By / Feb 15

WASHINGTON, D.C., Feb. 15, 2024—Hannah Daniel, director of public policy for The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, applauds the U.S. House of Representatives for passing legislation Feb. 15 to “support the human rights of Uyghurs and members of other minority groups residing primarily in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region and safeguard their distinct identity, and for other purposes,” as stated in the Uyghur Policy Act. 

The ERLC recently announced its support for increased protections for the Uyghur People in China as a policy priority in its 2024 public policy agenda.

“Since the passage of the Uyghur Forced Labor Act in 2021, there has been little action in Congress to push back on the heinous actions of the Chinese Communist Party against the Uyghurs,” said Daniel. “We are pleased to see the House of Representatives take this strong, bipartisan step in passing the Uyghur Policy Act, which will mandate a higher prioritization of ending this genocide in the United States’ dealings with China. Southern Baptists have spoken clearly on this issue, and we now urge the Senate to swiftly pass this vital legislation.” 

In 2021, the Southern Baptist Convention became the first denomination to denounce China’s campaign against the Uyghurs as genocide and adopted a resolution at its annual meeting that condemned the Chinese Communist Party’s oppression primarily of Uyghur Muslims in a western region of the world’s most populous country. It also called for the U.S. government to take “concrete actions” to end the genocide.

The ERLC will continue to prioritize efforts to advocate against this ongoing genocide and urges the U.S. Senate to join the House in passing this legislation that would further protect this persecuted people group. 

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

To request an interview contact Elizabeth Bristow by email at [email protected] 

By / Jul 12

Does the ERLC support the 2023 Born Alive Act? Southern Baptists affirm that every human is created in the image of God. As stated in a 2022 resolution of the Southern Baptist Convention, the Bible “reveals that all human life is created in the image of God, and therefore sacred to our Creator.” Further, the convention’s Baptist Faith & Message affirms that “children, from the moment of conception, are a blessing and heritage from the Lord” and calls us to “speak on behalf of the unborn and contend for the sanctity of all human life from conception to natural death.” 

Current federal law lacks sufficient legal protection and medical provision for children who survive failed abortions. The Born-Alive Survivors Protection Act extends sufficient legal protection and medical provision to children who survive failed abortions. The bill would amend the federal criminal code to require any health care practitioner who is present when a child is born alive following an abortion or attempted abortion to, first, exercise the same degree of care as reasonably provided to any other child born alive at the same gestational age, and second, ensure that such a child is immediately admitted to a hospital.

Infanticide is a grotesque injustice. When a child is born alive, whether in a hospital, at home, or in an abortion clinic, any action taken to end that child’s life is and always ought to be considered murder. Babies born alive following an attempted abortion procedure are living human beings who should have the same access to every measure of medical care available to premature born babies through postnatal care units.

The ERLC is committed to defending the vulnerable at every stage of life. Withholding medical care from an infant who was born alive denies the human dignity affirmed to them by God. Such a callous dereliction of responsibility by both the legal system and medical profession also denies that child’s basic human right of life as guaranteed by the United States Constitution.

ERLC urges Congress to pass the 2023 Born Alive Act. Children have intrinsic value not defined by their power nor the whim of doctors, but by the image of God each one of them bears.

For more on what happened at the federal level after the 2022 Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization Supreme Court decision, read One year post-Roe by Hannah Daniel, ERLC policy manager. 

By / Jul 5

Recent reports of intensifying religious persecution in India have exposed the increasingly dire state of religious freedom and human rights within the country.

In a joint statement released by the White House on June 22, President Biden and Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced several new technology, defense, and research initiatives that are set to bolster the economic ties between the United States and India. The statement came during Modi’s recent visit to Washington, D.C., signaling the Biden administration’s clear intent to further pivot U.S. foreign relations in the Indo-Pacific by privileging the nation which now boasts the largest democracy in the world with a greatly expanded trade partnership. 

Undoubtedly, this announcement will come as welcome news to many who are excited by the prospect of establishing India as a more reliable supplier of semiconductors to the U.S. and as a more militarily-secure neighbor to the Chinese Communist Party. 

Alarming reports about religious persecution in India 

In its 2023 report on religious liberty in India, the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) recommended that Secretary of State Anthony Blinken designate India a “country of particular concern,” after finding increased instances of religious persecution in India against Muslims, Christians, and other religious minorities taking place on the “national, state, and local levels.” The report listed legal prohibitions against religious conversion as well as mob violence and sexual violence against religious minorities amongst the offenses observed by the commission. 

As such, it determined that India satisfies the International Religious Freedom Act’s definition of a country engaged in “systematic, ongoing, and egregious violations of religious freedom” and should face U.S. sanctions until these violations cease.  

According to a statistical analysis conducted by the Early Warning Project (EWP)—an operation of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum that works with publicly available data to identify social trends predictive of genocide—the religious violence in India has escalated so much in recent years that the nation currently ranks as the eighth most likely in the world to see a “new mass killing” over the next year. To understand just how real this looming threat of mass violence in India truly is, one need only look to the northeastern state of Manipur where, in just the last two months, mobs have burned down over 250 Christian churches in what some locals have reportedly described as a “state-sponsored pogrom.” 

The USCIRF and EWP reports both recognized the rise to power of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) within the Indian government since 2014 as the catalyst for much of this violence. The BJP is the party led by Modi that serves as the political embodiment of a radical Hindu nationalism which has become widespread in India. The party’s officials stand accused of intentionally stoking the fires of prejudice against the nation’s religious minorities and of working in tangent with extremist paramilitary groups committed to the formation of a true “Hindu state.” 

The U.S. response to religious persecution in India

Despite these alarming reports, the current administration has failed to act on USCIRF’s recommendation to designate Modi’s India as a “country of particular concern.” 

Modi was instead honored by the government with a state dinner and a congressional address during his recent visit to the U.S. capital. In his address to the nation’s lawmakers, Modi invoked the powerful memories of both Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr., insisting that India honors the legacies of these great men in that it demonstrates their shared democratic values of “equality and dignity” and is a “home to all faiths.” 

But with recent reports on the human rights abuses and the religious persecution currently transpiring in India, it seems unlikely that either Gandhi or King would recognize the brand of democracy and religious freedom found in Modi’s country today. And the Biden administration’s ongoing failure to officially acknowledge that reality by ignoring the appeal to designate India a “country of particular concern” spells only further dismay for India’s vulnerable religious minorities as the violent rhetoric and actions against them continue to intensify. 

Looking ahead

There is still hope that increased political pressure can move the current administration toward adopting the USCIRF recommendation. Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) took Modi’s visit as an opportunity to introduce a resolution into the House that calls Blinken to acknowledge and act on the USCIRF report’s findings. 

The introduction of this resolution, alongside increased advocacy efforts on behalf of the religious minorities in India, should send a clear message to the current administration. It is not acceptable for our government to ignore the cries of persecuted people or look away from grave human rights abuses in order to advance economic, environmental, or geopolitical goals.


More must be done to hold India accountable for its role in allowing and facilitating persecution and abuse against religious minorities. Southern Baptists have long believed that the state has no right to impose penalties for religious opinions of any kind and that the individual should be allowed to freely pursue the knowledge and love of God. The ERLC remains committed to advancing this position in the public square and will continue to advocate for the safety and freedom of religious minorities facing persecution in India and elsewhere.

By / Jun 27

Last week, the Equality Act was once again introduced into the House of Representatives and the Senate for consideration. This legislation intends to expand the definition of “sex” to include “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” (SOGI) and would revise every title of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to add these categories as new protected classes in the federal code. Last Congress, the Equality Act passed in the House, but the bill died in the Senate. 

The ERLC affirms the full dignity of every human being. At the 2018 Annual Meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention, the Messengers passed a resolution to “reaffirm the sacredness and full dignity and worthiness of respect and Christian love for every single human being, without any reservation.” But the Equality Act does not advance the cause of human dignity. 

If passed, the Equality Act would punish faith-based charities for their core religious beliefs about human dignity and marriage and would undermine decades of civil rights protections for women and girls. The alarmingly detrimental consequences of the bill pose a significant threat to the deeply held religious beliefs of millions of Americans who honor God’s design for sexuality.

What does this bill mean for religious liberty?

This bill would substantially undermine religious liberty protections in the United States. America has long been a place where people with different views and beliefs have lived at peace alongside each other. Though America has not perfectly lived up to this ideal of a shared nation, it was central to our founding as persecuted religious minorities sought safe harbor in this land. Though cleverly named, the Equality Act is out of step with that American ideal. Equality cannot be achieved while eliminating other basic, fundamental freedoms. Of particular note, the bill would essentially gut the 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), a bill which passed with broad bipartisan support and was signed by President Clinton.

By undermining RFRA, the Equality Act would force faith-based child welfare organizations to abandon their deeply held religious beliefs or be shut down by the state. The state-forced closures of such agencies is especially detrimental at a time when multiple crises—including the post-pandemic effects and the ongoing opioid epidemic—have led to increases in the number of children in need of services.

What does the bill mean for women and girls?

Most strikingly, the Equality Act undermines decades of hard fought civil rights protections for women and girls. Single gender spaces, such as locker rooms or shelters, would no longer be protected by law. This departure from a legal understanding of gender as male and female makes women and girls vulnerable to biological males being in their private spaces. For example, shelters for those women and girls escaping domestic abuse or homelessness would be forced to house biological men who identify as female. This legislation disregards the privacy and safety concerns women rightly have about sharing sleeping quarters and intimate facilities with the biological opposite sex.

Another example of the harm this legislation poses to women and girls is in athletics and academics. Since 1972, Title IX has advanced women’s sports and scholarship in remarkable ways. If enacted, the Equality Act would threaten female competition as both areas would then be open to biological males as well.

Are there pro-life concerns in the Equality Act?

Yes. The Equality Act would be the most pro-abortion bill ever passed by Congress. It would redefine the term “sex” to also include “pregnancy, childbirth, or a related medical condition.” This language would roll back federal law that protects the consciences of pro-life nurses and physicians who object to participating in abortions because of their deeply held religious or moral beliefs. These conscience protections carry decades of bipartisan consensus—a consensus that no person should be compelled to participate in an act they believe to be gravely immoral. The Equality Act would also jeopardize the longstanding Hyde Amendment that protects federal taxpayer dollars from funding abortion. There is nothing equalizing about forcing Americans to fund abortion through taxpayer dollars.

How has the ERLC been involved?

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 the Equality Act. 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 to inform Christians and the broader public about the pernicious threat of the so-called “Equality” Act.

What’s next?

In the prior Democrat-led House, the Equality Act passed 224-206, with three Republicans joining all 221 Democrats. In the 118th Congress, Republicans narrowly hold the majority seats, but the bill is unlikely to make it to the floor for a vote. Two of the three Republicans who voted in favor of the bill are no longer in Congress, which makes it even more difficult for Democrats to force a vote on the bill. Another obstacle is Speaker McCarthy’s commitment to unifying the Republican majority’s voice in the House to present a strong front before the American people. 

While it is unlikely the bill will be passed in this Congress, its continued appearance presents a larger, on-going threat to human dignity and religious liberty. The ERLC will continue to highlight how the Equality Act erodes fundamental freedoms and undermines the ability of Americans of diverse beliefs to work together for the common good.

By / Sep 8

For years, the Uyghur people living in the Xinjiang region of western China have endured brutality at the hands of the Chinese government. Many have been “subjected to reeducation camps, forced labor, and even forced sterilization in women.” In January 2021, “[then] Secretary of State Mike Pompeo made an official determination that the People’s Republic of China is ‘committing genocide and crimes against humanity in Xinjiang, China, for targeting Uyghur Muslims and members of other ethnic and religious minority groups.’” The Biden administration affirmed that determination shortly after.

On Aug. 31, the United Nations Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner followed suit by releasing a long-awaited report detailing the Chinese government’s “serious human rights violations” in Xinjiang. In the report, we find more of what we’ve known for years: the Chinese government’s actions include oppression, ethnic and religious persecution, and “may constitute crimes against humanity.” 

Recap

As the ERLC outlined in a previous article

Since 2017, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has waged a systemic campaign of oppression and persecution against Uyghur Muslims, a predominantly Turkic-speaking ethnic group. The geographic scope of the CCP’s campaign against Uyghurs is global, but primarily restricted to Xinjiang, China’s western-most territory, where Uyghurs have lived for centuries. Under the guise of national security, the CCP is seeking to “pacify” the region with totalitarian tactics like pervasive surveillance, thought control, ideological reeducation, forced birth control, and compulsory labor. Life for many Uyghurs is a living nightmare.

OHCHR report findings

The 48-page report is organized into eight sections, the bulk of which outline the extent by which the CCP’s crimes are being carried out. Under the guise of “countering terrorism and extemism,” as the report states, the Chinese government is actively subjecting those they deem to be “suspects” and “at risk persons” to “imprisonment and other deprivations of liberty” at facilities which the CCP conveniently refers to as “vocational education and training centres.” The conditions and treatment of the persons detained at these centers, as described by former detainees, are horrific. 

The report goes on to outline what it refers to as “other human rights concerns,” which includes the mistreatment of religious and ethnic minorities; a disregard for people’s right to privacy and freedom of movement through “extensive forms of intensive surveillance and control” by the CCP; violations of reproductive rights, including forced abortions and sterilizations; and forced labor. Further, the report sheds light on what it calls “family separations, enforced disappearances, intimidations, threats, and reprisals,” saying that “the widespread arbitrary deprivation of liberty of Uyghurs and other predominantly Muslim communities in XUAR, often shrouded in secrecy, has led to many families being separated and unaware of the whereabouts of their loved ones.” Victims of the CCP’s persecution and their relatives are routinely subjected to criticisms, intimidations, threats, and reprisals for speaking about their experiences in Xinjiang. 

Detention center conditions and treatment

Based on what we’ve learned about the CCP’s “systemic campaign of oppression and persecution against Uyghur Muslims,” the OHCHR report’s assessment of “adverse conditions and harsh treatment of detainees by the authorities in the VETC (Vocational Education and Training Centres) facilities” is sadly unsurprising. Of the former detainees who were interviewed for the report, two-thirds of them “reported having been subjected to treatment that would amount to torture and/or other forms of ill-treatment.” They describe “being beaten with batons, including electric batons; being subjected to interrogation with water being poured in their faces; prolonged solitary confinement; and being forced to sit motionless on small stools for prolonged periods of time.” They, likewise, describe being beaten, shackled, starved, deprived of sleep, forbidden from praying or otherwise practicing their religion, forbidden from speaking their native language, and being subjected to compulsory political indoctrination.

In addition, detainees report having pills and/or injections “administered regularly, as well as blood samples being regularly collected” during their detainment. Many endured sexual violence, including rape and forced nudity. Due to these harsh conditions and treatment, persistent health issues were prevalent, including psychological distress and “stress and anxiety.” Many people who were interviewed reported “long-term psychological consequences from their periods of confinement at VETC facilities, including feelings of trauma.”

OHCHR assessment and recommendations

The final section of the OHCHR report opens by saying, emphatically, that

Serious human rights violations have been committed in XUAR in the context of the Government’s application of counter-terrorism and counter-“extremism” strategies. The implementation of these strategies, and associated policies in XUAR has led to interlocking patterns of severe and undue restrictions on a wide range of human rights. These patterns of restrictions are characterized by a discriminatory component, as the underlying acts often directly or indirectly affect Uyghur and other predominantly Muslim communities.

After a lengthy list of items outlining its assessment, the OHCHR report proceeds to outline a list of recommendations, both to the government of China and to the international business community. Its recommendations to the Chinese government include:

  • The immediate release of “all individuals arbitrarily deprived of their liberty in XUAR, whether in VETCs, prisons or other detention facilities.”
  • A full review of the legal framework governing national security, counter-terrorism and minority rights in XUAR to ensure their compliance with binding international human rights law, and urgently repeal all discriminatory laws, policies and practices against Uyghur and other predominantly Muslim minorities in XUAR.
  • A prompt investigation into allegations of human rights violations in VETCs and other detention facilities, including allegations of torture, sexual violence, ill-treatment, forced medical treatment, as well as forced labour and reports of deaths in custody.

To the international business community, the OHCHR’s recommendations encourage a strengthened and concerted effort “to respect human rights across activities and business relationships,” to “strengthen human rights risk assessments,” and to “support efforts to strengthen the protection and promotion of human rights in the XUAR region.”

Upon the report’s publication, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken responded by saying, “The United States welcomes this important report, which describes authoritatively the appalling treatment and abuses of Uyghurs and members of other ethnic and religious minority groups by the government of the People’s Republic of China (PRC).” Furthermore, Blinken said, 

We will continue to work closely with our partners, civil society, and the international community to seek justice and accountability for the many victims.  We will continue to hold the PRC to account and call on the PRC to release those unjustly detained, account for those disappeared, and allow independent investigators full and unhindered access to Xinjiang, Tibet, and across the PRC.

How is the ERLC involved?

Over the past several years, the ERLC and Southern Baptist messengers have advocated extensively for Uyghurs and raised awareness for the plight they face. In fact, the Southern Baptist Convention “became the first Christian faith group to denounce China’s campaign against the Uyghurs as genocide” when, in June 2021, “messengers to the SBC’s annual meeting passed a resolution” condemning “the actions of the Chinese Communist Party against the Uyghur people.”

The ERLC remains resolved to “stand together with these people against the atrocities committed against them, to call upon the CCP to cease its program of genocide against the Uyghur people immediately, restore to them their full God-given rights, and put an end to their captivity and systematic persecution and abuse.” We will continue our work of advocating for the Uyghur people, “pray[ing] for [them] as they suffer under such persecution,” and praying for those who work to bring “the Uyghur people physical aid and the message of hope found in the gospel of Jesus Christ, so they can experience the freedom found only in Christ.” 

By / Sep 2

In this episode, Brent and Lindsay discuss the United Nations’ report on human rights violations in China, the rejection of the Transgender Mandate at a Federal Appeals Court, life in the digital age, and Yeshiva University’s appeal to SCOTUS regarding a potential religious liberty violation. They also celebrate the beginning of college football season. 

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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 terrority. 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 / Jul 21

In the hours following the historic Dobbs decision, which recognized that the states have the right to make laws regulating the practice of elective abortion, moral panic ensued. Almost immediately, pro-choice pundits took to social media and television news decrying the decision by the nation’s highest court and began to sew panic throughout our communities, claiming that the right to abortion represents much more than simply a woman’s ability to choose to end the life of the preborn baby within her.

This same idea was also pointed out by Justice Clarence Thomas in his solo concurring opinion in Dobbs where he stated, “In future cases, we should reconsider all of this Court’s substantive due process precedents, including Griswold, Lawrence, and Obergefell,” even as the majority disagreed with his assessment. The majority opinion in Dobbs sought to limit the scope of the decision simply to the practice of abortion and the overturning of the abortion precedents set by Roe and Casey. They stated, “Nothing in this opinion should be understood to cast doubt on precedents that do not concern abortion.” Whether one agrees or not with Justice Thomas’ rationale for reevaluating these past decisions, he rightfully pointed out what many on both sides of the debate have long acknowledged: that the right to an abortion was decided upon a tenous reading of the Constitution by the justices, being built upon a discovered right to privacy and a mantra of self-determination that dominates the modern era. 

The reality of this unstable foundation of a right to abortion was even acknowledged by Vice President Kamala Harris who noted in a Face the Nation interview that these protections were wrongly assumed to be secured by the court, never actually being codified by Congress.  As of this week, Congress is seeking to do just that. With the midterm elections in view, Democrats in the House of Representatives have moved beyond bills explicitly focused on abortion and now are looking to codify rights to same-sex marriage and contraception in the law. Though these bills will likely pass the House with bipartisan support, it’s unclear what outcomes they will face in the Senate.

The linchpin

Abortion on demand was a cultural fixture for nearly five decades in America but has always represented much more than simply the taking of a preborn life, since it became the linchpin for the wider sexual revolution rooted in self-determination and moral autonomy. Abortion became sacrosanct for many of our neighbors because it represented the longer trajectory of certain modern ideas that see the individual as the sole arbiter of truth and the “self” as the one who gets to ultimately determine the good for both the individual and society at large.

Abortion—along with the birth control pill—in many ways holds the modern project together since it represents a fundamental separation of our actions from their corresponding responsibilities and duties to others. Historian Carl Trueman makes this point in his recent book The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self by stating that in this cultural shift, sex became unmoored from the responsibilities and the “ideal of monogamous heterosexual marriage” which “has only recently become much easier to transact (with the advent of cheap and efficient contraception)” (38). In short, abortion and the pill allowed for more promiscuous sexual behavior without the fear of an unplanned pregnancy or the duties of a family. Modernity promised that one could have moral freedom void of the natural consequences and the corresponding responsibilities of our actions. This opened a whole new world of sexual freedom and moral autonomy that can be seen clearly in Griswold — which stated that the Constitution guaranteed the right of married couples to buy and use contraception without government restriction— and Roe all the way through the historic Obergefell v. Hodges decision which legalized same-sex marriage nationwide.

While it is important to recognize that not all who support abortion rights or contraception today buy into every tenet of sexual libertinism, we must remember that our culture of abortion is built upon the ideal of the individual. It is a rejection of the dignity of the most vulnerable among us and directly confronts God’s design not only for sexuality and marriage but also for the moral order. Many of the visceral and raw emotional reactions to the Dobbs ruling show just how sacred abortion has become to the modern moral order. Indeed, it is the banner of the modern reign of the individual. 

The revolt

In remarks after the Dobbs ruling, President Joe Biden said, “Roe recognized the fundamental right to privacy that has served as a basis for so many more rights that we’ve come to take for granted, that are ingrained in the fabric of this country” which includes “the right to make the best decisions for your health. The right to use birth control. A married couple in the privacy of their bedroom, for God’s sake. The right to marry the person you love.” In the coming days and weeks, we will see a litany of bills in Congress—namely in the Democratic-controlled House—and increased political fervor around these issues with midterm elections around the corner as many seek to retain the Roe-like individual freedoms in a post-Roe world. 

Abortion was never simply about abortion; it represents an entire way of viewing the social order through the lens of individualism and moral autonomy.

To the surprise of many, 47 Republicans voted alongside all Democrats in the House to codify marriage equality, which would repeal the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act that recognized the historic definition of marriage as a union between one man and one woman. The bill would also require all states to recognize same-sex marriages, as long as it was valid in the state in which it occurred. The “Respect for Marriage Act” is headed to the Senate, where Democrats will need 60 votes to overcome the filibuster and call for a vote. Another bill being considered in the House concerns the right to contraception, which includes possible abortifacients being mislabeled as birth control and “emergency contraception”, an alarming section that carves out conscience protections enshrined in the Religious Freedom Restoration Act––a law that protects our bedrock principle of religious liberty––as well as troubling language that could give the government authority to supersede the beliefs of religious employers. And in recent weeks, we have also seen the House approve bills designed to guarantee access to elective abortion for all

As Christians seek to navigate a culture reeling from the pains of rejecting the created order as well as the details of each of these bills, we must do so with eyes open to the reality of what is being revealed. Abortion was never simply about abortion; it represents an entire way of viewing the social order through the lens of individualism and moral autonomy. It is at the very heart of the modern project of crafting our own meanings and realities—“my truth”—based on our own feelings and desires rather than recognizing that meaning and truth is rooted in a transcendent order given by our Creator. While these particular bills may be primarily about politics in light of the upcoming election and a direct reaction to the words in Justice Thomas’ concurring opinion in Dobbs, Christians should take these votes seriously as major cultural shifts are happening throughout our culture. 

The coming days, weeks, and months will likely not be easy nor will the next steps always be clear. But one thing is clear for Christians, true freedom and happiness is never found in ourselves nor is it found in the pursuit of self-determination. It is found in a relationship with God as our Creator and by recognizing his good design for marriage and sexuality. Human beings simply were not created to bear the burden of crafting our own realities but were made by God to derive our meaning and identities from outside ourselves.

True freedom is found in the One who is not reeling in fear or surprised by our arrogance and pride. Our God is reigning over all people, nations, and even our governing institutions. Christians, from the place of hope and peace, must seek to love our God and love our neighbor as ourselves (Mark 12:30-31), recognizing that the sins of this age may seem novel at first but at their core are the same issues we have always dealt with in social ethics. Let us be found proclaiming the truth about our shared human nature and our created realities, while at the same time opening our arms to those who have been cast aside and left in the wake of a failed pursuit of individualism and the empty promises of moral autonomy from the sexual revolution.

By / Jul 5

On June 14, 2022, the New York Court of Appeals ruled in a 5-2 decision that Happy was not a human. Happy is a 51-year-old Asian elephant who has been kept at the Bronx Zoo for the past 45 years, having spent the previous 15 years in isolation in her enclosure due to a hostile relationship with other elephants at the zoo. The Nonhuman Rights Project representing Happy in the case contended Happy ought to be legally considered a person, thus possessing the ability to invoke habeas corpus which would free her from isolation at the zoo. The court, while acknowledging that “dialogue regarding the protection and welfare of nonhuman animals is an essential characteristic of our humanity,” ultimately disagreed with Happy’s defense, asserting that Happy is, in fact, only an elephant. 

There is certainly merit within the public square, and particularly among Christians, to deliberate and discuss how we can best care for creation and animal life. The first commandment God gave Adam in the Garden of Eden was to have dominion over the rest of what God created (Gen. 1:28), a responsibility characterized by cultivation and stewardship. Yet, this case, rather than demonstrating how best to care for creation, can serve as a warning to Christians who seek to define what is or is not a human being especially since this question strikes at the core of many of the most pressing social questions of our day.

Defining a human being 

Integral to The Nonhuman Rights Project’s argument to free Happy was the human-like qualities elephants possess. They asserted that “elephants are intelligent beings, who have the capacity for self-awareness, long-term memory, intentional communication, learning and problem-solving skills, empathy, and significant emotional response.” This appeal was unconvincing to the court because “the selective capacit[ies] for autonomy, intelligence, and emotion of a particular nonhuman animal species . . .  are not what makes a person.” They continued their disagreement by stating, “the right to liberty of humans because they are humans with certain fundamental liberty right recognized by law.” 

In these meager two sentences at the core of the court’s opinion, we find the crux of the matter: there is something more to being human than mere rational capacities, intelligence, or emotional capabilities. Even though the court rightfully never attempted to define what it means to be a person, their reticence to do so serves as an example of wisdom for Christians seeking to ensure human dignity for each person. 

Genesis 1 communicates that persons are different from the rest of creation because we are made in the imago Dei, or in the image of God (Gen. 1:26-27). Theories as to what the imago Dei might include range from having rational capacity, creative freedom, walking on two legs, or self awareness. Yet, these definitions fall into the same trap as The Nonhuman Rights Project—by ascribing what it means to be a person to a set of attributes, these potential definitions are both underinclusive and overinclusive. They are underinclusive in that some persons who do not have the defining capacity can be excluded; and overinclusive in that some non-persons possess certain capacities traditionally associated with humanity.

If the New York Court of Appeals had agreed with The Nonhuman Rights Project’s definition of what it means to be human, persons with mental disabilities, those who are preborn and newly born, and persons with cognitive diseases would have been excluded from personhood. Christians can fall into the same trap. Whether it be rational capacity, emotional capabilities, social disposition, or any other well-intentioned articulation of the principle found in Genesis 1, groups of persons who are made in the image of God will invariably be denied their dignity if one attempts to define the image of God. When this happens, we desecrate the image of God because we refuse to affirm it in others simply due to a lack of the specified quality we have come to value. Such patterns of thought disorder a Christian theological anthropology because it locates human dignity in an attribute rather than the status of the imago Dei that is the very root of what it means to be human. 

3 lessons from this case

While the Christian who is concerned for the inherent value of other beings can celebrate the court’s decision to unwittingly protect the rights of all persons regardless of ability, three lessons are to be gleaned from this case: 

1. The world is composed of human beings with a range of abilities and perspectives. Each of these persons is to be celebrated because they are created in the image of God and loved by him. Further, church communities ought to be constituted of persons of all abilities and all stages of life, as each person teaches and instructs us on the love, creativity, intelligence, and care of the Creator. 

2. Creation is marvelous. The fact that an elephant can possess all these traits similar to humans should be worthy of our praise to the Creator. Allowing ourselves to find wonder within creation permits even more opportunities to worship God. Such an ability found in a non-person in creation simply points to the creativity and intelligence of our Creator. Yet, even as amazing as creation is, let us not confuse an animal as what it means to be a person.

3. Christians valuing and advocating for every person’s inherent dignity ought to use this case as a clarion call for our vigilance in protecting the vulnerable. Theologically, we ought to use this case as a reminder to be cognizant of what it means to be a human being and what it means to be made in the image of God. Politically, this case should serve as a reminder to Christians in the public square to remain vigilant in our defense of others who have their human dignity threatened. Because all people are created in the image of God, the rules and laws governing our country should respect the inherent dignity of all persons. 

As we go forward, let us think carefully about our emotions, language, and actions. 

We can enjoy God’s kind gifts, such as amazing animals, without disrupting the value of each human being made in the image of God and abandoning God’s design for the created order. Sometimes, in our culture of confusion, events that might seem silly to some of us, such as the legal trial of an elephant at a zoo, can mount a significant challenge to what it means to be a person, and thus, what it means to be made in the image of God. Let us be a people who meet these temptations and challenges with the truth of God’s Word, a ready answer, and a commitment to uphold the special value God has bestowed on every human being. 

By / May 6

Which women in America get an abortion? The answer is more complicated than is often portrayed in the media or in online discussions. The women are indeed likely to be low income, but are also likely to be educated (and in graduate school). They are unmarried, but are also mothers. They are also likely to have already had an abortion, and to self-identify as Christian. 

As the end of Roe looks to be near ​​and the pro-life cause is moving into a new phase, Christians need to be more prepared to argue and serve based on facts and the shifting demographic realities. Here are some statistics that will help you gain a better understanding of the women in America who choose to have an abortion.

The majority of abortions are for women in their 20s.

Women in their 20s accounted for more than half of abortions (56.9%), according to a report by the Centers for Disease Control in 2019 (the last year that data was available). Women aged 20–24 and 25–29 years accounted for the highest percentages of abortions (27.6% and 29.3%, respectively) and had the highest abortion rates (19.0 and 18.6 abortions per 1,000 women aged 20–24 and 25–29 years, respectively). 

By contrast, adolescents aged <15 years and women aged ≥40 years accounted for the lowest percentages of abortions (0.2% and 3.7%, respectively) and had the lowest abortion rates (0.4 and 2.7 abortions per 1,000 women aged <15 and ≥40 years, respectively). Adolescents aged 18–19 years accounted for the majority (70.2%) of adolescent abortions and had the highest adolescent abortion rates (8.6 and 12.2 abortions per 1,000 adolescents aged 18 and 19 years, respectively).

Women of color have the most abortions.

Among the 30 areas that reported race by ethnicity data for 2019, non-Hispanic White women and non-Hispanic Black women accounted for the largest percentages of all abortions (33.4% and 38.4%, respectively), and Hispanic women and non-Hispanic women in the other race category accounted for smaller percentages (21.0% and 7.2%, respectively) 

Non-Hispanic White women had the lowest abortion rate (6.6 abortions per 1,000 women) and ratio (117 abortions per 1,000 live births), and non-Hispanic Black women had the highest abortion rate (23.8 abortions per 1,000 women) and ratio (386 abortions per 1,000 live births).

The majority of women who abort are unmarried.

Among the 42 areas that reported by marital status for 2019, 14.5% of women who obtained an abortion were married, and 85.5% were unmarried. The abortion ratio was 46 abortions per 1,000 live births for married women and 394 abortions per 1,000 live births for unmarried women.

The majority of women who abort are mothers.

Among the 45 areas that reported the number of previous live births for 2019, 40.2% of women had no previous child, 24.5% had one, 20.0% had two, 9.2% had three, and 6.0% had four or more children. In total, a significant majority of women who had an abortion (59.8%) had previously had a child. 

Almost half had more than one abortion.

Among the 44 areas that reported the number of previous induced abortions for 2019, the majority of women (58.2%) had previously had no abortions, 23.8% had previously had one abortion, 10.5% had previously had two abortions, and 7.5% had previously had three or more abortions. Altogether, 41.8% of women who had an abortion in 2019 had previously had at least one abortion. 

Most women who abort are educated.

Fewer than 1 in 10 women (9%) who had an abortion in 2014 of abortion patients aged 20 or older had less than a high school degree, while the overwhelming majority — 91% — had graduated from high school. More than 1 in 5 had a college degree, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a reproductive health research group that supports abortion rights  

Almost 1 in 4 (24%) of women who had an abortion in 2014 were currently attending school. That number includes 72% of minors and 53% of 18–19-year-olds. Only 14% of those currently in school had not graduated from high school. About 2 in 3 (66%) had some college or a college degree, suggesting, according to Guttmacher, “that most abortion patients who were students were pursuing postsecondary degrees.”

Most women who abort are low income.

Almost half (49%) reported having family incomes of less than 100% of the federal poverty level (equivalent to less than $21,720 for a family of 3 in 2020). But a majority were not in poverty. More than 1 in 4 (26%) had incomes that were 100–199% of the poverty threshold (between $21,720 and $43,223), while 1 in 4 (25%) had incomes of 200% or more of the poverty threshold ($43,440 or greater). 

Most women who abort identify as Christian.

More than 1 in 3 women surveyed (38%) did not identify with any religion. About 1 in 4 identified as Roman Catholic. About 17% identified as mainline Protestant while 13% identified as evangelical Protestant. Altogether, 54 of women who had an abortion identify with a Christian tradition. Another 8% identified with some other religion. 

As Christians grapple with this information, some of it surprising, one of the ways we can respond is by praying for wisdom in how to use it to care for women, proclaim forgiveness and redemption through Christ, and plead for the preborn girls and boys to be given a chance at life. And while we pray, let’s tirelessly work toward and for a future where abortion is unthinkable.

By / Mar 29

“I wanted the world to see what they did to my baby.” – Mamie Till-Mobley​

Wrapped in a bronze-colored metal lattice, with a structure fashioned after the three-tiered crowns used in Yoruban art from West Africa, the National Museum of African American History and Culture covers five acres on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. This Smithsonian museum opened to the public on Sept. 24, 2016, 87 years after Congress approved the project.

I was able to visit the museum with some colleagues on a brisk Saturday afternoon in 2018 after a pro-life event in our nation’s capital. The event fittingly focused on the dignity, value, and worth of all people as rooted in the image of God, or imago Dei (Gen. 1:26-28). The visit to the museum left me speechless. From the intricate design and architectural features to the uplifting yet horrifying stories on display, the museum seeks to “tell the American story through the African American lens.” And it does so in a powerful and thought-provoking way.

Through another’s eyes

The museum tour begins by taking an elevator deep underground as you descend back in time to the 15th century and the beginning of the transatlantic slave trade. Each level of the three-floor main exhibit chronicles various historical periods in the Americas through the eyes of African Americans. The bottom level tells the story of how slavery developed from a temporary status not based on skin color, to an industry that ravaged African kingdoms and fueled growth in the Americas at the expense of human dignity. The middle level focuses on the Jim Crow South up to the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Lastly, the top level tells the story of the 1970s through the present.

Through the various exhibits and displays, I learned about the beautiful kingdoms that used to sprawl the African continent and saw their breathtaking contributions to art. I learned how these kingdoms were depleted of their people because an estimated 10–12 million Africans were exported like common goods on slave ships to the Americas.

Multiple displays told the personal stories of enslaved Africans aboard slave ships. As we journeyed through exhibits of old metal shackles and various wooden parts of slaves ships, I was able to better understand the horrors of travel conditions that these men and women were subjected to as they crossed the Atlantic ocean.

While the exhibits and stories gripped my heart, the most influential moment of the entire museum was watching an African American father tell his two daughters that this was their history and that their ancestors lived through these horrors. He explained to his girls how the Emancipation Proclamation made by President Lincoln freed the slaves in the South. He told them that many slaves found out they were free as the Union army marched through the South, carrying with them tiny versions of proclamation that they would read aloud as they entered plantations and fields. So much of this history was unfamiliar to me.

The horrible truth revealed

On the second level, there is a small room tucked away in a corner; a quiet and quaint room. It is the only place in the entire museum that you are not allowed to take photos. There is a security guard posted just outside the room to encourage respectful silence. This room contains the original casket of a 14-year-old boy who was brutally murdered in 1955.

Newspaper clippings tell the story of Emmett Till, who was visiting relatives near Money, Mississippi. Till and his family were from Chicago but had been traveling to see family when Till stopped at a local grocery store. While in the store, a 21-year-old married woman named Carolyn Bryant claimed that Till flirted with her. Upon hearing about this incident, Bryant’s husband and his half-brother abducted the boy from his great uncle’s home and brutally murdered him. They beat, mutilated, and shot him. Then they proceeded to tie a 75-pound weight around his neck and throw his body into the Tallahatchie River. Mrs. Bryant recanted her story decades later.

More powerful than our common citizenship in America is our connection as human beings created equally in the image of God.

Mamie Till-Mobley, the boy’s mother, decided to hold his funeral in Chicago with an open casket. “I wanted the world to see what they did to my baby,” she said. Emmett Till posthumously became a symbol of the Civil Rights Movement as numerous newspaper and magazine stories helped millions to see the crime that was committed against this boy; a crime based largely on the color of his skin.

The museum was given the original casket to put on display after Till-Mobley had her son’s remains unearthed for DNA analysis. Her desire was for the world to remember, through experiencing the exhibit, what was done to “her baby.” She wanted others to see what happened because, through seeing what really took place, she believed that it would move people to action. They would have no excuse if they allowed these horrors to continue.

A knowledge leading to empathy

As I reflect on my time touring this museum, I am struck by my own ignorance of the rich history of African Americans and the stories of these brave Americans. These men and women are integral parts of the American story. Just as Till-Mobley hoped that her son would serve as a visible reminder of the horrors of Jim Crow laws, this museum serves as a visible reminder of all that African Americans have suffered and achieved in their rich history. It is through knowledge and understanding that we are able to develop empathy for one another.

More powerful than our common citizenship in America is our connection as human beings created equally in the image of God. This common humanity is shared by all people from every nation, tribe, and tongue and gives us inherent worth and dignity. We were created equal by God, even if others sinfully deny this truth. And this equality is what drives our empathy.

The stories on display at this museum opened my eyes to the horrors that my brothers and sisters have endured and helped me grow in empathy as I learned about our American history through an African American lens. If you are in Washington, D.C., I highly encourage you to visit the museum so that you might learn and grow in love for those created in God’s image.

Photo credit: Alan Karchmer/NMAAHC