By / Mar 19

In this episode, Josh, Lindsay, and Jenn discuss the Georgia massage parlor shootings, the White house no longer getting daily COVID-19 tests, federal efforts reducing poverty, and March Madness. Lindsay gives a rundown of this week’s ERLC content including the Policy Staff with “Explainer: The crisis unaccompanied minors are facing at the border,” Jordan Wooten with “Does the value of children depend on their usefulness? Children are a gift not a liability,” and David Dunham with “Why addicts must learn to practice honesty: Deception’s role in aiding addiction.” Also in this episode, the hosts are joined by Jenn Kintner for a conversation about life and ministry. 

About Jenn

Jenn Kintner serves as the Office Coordinator for the Nashville office of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission. She holds a Doctorate of Education from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Prior to her work at the ERLC she spent 10 years discipling and teaching women in Christian higher education. You can connect with her on Twitter: @jennkintner

ERLC Content

Culture

  1. Georgia massage parlor shootings: What we know
  2. White supremacy and hate are haunting Asian Americans
  3. Suspect in Atlanta-area spa shootings might have intended more shootings in Florida, mayor says
  4. White House staff no longer tested for Covid-19 daily
  5. Explainer: New federal efforts could reduce poverty in America
  6. Chelsea & Michael Sobolik adoption
  7. March Madness returns

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  • Caring Well: Churches should be a refuge for those who have experienced abuse. The Caring Well Challenge is a free resource from the ERLC in which we take you through a year long journey with 8 different steps to help make your church safe for survivors and safe from abuse.
  • Stand for Life: At the ERLC, we stand for life. Our work to save preborn babies and care for the vulnerable is vital to our work. Believing that abortion can end in our lifetime, will you join us as we STAND FOR LIFE?
By / Mar 16

A growing number of children are arriving at the southern border without parents or guardians in hopes of migrating into the United States. These child migrants are legally referred to as Unaccompanied Alien Children (UACs). This surge in arrivals of UACs is creating a humanitarian crisis out of an already difficult situation for border towns and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) as U.S. Border Patrol facilities are stretched far beyond their capacity.

How many children are arriving at the U.S. southern border?

According to a report from CBS, in the month of February 2021 alone, “nearly 9,500 unaccompanied children were taken into U.S. border custody — a 21-month high, according to government data.” As of March 2, a complex in Donna, Texas that was designed to hold 250 people was housing more than 1,800 people according to a report from the Associated Press. This crowding is made worse because of the battle against COVID-19 as it is “729% of its pandemic-era capacity.” In a story published by CNN, Leecia Welch of the National Center for Youth Law said, “Donna is quickly becoming a humanitarian crisis.”

Earlier today, March 16, DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas released a statement noting that the department is “on pace to encounter more individuals on the southwest border than we have in the last 20 years.”

What are the conditions like for children on the border?

Many of the children in this facility describe harsh conditions and hunger. The CBS report noted that some children told their lawyers they “only showered once in seven days” and that the facility was so overcrowded “they had to take turns sleeping on the floor.” The situation’s urgency grows as the boys and girls are also reportedly being denied the ability to phone their parents or see their siblings of the opposite sex as they are held in single gender facilities. 

How is this connected to America’s larger immigration problem?

First, the challenges of this current crisis are in part the result of President Biden’s decision to end former President Trump’s practice of expelling all border aphrensions, which included sending children back into situations of potential danger. Expulsion was the policy in place for most of 2020 without much public awareness, though the ERLC and coalition partners then called the Trump Administration to take a more humane approach, specifically for vulnerable children.

While this 2021 crisis is new in its particulars, the situation does have similarities with previous UAC surges. As an example of a similar crisis, after an AP report in 2019 showed unconscionable conditions for children at a border facility near El Paso, the ERLC published an explainer to give further context to the issues which shape these problems. The piece also outlines how migrant children are treated differently by immigration law and what reforms could blunt future issues.

Today, both the strain on border facilities and the woes facing these kids are distressingly familiar to what our nation has seen too many times. This 2021 crisis is yet another result of the dysfunctional immigration system in the U.S. that Congress has refused to reform for decades. Our nation’s border problems have been exacerbated over the last decade in particular by spikes of violence in El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras coupled with increasing resistance in American politics to foriegn aid. It’s difficult for most Americans to imagine how desperate a family’s circumstance must be to choose to send their children on a dangerous journey unaccompanied in hopes of a better life.

What is going wrong right now?

As the AP reported, “more children are waiting longer in Border Patrol custody,” with 37 days being the average length of stay. This time lapse is the key failure of this crisis — the failure to process children swiftly into the stable care required by federal law.

Unaccompanied children are to be processed by DHS and transferred within three to five days to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR). We wrote about the unique legal treatment our government is supposed to honor with UACs in our 2019 explainer:

At the center of the government’s policies toward child migrants is a 1997 consent decree known as the Flores Settlement Agreement. Flores directs that children who are unaccompanied or who have been removed from their parents during the process of immigrating are to be transferred to a licensed facility within three to five days of apprehension, and a max of 20 days during times of emergency influx, according to the nonprofit Human Rights First. . . . The Flores Settlement also lays out housing condition standards, including the requirement of “safe and sanitary facilities” among many others, all while the government makes a “prompt and continuous effort toward family reunification and release” for children.

What is the U.S. government doing about the issue?

It is clear that there is not yet a sufficient federal government response to ensure the adequate care of these children. On March 13, the Biden Administration announced it was enlisting FEMA to help. The administration is also planning to shelter migrant children at a conference center in Dallas, as they await processing with HHS ORR. For more, you can read Sec. Mayorkas’ statement highlighting the department’s actions. Their plans include standing up more shelters, working with Mexico to receive expelled adult migrants, and a variety of COVID19 protocols for migrants and DHS staff. 

How has the SBC engaged the immigration reform debate?

In 2018, the Southern Baptist Convention passed a resolution calling for immigration reform that “maintains the priority of family unity.” This resolution prioritizes “honoring the value and dignity of those seeking a better life for themselves and their families” in light of the “warfare, violence, disease, extreme poverty … driving millions of people to leave their homelands.” The 2018 messengers also passed a resolution on human dignity in which the messengers affirmed “the full dignity of every human being of whatever political or legal status or party and denounce rhetoric that diminishes the humanity of anyone.” In 2011, SBC messengers passed a resolution denouncing the mistreatment of migrants and calling for immigration reform that would “implement, with the borders secured, a just and compassionate path to legal status.”

The resolutions on immigration echo the language of the Baptist Faith and Message 2000, which affirms the sacredness and dignity of human beings made in God’s image. The BFM also affirms Christians’ responsibility to speak on behalf of the helpless and the needy and work for human institutions to reflect God’s righteousness. 

How is the ERLC advocating on this issue?

The ERLC has long advocated for immigration reform that would accord with biblical principles. In 2014, Russell Moore wrote about the growing number of unaccompanied children arriving at the border then, calling it a “humanitarian crisis” and calling Christians to “recognize both the complexity of this situation and what it means to be people of justice and mercy.” Moore’s words continue to anchor our advocacy today:

When responding to the vulnerable, our greatest obstacle isn’t the question of knowing what to do. Our greatest obstacle is fear. The Samaritan in Jesus’ parable (Lk. 10:27-37) has every reason to be afraid on the Road to Jericho. The presence of a beaten man tells him there are robbers around, potentially hiding in the caves around him. Fear, though, is cast out by love; love is not cast out by fear. … The situation at the southern border is frightening indeed, for multiple reasons. Border security is important for the physical safety of any nation, and the care of those fleeing danger is important for the moral integrity of any people.

Central to our advocacy is our work with the Evangelical Immigration Table (EIT). The EIT is a diverse group of organizations that speak up for the vulnerable and call for better policies. A few policies the EIT has called for to address these border crises involving children include supplemental funding for facilities, additional personnel trained to care for children, respect for asylum laws and family unity, and restoration of foreign aid to the countries these migrants are fleeing.

A few weeks ago on the Capitol Conversations podcast, as news began to surface of this impending crisis, Jeff Pickering and Travis Wussow welcomed Laura Collins, an immigration expert with the George W. Bush Institute, to discuss border policy solutions. You can listen to that conversation here.

What happens next?

The federal government must ensure that children currently in border patrol custody are transferred as soon as possible to HHS ORR who is better equipped to shelter as well as test and quarantine the children if needed due to the pandemic. Once with HHS ORR, the children are then connected with sponsors, who are typically family members but can also include foster families. According to Sec. Mayorkas, “in more than 80 percent of cases, the child has a family member in the United States. In more than 40 percent of cases, that family member is a parent or legal guardian.”

What is clear is that additional resources are needed at the border to ensure that children who arrive here are safe, fed, and treated with the dignity and respect they deserve as our legal system determines the best way forward for them.

By / Mar 3

We want to help you think well about immigration, especially as news reports grow over potential surges of unaccompanied minors at the U.S. southern border. How do we care for immigrants well and celebrate immigration as important to America while also not creating a magnet for a border crisis? Jeff Pickering and Travis Wussow welcome Laura Collins to the roundtable to help answer that question.

Guest Biography

Laura Collins serves as Director, Bush Institute-SMU Economic Growth Initiative at the George W. Bush Institute. Collins previously served as the Director of Immigration Policy at the American Action Forum. She has experience in politics, working as a Senior Research Analyst at the Republican National Committee for the 2012 election cycle and in the Texas House of Representatives for the 82nd Legislature. A former practicing attorney, Collins earned a JD from The University of Texas School of Law and a BBA from the University of Oklahoma.

Resources from the Conversation

By / Feb 12

In the opening lines of last week’s executive order addressing the country’s refugee program, President Biden wrote, “the long tradition of the United States as a leader in refugee resettlement provides a beacon of hope for persecuted people around the world.” Sadly, the rising tide of nationalism in our politics has dimmed that once bright light. There is much work to be done if America is to, in Biden’s words, lead again. Critical to that work is the rebuilding of a refugee resettlement program that honors our nation’s rich history of welcoming the world’s most vulnerable.

The President is charged with determining the maximum number of people allowed entry through the refugee process. The number, while set by the White House, represents an annual conclusion of a worthwhile debate throughout Washington. It’s a debate in which the ERLC is regularly engaged.

During the 2020 campaign, President Biden promised to “set the annual global refugee admissions cap to 125,000, and seek to raise it over time.” While the administration’s recent executive order marks an encouraging move toward relighting that beacon, the refugee ceiling is the critical next step.

Among other directives, the order begins a wide ranging review of the federal government’s refugee resettlement procedures. For example, the order directs the Secretaries of State and Homeland Security to designate a senior-level employee in their departments to focus on the refugee application process. Among the specific reviews ordered is the nation’s policy which grants Special Immigrant Visas for Iraqi and Afghan allies.

The refugee program has long enjoyed both broad bipartisan support in Congress and in the communities these men and women have enriched, including many Southern Baptist churches. The vetting procedures for refugees were already the strongest of any category of immigrants, and these security procedures have been further strengthened. This program tells an important story about who we are as a nation. It has enabled remarkable talents to become Americans and pursue the American dream such as Vietnamese refugee David Tran who created the popular Sriracha hot sauce.

Since the Refugee Act of 1980, the resettlement ceiling before the Trump Administration ranged from as high as 230,000 to as low 67,000. The historic average over the decades hovered near 95,000. President Trump first set the refugee ceiling at 50,000 in 2017 and then cut it each year, leaving it at 15,000 for 2021.

This precipitous drop not only closed the door to many of our own brothers and sisters abroad in the persecuted church seeking safe harbor, but it also starved the resettlement pipeline needed to provide that harbor in America. Integrating these families seeking refuge in our local communities requires the ongoing partnership of government offices and non-profit agencies. Without refugees moving through the line, many agencies shutter. This leaves our future capability to serve in peril.

The Evangelical Immigration Table, of which the ERLC is a member, responded last Friday to President Biden’s order noting both appreciation of this first step but also urging him to follow through on his commitment to officially raise the ceiling.

In the EIT press release, Russell Moore, president of the ERLC, explained how, “our advocacy for religious minorities in peril around the world, whether they be Uyghurs in China or Christians in Syria, is a priority of our work at the ERLC.” Moore also said it was his “prayer that Christians will lead the revitalization of America’s commitment to be a beacon of freedom and safe harbor for the oppressed and persecuted.”

As vaccines and treatments help the world climb out from under the coronavirus pandemic, we ought to use this time of restricted global travel to rebuild the resettlement infrastructure. We should invest now in the infrastructure needed for overseas processing and help resettlement agencies in the U.S. rebuild so that when our door is able to be reopened, our welcome mat is ready. Instrumental to this process are faith-based organizations who partner with local churches to welcome refugees as our new American neighbors.

By / Jan 28

Lisa Cathcart, in her role as executive director at the Pregnancy Care Center (PCC) in Nashville, Tennessee, leads her team to serve women, men, and families in the greater Nashville area facing unplanned pregnancies. Their work has grown to include a special focus on the needs of those from immigrant communities. The spirit of their work and ability to adapt is an example to all of us who seek to serve our communities, as they truly are, and honor the dignity of all people. 

How did you become aware of the immigrant community in the Nashville area? From where are they coming?

Nashville has been a destination for immigrant populations for quite some time. Most area residents are aware of the various immigrant populations that have come to call Nashville home. However, unless one is intentional about engaging with our new neighbors, it is fairly easy to ignore or miss the important contributions they have made to our society and the richness they bring to our communities. At the Pregnancy Care Center we have a heart for serving vulnerable and marginalized populations. As a ministry that exists to affirm the worth, dignity, and sanctity of all human life, I believe we are uniquely positioned to accept and receive newcomers to our country and community, extending the same compassion and grace to this vulnerable population as we do toward the unborn and the women and men facing a pregnancy decision. 

The Pregnancy Care Center first started serving immigrant populations about six years ago when two women from Egypt were referred to us by a Nashville health clinic where they were participating in childbirth education. These expectant moms found themselves trying to navigate not only a new life in a new place far from home, but also the role of parenting in a country with different laws and vastly different customs—all without the support of the multigenerational influences and involvement that they had been raised with. Although both women were Arabic speaking and from the same country, they came from very different backgrounds. They practiced different religions, Islam and Coptic Christianity. One was a highly educated professional and the other was from more humble circumstances. One spoke English, and the other did not. One was a first-time mom, and one had older children. 

Yet despite their differences, they had formed a friendship and found their way to the PCC together. As they began to see the value in the relationships they were forming with the staff and volunteers at the PCC and in the assistance they received, each went back to their own communities and spread the word about the Center’s services. Very quickly, the number of immigrants who were seeking our services began to grow to the extent that at one point, more than 50 percent of Parenting Support cases/visits were with immigrant families. Over the past two years 32 percent of all visits of any type have been with individuals from other countries. 

We have now served individuals and families from 38 countries of origin and at least eight unique faith backgrounds. We have ministered to individuals from the Middle East, Africa, Central America, South America, and Asia. Those who are Arabic speaking continue to represent the largest immigrant population we are serving. Among Arabic-speaking families — which include both Coptic Christians and Muslims — many share histories of war torn countries, poverty, and religious persecution.  

What are you doing to serve the immigrant community in our area? What are their needs and unique challenges? 

Serving recent immigrants has presented unique challenges for staff at the Pregnancy Care Center as we work with women and families who are at the beginning stages of acclimating to Western culture. Our ministry is committed to providing holistic care that goes beyond what can be done by simply handing someone a pack of diapers. Too many services and experiences in our lives are transactional in nature. We are more interested in transformation, which can only come about through relationship with one another and with Christ. Many of the immigrant populations initially coming to the center have been told that they can “get free diapers,” etc. We have struggled through language and cultural barriers to communicate that the material assistance we provide is only available through participation in our Parent Support initiative, which involves meeting with a PCC team member one on one, or in a group setting, to complete a prenatal or parenting lesson, mentoring session, and/or Bible study. 

While this relational approach is our goal, it is very difficult to accomplish without an interpreter. Over the past few years, we have been continually adjusting our policies and experimenting with different ways of providing care to our new neighbors, while being careful to guard against mission drift and often struggling with compassion fatigue that comes with difficult cross-cultural ministry. 

Before having to pause group class offerings due to COVID-19, we were offering two group Parent Support sessions each month, specifically for Arabic-speaking clients with the help of a paid translator. By offering group classes we are able to serve these families by building relationships, offering meaningful practical instruction and assistance, while at the same time remain focused on our mission of serving individuals facing a life-altering pregnancy decision. 

The group sessions include a devotional, practical parenting lesson, and time for sharing and prayer. Afterward, participants “shop” in our “store” where they can pick out items needed for their children using points they have earned for their participation in Parent Support. Individuals who are fluent in conversational English are also eligible to schedule one-on-one appointments outside of group offerings. In addition to the Arabic groups, we have some Spanish-speaking volunteers who come to assist on a regular basis. Over the past year as we’ve had to reimagine how we deliver services during a global pandemic. We have served the needs of these diverse populations through virtual visits and curbside material assistance. 

We are very intentional about speaking words of affirmation in order to connect people with their worth and dignity as a child of God. We’ve had meetings with community leaders who can help us understand more about the cultures our clients come from—how to speak or sit, how to interact with our body language, how to navigate some of the challenges we face, and ultimately how to build bridges between our cultures in order to minister more effectively. So, whether helping with housing needs, health insurance questions, job applications, or learning to react properly to a client who tries to barter for material aid, we are continually learning as we go. 

How do you want individuals to feel when they arrive at your center?  

It is our hope that everyone who walks through our doors will have a sense that they matter. We have intentionally and prayerfully created a space that is inviting and welcoming to all. It is our prayer that individuals feel safe and welcome, no matter where they have come from or what difficulties and fears they are currently facing. Before our staff even speaks a word, we want the environment to communicate a message that elevates someone’s sense of dignity and worth. 

Too many services and experiences in our lives are transactional in nature. We are more interested in transformation, which can only come about through relationship with one another and with Christ.

Because the lives of those we serve are often filled with chaos and uncertainty, we offer a calming reassurance that they are not alone. Some of our staff have even learned basic Arabic phrases to extend meaningful greetings and expressions of hospitality so that our Arabic-speaking clients feel seen and valued. 

Everyday the team of staff and volunteers at the PCC begin with prayer, asking the Holy Spirit to fill us and the Center with his presence so that everyone we serve will encounter the love of Christ in a meaningful, tangible way. 

From your perspective, how do the needs of an immigrant change the longer they have been in the country?

As we work with immigrants and build relationships we see how assimilation changes people. In some ways, we see amazing growth and exciting new opportunities for families to flourish. In other ways, we are disappointed by how Western culture can influence individuals. 

Initially, we may be helping to advocate for individuals as they navigate the complexities of adjusting to life here. We make phone calls to various agencies on their behalf, sit at a computer with someone to fill out an online form, explain terminology on applications and documents, and demonstrate how to use and install a car seat, etc. As our relationships grow we sometimes become aware of emotional or spiritual concerns that we can speak into such as questions about the gospel, or even how to identify abuse in a relationship. We are able to educate women on the rights they have that they may not have had access to before, and we can empower people to seek and find safety when necessary. 

When many immigrants face an unplanned or crisis pregnancy, the stakes are extremely high, especially if the relationship is outside of their faith or culture. Sadly, the more assimilated to Western culture an immigrant is, the more vulnerable to abortion they become. Some come from a culture that does not even have a word in their language for abortion, but now they are presented with an option that they have been told will allow them to avoid the shame and pain of unintended pregnancy. Where marriage is an expectation and sexual purity a priority, assimilation sometimes leads to casual and promiscuous relationships. 

How would you encourage the Christians in your community to pray for and minister to these immigrant populations? 

Whenever I think of the refugees and immigrants in our community, I think of the Golden Rule that Jesus taught us. I ask myself how I would want to be treated if I found myself separated from most of my friends and family, starting a life in a new country. I would desperately want others to show patience with me as I attempt to speak a new language. I would want caring people to gently explain practices within this new culture that do not make sense to me. I would want to be welcomed as an image-bearer of God and valued as someone who can make a positive contribution to our community. I would long for friendship! Let’s pray that we as Christians will be the example in our community of radical hospitality to the stranger and foreigner as we see modeled in the people of God from the Old Testament to the New Testament.  

By / Jan 21

Yesterday, Joseph R. Biden, Jr. was sworn in as the 46th President of the United States. To begin his presidency he is signing a flurry of executive orders (EOs), memoranda, directives, and letters. The Biden White House prepared and the new president signed 15 executive orders on his first day in office, more than any of his predecessors. This all comes in a week when the United States surpassed 400,000 lives lost to COVID-19. On that note, President Biden made clear with a memorial Tuesday night that combatting the pandemic is his top priority for his administration.

Some of the planned actions are praiseworthy, as they accord with the convictions and biblical principles of Southern Baptists. However, some of the administrative actions raise concern for the ERLC as they conflict with our public policy positions, informed by our theological convictions. Below is a discussion of a few of the actions taken by the Biden Administration yesterday, and those actions we expect in the coming days:

Protection for Dreamers and DACA recipients 

Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) is a program that defers deportation proceedings for a subgroup of undocumented immigrants—those who entered the United States as children brought by their parents. DACA recipients are often referred to as “Dreamers.” Participants in the program, among other requirements, must demonstrate a commitment to education, employment, or service in our military; have no criminal backgrounds; and report for a biometric appointment with federal officials. The Trump Administration attempted to rescind the policy in 2017, but several lawsuits were filed shortly after the rollback began. In June 2020, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the Trump Administration did not follow proper procedures in rescinding the program, and as a result, DACA was kept in place.

Yesterday, President Biden signed a Presidential Memorandum directing the Secretary of Homeland Security, in consultation with the Attorney General, to take all appropriate actions under the law to achieve the original goals of the DACA program. The Presidential Memorandum also calls on Congress to enact legislation providing permanent status and a path to citizenship for Dreamers.

The ERLC has long advocated for our government to provide a permanent solution for this special category of immigrants. We believe the only sustainable way forward, recognizing the range of beliefs about the legality of the DACA program, is for Congress to legislate a path to legal permanent resident status and, eventually, citizenship for Dreamers. Messengers at the Southern Baptist Convention of 2018 explicitly urged Congress to develop a “just and compassionate path to legal status” for undocumented immigrants already living in our country. Dreamers need a permanent legal solution that is not subject to the cycle of executives or the makeup of judicial benches.

Repeal of the Mexico City Policy

Next week, we anticipate that President Biden will rescind the pro-life Mexico City Policy. This policy was established by President Reagan to prohibit U.S. foreign aid to groups that provide or promote abortion overseas and has been a political football since President Clinton first rescinded it. The Trump Administration broadened the Mexico City Policy, and it is currently known as the “Protecting Life in Global Health Assistance Policy (PLGHA). The purpose of PLGHA is to “prevent American taxpayers from subsidizing abortion through global health assistance provided for populations in need.” This policy ensured that, in order to recieve any foreign aid, international nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) agreed to neither perform nor actively promote abortion as a method of family planning overseas. PLGHA expanded the Mexico City Policy to “global health assistance furnished by all departments or agencies” to the extent allowable by law. This policy only applied to voluntary family planning assistance funded by USAID and assistance for certain voluntary population planning furnished by the Department of State. 

The ERLC has advocated for this life-saving policy, and would strongly object to its rescission. Yet this expected change will not deter us from continuing to advocate for life in our international engagement.

Family reunification task force executive order​

In 2018, the Trump administration issued a “zero tolerance” immigration enforcement approach intended to deter illegal immigration. The policy change resulted in thousands of children being separated from their parents as they await adjudication. The children were kept in separate facilities and were unable to see their parents. While the refugee resettlement office at the Department of Health and Human Services made great strides at reuniting families, currently 628 parents of separated children are still missing. 

President Biden has signaled that he will create a task force to reunify families separated by the Trump Administration’s Immigration policies. The ERLC strongly supports family reunification and will work with the Biden Administration to see that children are safe again in their parent’s arms. 

Bostock executive order

Also yesterday, President Biden signed an executive order that seeks to implement and expand on the U.S. Supreme Court’s Bostock decision. Last summer, in a 6-3 ruling of a consolidated group of cases styled Bostock v. Clayton County, the Supreme Court expanded the definition of “sex” to be read to include “sexual orientation and gender identity” under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 which relates to employment discrimination. The order will likely direct federal agencies to include sexual orientation and gender identity as protected classes where discirminaton on the basis of sex is prohibited.

Although styled as implementing Supreme Court precedent, this EO in fact dramatically expands the scope of the Bostock decision, which only applies in the employment context. This EO will mean that sexual orientation and gender identity could be treated as protected classes in a range of contexts, such as education, health care, and child welfare. This will, in turn, raise a host of religious liberty problems, many of which will likely have to be litigated. 

The ERLC will be focused on the regulatory actions taken by the Biden Administration and will defend the inalienable rights of religious freedom and freedom of conscience for those who hold biblical beliefs about marriage and sexuality. Ensuring that these bedrock rights are respected by federal agencies will be crucial to the ability of faith-based organizations and people of faith to live out their faith and serve their communities without violating their consciences.

Repeal of the “Muslim Ban”

One of President Trump’s first actions in 2017 was signing an executive order to ban entry into the United States of nationals from seven Muslim-majority countries (Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Syrian, Sudan, and Yemen) for 90 days, of all refugees for 120 days, and all Syrian refugees indefinitely. In response, Russell Moore sent the president a letter outlining his concerns with the order, noting that the Southern Baptist Convention reaffirmed its decades-long commitment to care for and minister to refugees in a 2016 resolution

On his first day in office, President Biden signed an Executive Action to end the policy that came to be known as the “Muslim Ban.” The ERLC welcomes this action as Southern Baptist’s commitment to welcoming the stranger has long been reflected in the SBC’s resolutions about those fleeing persecution in their home countries.

Government-wide regulatory freeze

Finally, President Biden intends to issue a memorandum that will pause any new regulations from the Trump Administration that have not yet gone into effect. The ERLC strongly opposes this move, as the freeze may hinder lawfully promulgated regulations from becoming final, including several regulations the ERLC supports. 

As an example of significant interest to the ERLC, on January 12, 2021 the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) announced and published its final rule on nondiscrimination requirements in grants. This rule directly impacts grantees, especially faith-based child welfare providers by allowing them to continue serving vulnerable children in a manner consistent with their religious beliefs. Due to the delay of the finalization of this rule, this important regulation may be frozen and not implemented. The ERLC will continue to advocate for lawfully promulgated regulations to be finalized. 

Looking ahead

Every election brings new opportunities and new challenges. The ERLC will continue to work with the executive branch to advance issues of concern to Southern Baptists and will bear witness to policies pursued by the government that run contrary to biblical principles.

By / Aug 4

The 2019-2020 term of the Supreme Court was one for the history books. The justice’s rulings give Christians a lot to consider on issues ranging from religious liberty and civil rights law to abortion jurisprudence and immigration rules. The ERLC filed amicus briefs in a number of these cases and our brief was cited by Justice Alito in the court’s opinion in the Guadalupe religious liberty victory.

Russell Moore and Jeff Pickering joined the Capitol Hill ministry, Faith & Law, for a Friday forum event to reflect on what happened and what’s next.

Faith & Law is a community of congressional staffers and Members of Congress that meet regularly to think deeply about how our faith informs and impacts our calling to the public square. Their mission is to encourage and equip Christian policy-makers to more fully understand the Biblical worldview and its implication in their calling to the public square.

Resources from the Conversation

By / Jul 27

The economic effects from COVID-19 will reverberate for many years, and communities of color will feel them most powerfully. The Washington Post reports that 20% of Latinos—the highest reported demographic—were furloughed or laid off during the national quarantine. 

The Post also reports that 6 in 10 African American and Latino households said they didn’t have enough savings to cover three months of living. And while the government swiftly implemented the CARES Act to provide immediate economic assistance to American families and small businesses, even a few thousand dollars—the most a family could receive—doesn’t last long in the face of joblessness. Undocumented immigrants—a group of over 10 million people, according to Pew—were not eligible to receive funds at all.

At a time of intense national crisis, faith-based and secular nonprofits alike are demonstrating their value for those with nowhere else to turn. These entities offer Christians a collective way to care for those in need effectively and well. 

The Path Project

The Path Project, a Georgia nonprofit focused on helping children in low-income communities, wanted to help the families of the children they served and began reaching out to parents with obvious financial needs in the midst of COVID-19. 

“It was such an incredible blessing,” said Angelita Salgado, a single mother of five who received financial assistance from the Path Project, in a phone interview. “It’s hard to understand how someone could give so much and not expect anything in return.” 

Salgado is back to work part-time now, but covering the costs required for a family of six is substantial. In addition to the financial aid, she is grateful to the Path Project for offering her children laptops to finish out the school year with e-learning and providing educational resources and support for her family for the past seven years.

Ninety-five percent of nonprofits worldwide say they were affected negatively by COVID-19, but charities like the Path Project continue to work tirelessly with the resources they do have. Regardless of plunging contributions, nonprofits are less limited than government in their ability to help those locally in need, by raising money for specific needs quickly if necessary. 

Acts Housing

Acts Housing, located in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, launched into action as COVID-19 hit the nation, helping clients and community members maintain their homes in the face of job loss and economic stress. 

Angel Reyes, an immigrant from Veracruz, Mexico, has been out of work since his job at a catering business was suspended in March. He’s one of multiple families who received financial assistance from Acts in the form of a deferred mortgage payment. 

“I feel a lot more secure, and less stressed, because of the help I’ve received,” said Reyes, who lives with his wife, in a phone interview.

Even those who didn’t lose jobs are suffering from cut hours and economic uncertainty. According to Pew, 40% of Latinos—as opposed to 27% of the American population—were forced to take a pay cut at minimum, and 86% of Latino small business owners report significant negative impact on their businesses by the pandemic.

United Against Poverty

In Florida, where 4.5 million immigrants comprise 21% of the population, United Against Poverty (UAP) has been helping people in need through their emergency food assistance program and Member Share Grocery Center, which allows qualified families to select nutritious food and necessary household items free of charge. 

UAP reports that 58.4% of Florida students normally receive free or reduced meal programs, so their commitment to providing food assistance in the face of forced e-learning and summer break remains high. 

“People everywhere are stressed about being able to purchase groceries for their families,” reads a recent email newsletter, encouraging donors to keep contributions coming. 

UAP also hosts job training courses, a Crisis Care Management program, educational resources, and offers referrals to partner organizations when necessary. 

World Relief

On a larger scale, World Relief has been organizing wide-reaching outreach programs, partnering with churches and local food banks. They are providing legal aid over virtual platforms and helping with translation for information about disease prevention and providing financial aid for immigrant families, specifically those who are undocumented or recently immigrated without a recent tax filing status that would make them eligible for the CARES Act. 

Nonprofits like these offer stability for vulnerable families, even during an unprecedented scenario like the present worldwide pandemic. 

With an unsteady market and personal economic uncertainty, it can be easy to chop regular donations out of one’s budget, but think twice before slashing these kinds of line items. It’s important to remember how we, as Christians, can love our neighbors well through the organizations that are intimately aware of specific community and individual needs. The choices we make today will have long-term effects on families for years to come. 

By / Jul 21

Travis Wussow, Chelsea Patterson Sobolik, and Jeff Pickering discuss the policy issues the ERLC team is working on in Washington, D.C. The team talks about the latest developments on immigration policy, including a recent win on international student visas, Phase IV COVID-19 relief negotiations, pro-life policies among appropriations bills, and how a viral video is sparking new attention on China’s human rights atrocities.

Resources from the Conversation

By / Jul 7

On June 18, 2020, the Supreme Court released their decision for the case Department of Homeland Security v. Regents of the University of California regarding the status of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) policy. On this episode, Travis and Jeff speak with Jose Ocampo on his personal experience as a Dreamer and what is next for Dreamers after the Supreme Court’s recent decision. 

Guest Biography

Jose Ocampo is a “Dreamer” and DACA recipient who has recently graduated from Wingate University with a Bachelor of Science in Marketing. He is currently serving as the worship and youth associate at Iglesia Bautista de Hickory Grove in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Resources from the Conversation