By / Jun 30

Here are five recent Supreme Court rulings you should know about. The decisions made by the U.S. Supreme Court often directly affect Southern Baptist pastors and churches and the people they serve. That’s why every year the ERLC actively engages in the judicial process on issues that hold immense importance for our churches and the gospel.

But the court also issues rulings in cases that, while they aren’t directly related to the issues we work on, intersect with or are related to topics of concern for Southern Baptists. Here are five recent Supreme Court rulings from the most recent term. 

Students for Fair Admission v. Harvard and Students for Fair Admission v. UNC 

On Thursday, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a ruling on two cases brought by Students for Fair Admissions, Inc (SFFA). The cases—SFFA v. UNC and SFFA v. President and Fellows of Harvardaddressed the consideration of race in college admissions. The court was asked to consider whether institutions of higher education can use race as a factor in admissions, and whether Harvard College was violating Title VI of the Civil Rights Act by penalizing Asian American applicants, engaging in racial balancing, overemphasizing race, and rejecting workable race-neutral alternatives.

The court ruled that colleges and universities can no longer take race into consideration as an express factor in admissions, a landmark decision that overturns long-standing precedent. In the 1978 case, Regents of the University of California v. Bakke, the court considered a quota system in place at the University of California and established the constitutionality of affirmative action programs 

Writing for the majority, Chief Justice John Roberts said that for too long universities have “concluded, wrongly, that the touchstone of an individual’s identity is not challenges bested, skills built, or lessons learned but the color of their skin. Our constitutional history does not tolerate that choice.”

Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson, the only Black woman on the court, wrote that the majority had “detached itself from this country’s actual past and present experiences.” But Justice Clarence Thomas, the only Black man on the court, said, “While I am painfully aware of the social and economic ravages which have befallen my race and all who suffer discrimination, I hold out enduring hope that this country will live up to its principles so clearly enunciated in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States: that all men are created equal, are equal citizens, and must be treated equally before the law.”

United States v. Texas

In United States v. Texas, the Supreme Court ruled that Texas and Louisiana lacked Article III standing to challenge immigration-enforcement guidelines issued by the Secretary of Homeland Security. These guidelines were issued in a memorandum by the Department of Homeland Security to the Acting Director of U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) instructing ICE officials to prioritize the removal of noncitizens who pose a threat to national security, public safety, or border security.

The purpose of these guidelines was to provide a framework for ICE to exercise prosecutorial discretion in immigration enforcement and to promote consistency and transparency in the enforcement of immigration laws. The Biden administration also argued that these guidelines were necessary to prioritize limited resources and focus on individuals who pose a greater risk to the country. However, Texas and Louisiana challenged the legality of these guidelines, arguing that they restrained ICE agents from fully enforcing immigration laws. The Supreme Court ultimately ruled that Texas and Louisiana lacked standing to challenge these rules, reinforcing the federal government’s unique role in setting immigration policy.

Gonzalez v. Google and Twitter v. Taamneh 

On May 18, the Supreme Court issued opinions in two related cases, Gonzalez v. Google and Twitter v. Taamneh. In the Taamneh case, the court unanimously ruled that the plaintiffs’ allegations were insufficient to establish that the defendants (Twitter, Google, and Facebook) aided and abetted ISIS in carrying out the relevant attack. 

In both cases the plaintiffs made arguments related to the application of Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act and the Anti-Terrorism Act. Additionally, in the Gonzalez v. Google case, the plaintiffs argued that Google, through its subsidiary YouTube, aided, abetted, and conspired with ISIS by allowing the terrorist group to use its platform to spread propaganda and recruit members. The plaintiffs claimed that Google’s algorithms and revenue-sharing practices contributed to the spread of ISIS content on YouTube, and that Google should be held liable for the deaths of their family members in an ISIS attack in Jordan in 2016. In the Twitter v. Taamneh case, the plaintiffs alleged that Twitter, Google, and Facebook aided and abetted ISIS in carrying out an attack in Istanbul in 2017. The plaintiffs claimed that the defendants provided material support to ISIS by allowing the group to use their platforms to spread propaganda and recruit members.

The court unanimously ruled in the Taamneh case that the plaintiffs’ allegations were insufficient to establish that the defendants aided and abetted ISIS in carrying out the attack. Based on that ruling, the court declined to address the issues raised about the application of Section 230 protection from liability for aiding terrorists in the Gonzalez v. Google case and remanded it back to the lower courts.

Haaland v. Brackeen 

In the case of Haaland v. Brackeen, the Supreme Court ruled 7-2 to reject challenges to the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA), a federal statute that aims to protect the future of Tribal Nations (i.e., the 574 federally recognized Indian Nations) and promote the best interests of Native American children. The case was brought by a birth mother, foster and adoptive parents, and the state of Texas, who claimed that the ICWA exceeds federal authority, infringes state sovereignty, and discriminates on the basis of race. 

The ICWA is a federal law that was passed in 1978 to protect the well-being and best interests of Native American children and families. The law aims to uphold family integrity and stability and to keep Native children connected to their community and culture. ICWA establishes minimum federal standards for the removal of Native children from their families and placement of such children in homes that reflect the unique values of Native culture.  

The Supreme Court rejected these challenges and upheld the ICWA, a victory for the Biden administration and several Native American tribes that defended the law. The majority opinion authored by Justice Amy Coney Barrett said the court “declines to disturb the Fifth Circuit’s conclusion that ICWA is consistent with” Congress’s authority under the Constitution in Article I. Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito were the only justices to dissent. 

Moore v. Harper 

The case of Moore v. Harper involved the controversial independent state legislature theory (ISL). This theory arose from the redistricting of North Carolina’s districts by the North Carolina legislature following the 2020 census, which the state courts found to be too artificial and partisan, and an extreme case of gerrymandering in favor of the Republican Party. ISL asserts that only the state legislature itself has the power to set the rules for making state laws that apply to federal elections, from drawing congressional district lines to determining the who-what-when-where of casting a ballot. 

The Supreme Court of North Carolina granted a rehearing in the underlying case, which prompted the justices to request additional briefing on whether they still had the power to rule in Moore. On June 27, the U.S. Supreme Court rejected the “independent state legislature theory” in a 6-3 decision, affirming the lower court’s ruling that the congressional map violated the state constitution and dismissing the plaintiffs’ lawsuits. The case was decided in an opinion by Chief Justice Roberts, with Justice Brett Kavanaugh filing a concurring opinion, and Justice Thomas dissenting. The case was one of the most high-profile cases the Supreme Court has taken up in recent years, with former federal judge Michael Luttig calling it the “single most important case on American democracy—and for American democracy—in the nation’s history.”

By / Jun 19

“Southern Baptist messengers from around the country are back home after spending two days in New Orleans for their annual meeting last week. While there, they addressed topics such as America’s immigration crisis, the controversies surrounding so-called ‘gender transitions’ – and a biblical response to artificial intelligence.”

Read the full article here.

By / Jun 14

NEW ORLEANS, La., June 14, 2023 —The Southern Baptist Convention became the first national denomination to pass a definitive statement on the ethics of artificial intelligence, which will become the cornerstone of the ERLC’s advocacy on this issue. 

Other significant resolutions were voted on and overwhelmingly affirmed by the messengers of the nation’s largest Protestant denomination during its annual meeting June 13-14 on the topics of immigration and gender transitions. 

The SBC’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission will remain a strong voice for dignity on issues of artificial intelligence, immigration and gender, as the resolutions supported the current positions advocated by the organization. 

Brent Leatherwood, president of the ERLC, commented below on each of the three resolutions and how they related to the ERLC’s mission to assist churches by helping them understand the moral demands of the gospel. 

On Artificial Intelligence

“Our resolutions committee deserves all the appreciation we can muster for crafting this first-of-its-kind resolution for any denomination or network of churches. Artificial Intelligence has been a hot topic, both in Washington and on the international stage. This resolution comes at an opportune time and proves once again that even when it comes to the leading edge of emerging technologies, the Bible, as always, gives us principles to guide us in uncharted waters.” 

On Wisely Engaging Immigration

“Our convention of churches has consistently called for a secure border and for immigrants to be treated with dignity. This resolution once again asserts our commitment to these twin principles that should never be pitted against one another. It rightly calls on our nation’s officials to come together and create solutions to solve our immigration crisis.” 

On Opposing ‘Gender Transitions’

“As the Baptist Faith & Message states, gender is a gift and is an essential part of the ‘goodness of God’s creation.’ It is not fluid, self-defined, or subject to the whims of a prevailing culture at odds with biological reality. This resolution rightly affirms those state governments that have taken steps to protect children from becoming pawns in the sexual revolution through harmful interventions and surgeries. At the same time it confirms the SBC will continue to be a strong voice advocating against these exploitative efforts that render far too many children and young people vulnerable.”

The ERLC has long advocated for human dignity, life, religious liberty and marriage and family. To learn more about our work and current priorities, visit erlc.com

By / Mar 20

We, who are pro-life, are those that value and seek to protect life at all stages, from conception (womb) to natural death (tomb). And as culture has taken particular aim at the womb and the tomb—preborn children and those nearing life’s end—pro-life efforts have risen to the occasion, advocating tirelessly for these vulnerable populations. In many cases, those efforts have been rewarded with growing support and stronger legislation in recognition of the dignity and rights that these persons, who are made in the image of God, possess. 

But if we’re not careful, this needed emphasis has the potential to avert our eyes entirely from other life and human dignity issues right in front of us, issues like sex trafficking, racial injustice, or the latest example, highlighted in February by Hannah Dreier of The New York Times, the exploitation of children who’ve migrated to the United States. This is an issue from which we can’t look away. 

A bigger problem than we may think

In her investigation, Dreier traveled to seven states, from Alabama to Michigan and Florida to South Dakota, and spoke to more than 100 migrant child workers in 20 states. What she discovered was a problem larger than we may imagine, growing larger by the day. 

“The number of unaccompanied minors entering the United States (by definition, these are not children who have “snuck” into the country undetected, as some may suspect) climbed to a high of 130,000 last year — three times what it was five years earlier,” Dreier writes.

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), which is “responsible for ensuring sponsors will support [unaccompanied minors] and protect them from trafficking or exploitation,” is being forced to rush through the process of vetting child sponsors in order to move these children quickly out of shelters and release them into the care of adults. While well-intended, HHS caseworkers can’t possibly keep up with the overwhelming demand. And often, these children who’ve entered the country alone, at the risk of their lives, are subjected to gross injustice and exploitation. 

Child exploitation findings and statistics

Dreier’s findings are heart-wrenching. “Indentured servitude,” is what Rick Angstman, a teacher that Dreier interviewed in Grand Rapids, Michigan, called it. Alone and undoubtedly afraid, children are regularly pressured by their sponsors—distant relatives or complete strangers—and their circumstances to seek employment to provide income for themselves and their families back home in their country of origin. 

When asked about the prevalence of the problem, Doug Gilmer, who is head of the Birmingham, Alabama, office of Homeland Security investigations, said, “We’re encountering it here because we’re looking for it here. It’s happening everywhere.” Here are some of the findings that Dreier’s investigation uncovered:

  • The investigation named several major brands and retailers where migrant child workers are employed, including Ford, General Motors, J. Crew, Walmart, Target, Whole Foods, Fruit of the Loom, Ben & Jerry’s, and Hearthside Food Solutions, among others. 
  • In this investigation alone, it was found that children as young as 12 years old were regularly working shifts in excess of 12 hours in length. 
  • Often, children are either prevented from attending school by their sponsors or physically unable to do so due to the long overnight hours they work. 
  • According to H.H.S. case workers, about two-thirds of all unaccompanied migrant children who enter the country end up working full time. 
  • Migrant child workers regularly incur serious injuries like amputations, and sometimes die, due to occupational hazards, though their deaths are no longer publicly reported as of 2017. 

As we can see from the brief list above, child exploitation is not confined to one industry, one part of the country, or one major brand or retailer. It is a problem large in scope and complex in nature. The question before us is: what can we do about it?

What can we do?

The complexity of the problems outlined in Dreier’s reporting is overwhelming. In brief, the unaccompanied children entering the United States are leaving dire and sometimes dangerous circumstances at home, entering a country overwhelmed at its southern border, and, too often, are being placed with sponsors who view them through exploitative lenses. What can we do? Where should we start? The problem feels too big.

As Christians, we wholly oppose the exploitation of anyone, much less children. And as pro-life Christians, we are committed to respecting and protecting the life and dignity of every person, at every stage, and in every condition—born or preborn, male or female, native or immigrant. So, we can at least do what we’ve always done: pray, advocate, and live generously. 

Pray: As I’ve said, the problems revealed by this investigation are complicated. And they’re not new. The exploitation of migrant child workers has been occurring for decades, if not centuries. When assessing the problem, we may feel a bit like Jesus’ disciples after they’d failed to free a young boy from the spirit that was tormenting him (Mark 9:14-29).

“Why could we not cast it out?”, they asked Jesus later (v. 28). Maybe we’re asking him a similar question: “Why can’t we solve this problem?” His answer to his disciples then, I suspect, applies to this problem now. “This kind cannot be driven out”—this problem cannot be solved—”by anything but prayer” (v. 29). The problem before us will not be solved unless the people of God pray.

Advocate: Prayer is where we begin, and it’s something we are to do epeatedly. But it’s not all we’re called to do. One of the privileges of living in this country is that we have the opportunity to pair our prayers with political action.

Christians in America have a long track record of exercising our rights on behalf of others, from the Civil Rights movement to the preborn to immigration issues related to this one. And this issue is deserving of all our political energies, whether it be writing letters to our elected representatives, organizing marches, or simply reading and sharing articles like this one. However we choose to engage, Steven Garber’s haunting question hovers before us all: “Knowing what you know, what will you do?” 

Live generously: So much of the plight these children face has financial roots. They leave their homes and families seeking relief from the severe financial constraints they face in their native countries. On the brink of starvation and homelessness, parents are sending their children alone to cross our border and find work. Can you imagine?

So, for the children in our communities who have left their country, their home, and their family, in what ways can we be generous toward them with our time, our attention, and, yes, our finances? As beneficiaries of God’s generosity, here’s an opportunity for us to show generosity to others who desperately need it.

The pro-life community is not shy in voicing our commitment to life the moment of conception to the time of natural death. We have worked for centuries on behalf of preborn children in the womb. We’ve, likewise, expended great effort on behalf of those nearing death. Today, an additional task is before us. What will we do to make sure these children are treated with dignity? They’re our neighbors; our faith demands that we seek their good. Knowing what we know, what will we do?

By / Mar 10

On March 9, President Biden released his Fiscal Year 2024 budget proposal. Every year, the president submits his budget proposal, and it serves as a blueprint for the administration’s priorities. A president’s budget proposal has no binding authority over Congress and will not become law. Rather, it is a request and a statement of priorities that serves as a starting point for negotiations in Congress as the House of Representatives and the Senate work on the 12 spending appropriations bills that fund the government. Given that Republicans now control the House of Representatives, it is likely that the final budget will look quite different from this initial proposal.

The ERLC actively engages in the appropriations process each year. In the president’s budget proposal, there are areas of deep concern, but also areas of possible collaboration. As negotiations begin in Congress, the ERLC will share these concerns and advocate for changes that protect life, promote religious liberty, support families, and respect human dignity.

Exclusion of pro-life riders and increased funding for abortion providers

Biden’s budget proposal includes a request for a 79% increase in additional funding for abortion providers through the Title X Family Planning program over last year’s enacted amounts. Though pro-life riders have traditionally kept this funding from directly funding abortion procedures, abortion providers are still able to receive funding through the Title X Family Planning program and other government funds to cover operational costs, allowing them to more easily reserve non-taxpayer dollars for abortion services. Although it is vital for women of any economic status to have access to important healthcare services, abortion — the act of taking a life — is not healthcare.

Additionally, the budget includes investments in “reproductive healthcare” at the Department of Veterans Affairs as well as funding for pro-abortion family planning internationally. Since the Dobbs decision, the Biden administration has made a number of moves to expand abortion access and coverage at VA facilities for those currently or formerly in the military. The budget includes $57 million to support the UN Population fund, a pro-abortion organization. As we seek to aid impoverished nations around the world, we should offer them real medical aid – not abortion.

Notably, for the third time since its inception in 1976, the Hyde Amendment has presumably been excluded from the president’s proposal. The Hyde Amendment is a budget rider on the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) appropriations bill to prevent Medicaid from covering the cost of abortion. This rider, along with other pro-life riders, are essential in protecting life as well as the consciences of millions of American taxpayers. Though the portion of the president’s budget request that was released on Thursday seems to indicate that these riders have been excluded, we will not know definitively until additional appendixes are released next week.

Before the Hyde Amendment was introduced, approximately 300,000 abortions a year were performed using federal Medicaid dollars. It is estimated that the Hyde Amendment has saved over 2 million lives since it was enacted. Since 1976, the Hyde Amendment has been passed by every Congress. Its success across the generations is not due to a shared belief about abortion but precisely because those representatives and senators believed the disagreement deserved respect. It is vital that Congress, throughout negotiations, attaches the Hyde-family of riders that protect life and protect the consciences of millions of Americans. It is important to note that although Biden’s FY 2022 and 2023 budget proposals also excluded these amendments, they were ultimately included in the final appropriations packages passed by Congress.

Emphasis on advancing gender equity

Throughout the budget proposal, Biden includes multiple proposals that advance “gender equity,” which includes sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI). The president’s budget proposal would expand SOGI protections in all areas of life, invests $3 billion to “advance gender equity” internationally, and commits to providing gender-affirming care to veterans in VA facilities, with taxpayer funding. Efforts to advance SOGI as protected classes under federal law have explicitly included attempts to roll back religious freedom and conscience protections. As the ERLC has long maintained, a government that is able to pave over the conscience is one that has the unlimited ability to steamroll dissent on any issue.

Potentially helpful areas of investment

Though increased funding does not always necessitate better outcomes, we affirm the president’s desire to promote human flourishing through investment in a number of areas. Given that our spending allocations are often a statement of what we prioritize as a nation, it is encouraging to see emphasis from the president on a few key areas:

  • Improving border security and immigration processing: The budget proposal includes an increase of $800 million for border security agencies and increased investments in border patrol and processing personnel. That investment in border security is coupled with increased funding for meeting humanitarian needs at the border and funding for 150 new immigration judge teams to speed up asylum processing. 
  • Rebuilding refugee resettlement and supporting Afghan evacuees: The proposal includes a $7.3 billion investment in resettling 125,000 refugees in the next fiscal year as well as responding to the needs of unaccompanied migrant children. The budget also includes funding for expedited processing and increased visas available for Afghans who served with the US military and were evacuated to the U.S. following the Taliban’s takeover.
  • Supporting vulnerable mothers and families: Though we would not fully support all aspects of these programs as proposed, the proposal includes several initiatives related to reducing maternal mortality, expanding insurance coverage for postpartum mothers, ensuring paid leave for new parents, and expanding the Child Tax Credit. While we have disagreements with the administration about some of the specifics of these policies, it is encouraging to see pro-family policies receive a prominent position in the president’s proposal.
  • Making adoption more affordable: The budget proposal includes initiatives that seek to better support children and families in the adoption and foster care systems. It also proposes making the adoption tax credit fully refundable, something the ERLC has long advocated for, making adoption more affordable and accessible 
  • Implementing the First Step Act: In 2018, President Trump signed into law the First Step Act, a package of significant criminal justice reforms, supported by the ERLC. This budget proposal includes financial investments in implementing that law to support rehabilitative programming, improving prison conditions, and hiring new staff to implement First Step Act reforms.

What’s next?

The House and Senate Appropriations Committees will begin the appropriations process which includes a hearing to discuss budget requests and writing and marking up the 12 appropriations bills that fund the federal government. Congress will have the opportunity to make significant changes, such as including the Hyde Amendment and other important pro-life riders, as they did in Fiscal Year 2023. It is likely that each chamber, and thus each party, will release competing versions of these bills, and negotiations will be fierce as lawmakers debate what will be included in the final package. 

Each year, the ERLC is actively engaged in the appropriations process, working alongside committee and leadership offices to ensure that important pro-life, religious liberty, and conscience protections are included and harmful policies are excluded. The ERLC will continuously advocate for the inclusion of these pro-life provisions as well as other legislative measures that reflect God’s gracious love for every human life around the world.

By / Jan 30

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

What will make advocacy challenging?

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

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

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

Religious Liberty

Oppose The Equality Act

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

The bill would curtail religious freedom protections, hinder the work of healthcare professionals and faith-based hospitals, undermine civil rights protections for women and girls, and ultimately steamroll the consciences of millions of Americans.

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

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

Support Conscience Protections for Healthcare Workers

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

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

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

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

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

Respond to the Decision in 303 Creative v. Elenis

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

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

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

Continue the China International Religious Freedom Initiative

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

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

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

Sanctity of Human Life

Protect Pro-life Riders in the Congressional Appropriations Process

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

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

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

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

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

Ending the Proliferation of Chemical Abortions

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

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

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

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

Oppose the Women’s Health Protection Act

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

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

Family and Marriage

Support Pro-Family Policy in a Post-Roe World

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

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

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

Support the Adoptee Citizenship Act

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

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

Ensure Intercountry Adoption Remains a Viable Option

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

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

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

Human Dignity

Support a Permanent Solution for Dreamers

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

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

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

Support Further Criminal Justice Reform

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

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

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

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

Rebuild the Refugee Resettlement Program

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

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

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

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

By / Dec 20

In this episode, Lindsay and Brent discuss their end of year focus on the Psalm 139 Project. They also talk about the status of immigration reform in the United States, and an update on the Respect for Marriage Act. 

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By / Oct 24

Recently, President Biden announced that he would set the United States’ annual refugee ceiling for fiscal year 2023 at 125,000. Traditionally, actual resettlement numbers have tracked closely with that number set by the president each year. However, in recent years, the U.S. has fallen far short of that ceiling. This declining resettlement comes at a time of historic displacement around the world. According to the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), 89.3 million people, or 1 in every 88 people on earth, have been forcibly displaced with 27.1 million of those meeting the formal definition of a refugee, roughly half of whom are minors. 

In this time of immense need, it is vital that the U.S. go beyond symbolically setting a significant resettlement cap and actually invest in rebuilding a robust system that can meet those goals and help the most vulnerable around the world. In order to improve our resettlement system, it is essential to understand its history, current processes, and the challenges it faces.

The history of U.S. refugee resettlement

The U.S. has a long history of welcoming persecuted peoples and refugees, even going back to the nation’s founding. For much of our history, refugees came to America with little formal process. It largely wasn’t until the 1900s that federal laws and agencies began strictly governing immigration and refugee resettlement. Much of our current system was born out of World War II as Europe was overwhelmed with millions of people displaced by the war and the U.S. began reckoning with its own failures to offer refuge to many Jews and other persecuted groups prior to and during the war.

In 1980, during an influx of refugees following the Vietnam War, Congress passed the Refugee Act of 1980. This law created our modern-day refugee system by adopting a standardized definition of a “refugee,” creating the Office of Refugee Resettlement to oversee resettlement processes, providing the first statutory basis for asylum, and formalizing the United States Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP).

Every year since then, the president has set, through a “Presidential Determination,” a cap for the maximum number of refugees that the U.S. will resettle in that given fiscal year. The highest Presidential Determination ever set was in 1980 at 231,700 and the lowest in 2020 at 18,000, with a historic average of about 95,000 since the program began. Since 1980, the United States has resettled more than 3.1 million refugees, more than any other country in the world.

How are refugees resettled in the U.S.?

Under the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), a refugee is “an alien who, generally, has experienced past persecution or has a well-founded fear of persecution on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion.” Those who meet this definition may seek refugee status if they are outside of the U.S. or asylum status if they are physically in the country. The first step for an individual who meets this definition is to register with the UNHCR. The UNHCR then must determine whether the individual qualifies as a refugee and what the best solution for them is. Generally, less than 1% of those who qualify as refugees are ultimately resettled to a third country each year. 

Once an individual is referred by UNHCR for resettlement in the U.S., a network of federal agencies and non-governmental organizations work together to conduct intensive security, biometric, and eligibility screenings. Following these screenings, refugees then must be approved for travel, go through medical exams, and be sponsored by a domestic resettlement agency. Refugees then face final vetting from Customs and Border Patrol upon their arrival to the U.S. Through these rigorous processes, refugees are some of the most thoroughly vetted individuals who come to America. 

Once a refugee is in the U.S., a resettlement agency, in partnership with the U.S. government, works to integrate them into the community and help them successfully start a new life. In previous years, this process would typically take on average 18 to 24 months.

Significant challenges

Though there are few concrete estimates, this already lengthy process now, for a number of reasons, is currently averaging over 5 years. A number of factors have caused incredible slowdowns and backlogs throughout the process that have severely lengthened the amount of time it takes for a refugee to be resettled and limited the number of individuals able to actually be resettled each year, regardless of the cap that is set by the president. Despite the 125,000 cap set by Biden in fiscal year 2022, the U.S. only resettled just over 25,000 refugees.

Because domestic refugee resettlement agencies are funded by the government based on the number of refugees that they resettle, the Trump administration’s decision to significantly curtail resettlement forced an estimated 134 resettlement sites to close and capacity to be cut by about 38%. It has proven to be difficult for resettlement agencies to rebuild their capacity in re-opening locations, rehiring staff, and rebuilding volunteer networks, given the unreliable nature of their funding. Additionally, overseas processing and interviews have been slow to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic and Trump-era cuts. Other factors such as understaffing across federal agencies have contributed to a largely unworkable system for many individuals in dire circumstances.

While there are a number of real, logistical challenges facing the resettlement system, at its core, the issue is largely one of political will. If both the Biden administration and Congress wanted to truly fix our resettlement system, they could choose to funnel increased resources to the appropriate federal agencies and create new funding streams for resettlement organizations. Rebuilding the refugee resettlement program is certainly a massive feat, but it is one that can be done if our leaders choose to prioritize it. 

Why does it matter?

In the absence of a nimble and efficient refugee system, our government has turned to a tool known as “humanitarian parole” as a substitute. Humanitarian parole may be used to deliver people quickly to the U.S. in the case of a humanitarian crisis. Over the last year, the U.S. government used this tool to assist Afghans following the withdrawal of U.S. troops and Ukrainians following the invasion of Russia. While this did allow people to be moved out of harm’s way quickly, it came at a cost. Parole is a temporary solution to what is often a long-term crisis. It provides only temporary protection for individuals in the U.S. and does not offer them the resettlement support given to formal refugees. Congress had to act to provide resettlement benefits to Afghans who were evacuated here, and still must act in the future to allow Afghans to stay lawfully in the U.S. moving forward.

Another consequence of our current resettlement system is that a growing number of people find that their only option is to present themselves at the U.S. southern border. If an individual believes that they meet the definition of a refugee but is languishing in backlogs and processing overseas, they may choose to travel to the southern border and seek asylum either at a port of entry or by presenting themselves to a border patrol officer along the border. Over the past year, we’ve seen not just individuals from the “Northern Triangle”⸺ El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras⸺arriving at the border, but people from all over the world who ideally should be processed as refugees closer to home. For example, as the Communist regime in Venezuela has crumbled into a humanitarian crisis over the last year, some 187,000 Venezuelans have made the treacherous journey through the Darién gap and presented themselves for asylum at the southern border. A functioning resettlement system both better serves those who are vulnerable and need to flee while also relieving our overwhelmed resources at the southern border. 

As Americans, it can be easy for us to feel distant from refugees around the world and to wonder why these backlogs and challenges matter. First of all, this matters because these people matter greatly to God, and we are called to love, serve, and work for their good. These issues in the resettlement system are affecting the real lives of some of the most vulnerable people on the planet, and a system that was designed to assist them in finding refuge is often leaving them stranded and unable to receive help in a timely and effective manner.

The Bible is unequivocally clear in its command for Christians to care for the persecuted and vulnerable. Throughout the narrative of Scripture, we see over and over God’s call to care for the immigrant and the refugee as vulnerable people made in the image of God (Matt. 25:35-40, James 1:27). The Southern Baptist Convention has reaffirmed this command to care for the “stranger” among us through numerous resolutions declaring “the value and dignity of immigrants, regardless of their race, religion, ethnicity, culture, national origin, or legal status” and encouraging “people to increase their involvement in resettlement of legal refugees through the enlistment of sponsors and the provision of church-centered ministries.”

Historically, people of faith have led the way in resettling refugees. On a national level, six of the nine agencies that work with the U.S. government to resettle refugees have religious roots that motivate their work. On a local level, last year saw a renewed effort from Christians and churches to assist in resettling the Afghans who were evacuated and paroled into the U.S. We saw churches open their doors, families make meals, and Christians rise up to welcome our new Afghan neighbors. World Relief, a Christian refugee resettlement organization, saw their number of active volunteers double in 2021. Recent polling indicated that 36% of evangelicals have been directly involved in serving refugees and immigrants, and 70% say that the U.S. has a moral responsibility to accept refugees.

Christians care about refugees and are often on the frontlines in serving and welcoming them to our communities. Alongside that important work, we must also continue to advocate and encourage our lawmakers and political leaders to similarly value these vulnerable people and invest the necessary resources to truly allow our nation to once again be a place of refuge for the persecuted.

By / Jun 3

Last week, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the UN refugee agency, announced that the total number of people forcibly displaced has surpassed 100 million for the first time on record. This number includes those “forced to flee conflict violence, human rights violations and persecution” and includes refugees, asylum seekers, and internally displaced people. These 100 million people represent 1% of the global population and would make up the 14th most populous nation in the world. 

The number of displaced people has risen dramatically in the last decade from 45.2 million in 2012 to a staggering 100 million today. This massive increase can be attributed to increased conflict in countries such as “Ethiopia, Burkina Faso, Myanmar, Nigeria, Afghanistan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo” as well as the war in Ukraine. Since the war in Ukraine began, more than 8 million people have been internally displaced, and 6 million have fled as refugees.

According to the European Commission, 87% of refugees are hosted in developing countries and face severe challenges in accessing shelter, food, and other basic necessities. They also face high rates of poverty, violence, abuse, and exploitation. Once displaced, it is often difficult for these people to find places of permanence, with displacements lasting “20 years on average for refugees and more than 10 years for most internally displaced people (IDPs).”

UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Flippo Grandi, said of this milestone that “This must serve as a wake-up call to resolve and prevent destructive conflicts, end persecution, and address the underlying causes that force innocent people to flee their homes.” He continued stating, “To reverse this trend, the only answer is peace and stability so that innocent people are not forced to gamble between acute danger at home or precarious flight and exile.”

How can the U.S. respond? 

The response to a humanitarian crisis as massive and complex as this requires a nuanced and multifaceted political response from the United States and global community. 

A key component of our nation’s response is the United States Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP). A refugee is defined as someone who “has experienced past persecution or has a well-founded fear of persecution on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion” and currently resides outside of the United States. These individuals must register with UNHCR and go through extensive vetting and security checks before being considered for resettlement in the United States. 

Unfortunately, in recent years, the USRAP has been devastated, along with the network of nonprofits and service providers that support resettlement. The U.S. has largely abdicated its role as a refuge to the vulnerable at this time of historic levels of refugees and internationally displaced people worldwide, admitting just 11,411 refugees in the last fiscal year. The ERLC is deeply engaged in advocating for the rebuilding of this safe and legal program to restore our country’s legacy as a beacon of hope to those fleeing persecution.

Another avenue for displaced people to seek refuge in the United States is through seeking asylum. Asylees are similar in definition to refugees but must be physically present in the United States to apply. Because of the severe backlogs in the USRAP program, some displaced people choose to physically present themself at the United States’ borders. However, because of Title 42, the public health order that requires immediate expulsion of most immigrants arriving to the U.S.-Mexico border, very few individuals are able to cross into the United States and request asylum, despite their legal right to do so. The ERLC is advocating for protections for these asylum seekers and policies that safely, fairly, and compassionately allow them due process and protection from harm.

A third component of our response to this humanitarian crisis must be addressing the root issues that are forcibly displacing these people. The ERLC has long advocated for addressing these “root causes” of migration—poverty, violence, and corruption—in Central America and around the world. Additionally, the ERLC has extensively worked to support religious freedom and human rights for all of our neighbors around the world. 

In the face of this crisis, we as Christians cannot look away. While there can be good-faith disagreements on immigration policy, international aid, and foreign policy, the Bible demands that we see the dignity of these displaced individuals made in God’s image and care for their well-being in the midst of their immense personal tragedies. Indifference is not an option afforded to believers. We must commit to fervent prayer on behalf of those who are displaced and seek out ways to serve and welcome them into our communities.

By / May 18

With more than 26 million refugees and over 82 million forcibly displaced people in the world today, how Christians and churches see migrants and refugees is vitally important. What we believe about God’s mission to seek, save, and reconcile the world to himself through Jesus is revealed, in part, by how we see migrants and refugees when it comes to ministry, care, and concern for them as people made in God’s image and loved by him. For American Christians, the global refugee crisis and presence of vulnerable migrants and asylum seekers at our southern border provides us an opportunity to transcend political and cultural controversies in order to minister and love in the name of Jesus.

In Leviticus 19:33-34, God says to Israel, “When a foreigner resides among you in your land, do not mistreat them. The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt. I am the Lord your God.” This same ethic was reflected by Jesus in his Parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37). This was a specific command for the covenant people of God in ancient Israel, and while modern nation-states have unique responsibilities related to borders and security, the church embodying the character and mission of God has corresponding responsibilities and opportunities when it comes to ministry, mercy, compassion, and justice for the sojourner.

Personalizing our country’s border crisis

Back in 2018 when migrant children, families, and individuals traveling to our southern border were in the news, I remember the concern expressed by many. It can feel overwhelming and scary when we see news reports of large numbers of people coming to our borders to ask for entry. I had worked with immigrant and refugee ministry and advocacy for a few years, but the more cable news I watched and the more images I saw, the more concern I had about what was happening with these new people coming—and the more concern I heard from my neighbors, friends, and other Christians.

What I didn’t yet understand is that a large portion of the people I saw in the news at that time were not trying to come illegally. Many were coming here to claim asylum, which involves a legal process of presenting oneself on United States soil to ask for protection from violence and persecution on the basis of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion. The right to claim asylum is established in U.S. Code and is longstanding federal law. Once the request has been made and credible fear has been established by border patrol officers trained in this regard, the asylum seeker is to have their case heard before a court that will judge whether or not the petitioner is granted asylum and allowed to stay. 

But, there was something more important at work for me personally than how our country manages its borders, as vital as that is. As I prayed about all of this, I realized that for me as a Christian and as a private citizen who is not a state agent or Border Patrol officer, I should think first about migrants and asylum seekers as people, as those God desires to come to him, and about opportunities to partner with Christians at the border in ministry. I believe that order at the border is an important part of caring for migrants, as well as providing security for a nation’s citizenry, but, while our government has clear responsibilities in maintaining order and security at our border, which we should support and encourage, the church also has a role in ministering to people in the midst of crisis. Border security and order provided by the government is not mutually exclusive to the church engaging in gospel and compassion ministry to those who come to us seeking refuge. 

Remembering how Jesus responded to the crowds who were harassed and helpless, how he was moved with compassion for them, and how he instructed his disciples to pray that the Lord of the harvest would send out workers into the harvest field (Matt. 9:35-38) will help frame our views of those who come to our borders seeking help. While some rejected the desperate crowds, Jesus saw people he could minister to and love. We can do the same.

Ministry on both sides of the border

I made my first trip to the border at Nogales, Arizona, in late summer 2018 and then to Tijuana in December of that year to visit ministries that were serving migrants from all over the world. I went to El Paso in 2019. Then, as I moved out to California to pastor a church that year, I went back to Tijuana to view what was happening with churches doing ministry there. I began to see the border as a place where people from many nations gathered and where churches on both sides worked behind the scenes to care for those in need, to pray, and to share the love and gospel of Jesus while people waited for legal entry. 

I learned that many of the people who come to the border are already evangelical Christians or come to faith in Christ as they encounter churches who are opening their sanctuaries, homes, and lives to migrants, refugees, and asylum seekers (See World Magazine reporting from Sophia Lee in 2019 explaining border ministry in the Las Cruces-El Paso area). Instead of seeing the border primarily as a place of fear and chaos, I began to also see it as a place where human need and desperation meets the ministry of the church as it holds out the life and hope of Jesus in the midst of a raging storm. God is at work in and through his people in the borderlands. 

In work led by Juvenal Gonzalez working with the San Diego Baptist Association and Mexican Baptist churches, I have seen people from many nations receive food, shelter, love, and the gospel at the El Chaparral Gate in Tijuana while they live in tents and wait. I joined with Ed Litton, current SBC president, and other SBC leaders in August 2021 to connect again with this ministry and to provide care, hope, and breakfast to hundreds of migrants who were there waiting for a chance for their asylum claim to be heard. Recently, Gonzalez and the churches on both sides of the San Diego-Tijuana border fed and ministered to hundreds of Ukrainian refugees a day who traveled to Tijuana to wait and petition for protection in the U.S. California Baptist Disaster Relief, Send Relief, and the North American Mission Board (NAMB) stepped in and provided assistance as well. 

In October of 2021, I visited the El Paso Migrant Ministry Center at Scotsdale Baptist Church that works in partnership with the El Paso (TX) Baptist Association. I saw a church that transformed their facility to make room for migrants that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Border Patrol brought to them for care. The ministry center now works with NAMB to receive teams and volunteers from around the country to minister to the dozens of migrants who are brought to them each day. 

I have visited churches and seen ministries in border towns that altered their ministries to make room to provide places for people to stay while they transition to other parts of the country. While I’ve never visited Brownsville, Texas, I’ve heard about the ministry of West Brownsville Baptist Church and others who have cared for and seen many come to Christ through the work of receiving migrants. Just last fall, I heard from Mexican border officials in Juarez, across the border from El Paso, tell us that the churches on the Mexico side were making all the difference in providing care and ministry during the migrant surges. When the Mexican government doesn’t know what to do with the people who come to them, they turn to the churches for physical and spiritual help and resources. The U.S. government often does the same thing.

Christians along the U.S.-Mexico border are acting in the name of Jesus to bring hope and order out of chaos, pain, displacement, rejection, and desperate need. When I ask pastors on both sides of the border why they engage in this ministry of welcome, they are always confused by the question. They’ve told me that they do this because this is what Jesus does and it is who he is. They see no other way to follow him in their context than to welcome and minister to the stranger who comes to them.

This kind of ministry doesn’t just happen along the border. It is happening everywhere, from South Carolina to California. Recently, I spoke with an Afghan man in Northern California who told me that many of the Afghan refugees he’s met know they are being received and treated well in America because of the influence of Christians and churches who follow the Bible and are welcoming and loving from the heart. This man was not a Christian, and he came from a Muslim background, but he said it was clear that the teachings of Jesus had an influence on how Christians welcomed his fellow countrymen. He recounted stories of pastors bringing Afghan refugees to his store to buy supplies for them with their own money. This left an impression on him as he recognized that their faith led them to act in kindness toward others. He let us pray with him at the end of our conversation.

More migrants coming?

We will continue to have opportunities to welcome and minister to immigrants and refugees in the name of Jesus, either at the border or in towns across our country. The COVID-19 pandemic public health order called Title 42, which allowed the U.S. government to suspend asylum law and expel migrants without hearing their claims in court, is set to expire in late May. With this potential change in policy and the possible full renewal of the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP or Remain in Mexico), expectations are rising that there will be a significant increase in the number of migrants coming to our southern border seeking asylum and refuge. 

While concern grows over this development, churches on both sides of the border will continue to represent Christ and minister to people in need who come to them. In addition, churches all over the country have the opportunity to join with these border churches and ministries to support their ongoing front-line work in ministering to the sojourner. While our government and Border Patrol have a job to do in keeping order and security as they manage the border, battle cartels and human and drug smuggling, and enforce our laws, the church also has a role in helping those in deep need who enter our country. And, with the arrival of Ukrainian and Afghan refugees over the past several months, along with others from around the world, the opportunities to receive and minister to the nations that have come to us are potentially greater than ever before. To learn more about this, you can watch the recent webinar hosted by the ERLC.

As the world continues to experience wars and rumors of wars, natural disasters, corruption, and persecution, Christians in America have an opportunity to welcome refugees fleeing violence and support fellow believers engaging in ministry along both sides of our own southern border. Our first response to migrants and refugees should not be fear or rejection. Instead, we should prayerfully ask God what he might be doing through these circumstances and how we can join him to tell a better story by bearing the burdens of others and thus fulfill the law of Christ (Gal. 6:2).