

In a time of intense polarization and a continued public health crisis, we must remember that religious liberty is fundamental to the Christian faith and to American life. It is a right that our government is designed to recognize, respect, and uphold.

The ERLC has emphatically stated since the beginning of this public health challenge that government officials should opt for providing guidance over mandates, while at the same time seeking to uphold the free exercise of religion. Elected officials and local health experts should be actively partnering with pastors and churches to serve local communities as this pandemic rages on. Whether through vaccine drives or combating the widespread misinformation, community partnerships and respecting religious freedom instills more confidence within the faith community about efforts to combat the virus and protect our communities from its devastating effects.