By / Apr 1

On Tuesday, President Joe Biden signed the Emmett Till Antilynching Act into law, making lynching a federal hate crime. “Racial hate isn’t an old problem. It’s a persistent problem,” said Biden. “Hate never goes away, it only hides under the rocks. If it gets a little bit of oxygen, it comes roaring back out, screaming. What stops it? All of us.”

The new law ends a 122-year effort to make lynching a federal crime. The first attempt occurred in 1900 when antilynching legislation was introduced by Rep. George Henry White of North Carolina, the only African American in Congress at the time. That bill failed, as did the nearly 200 an­tilynch­ing bills introduced in Congress during the first half of the 20th century. Between 1890 and 1952, seven presidents petitioned Congress to end lynching. And between 1920 and 1940, the House of Representatives passed three strong antilynching measures, though none passed the Senate. 

The enactment of the Civil Rights Act of 1968 was the closest Congress ever came in the post-Reconstruction era to enacting antilynching legislation until 2020. In that year, the Emmett Till Antilynching Act was passed by the House by a vote of 410 to 4. But it was held up in the Senate by Sen. Rand Paul, who wanted an amendment that would apply a “serious bodily injury standard” for a crime to be considered as lynching.

Here is what you should know about lynching and the new antilynching law. 

What is lynching?

Lynching is a form of violence in which a mob kills or attempts to kill a person suspected of a crime, under the pretext of administering justice without trial. The term has become a synonym for execution by hanging, but lynching can take many forms and often includes inflicting torture and corporal mutilation. The current legal definition of lynching ​​ includes “serious bodily harm.” 

Lynching is a form of terrorist activity since it is intended to affect not just the victim but to spread fear to a particular group of people. “Lynching has typically sent a message to an entire community that ‘you’re not safe here’ or ‘you could be next.’ Lynching has typically been motivated by racial animus and harms an entire community,” said Justin Hansford, a law professor at Howard University.

How common is lynching?

From the end of the Civil War to 1968, 15 U.S. states had Jim Crow laws, legislation that legalized racial segregation. These laws provided legal cover for acts of violence against Black Americans. 

During this period (from 1882-1968), 4,743 recorded lynchings occurred in the United States. Almost three-fourths of the victims were Black (a total 3,446 victims), while just over 1-in-4 were white (1,297 victims). More than three-fourths of all lynchings (79%) occurred in the South. Across the South, someone was hanged or burned alive every four days from 1889 to 1929. Mississippi had the highest number with 581, followed by Georgia with 531, and Texas with 493. 

Five states had no lynchings during this period (Alaska, Rhode Island, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, and Connecticut), while seven states (Arizona, Idaho, Maine, Nevada, South Dakota, Vermont, and Wisconsin) had no recorded lynchings of those who were Black. In 16 states, a greater number of white people than Black people were lynched (California, Colorado, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming). Most lynchings outside the South were of those who were white, and usually for such crimes as murder or theft of livestock.

The last recorded lynching in the United States occurred in 1981. But since 2000, there have been at least eight suspected lynchings of Black men and teenagers in Mississippi, according to court records and police reports.

 What is a hate crime?

According to the Justice Department, when used in a hate crime law, the word “hate” does not mean rage, anger, or general dislike. In this context “hate” means bias against people or groups with specific characteristics that are defined by the law.

At the federal level, hate crime laws include crimes committed on the basis of the victim’s perceived or actual race, color, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, or disability. The “crime” in hate crime is often a violent crime, such as assault, murder, arson, vandalism, or threats to commit such crimes. It may also cover conspiring or asking another person to commit such crimes, even if the crime was never carried out.

What changes does the new law make?

The new law amends 18 U.S. Code § 249, the hate crime acts, to include:

(5) LYNCHING.—Whoever conspires to commit any offense under paragraph (1), (2), or (3) shall, if death or serious bodily injury (as defined in section 2246 of this title) results from the offense, be imprisoned for not more than 30 years, fined in accordance with this title, or both.

(6) OTHER CONSPIRACIES.—Whoever conspires to commit any offense under paragraph (1), (2), or (3) shall, if death or serious bodily injury (as defined in section 2246 of this title) results from the offense, or if the offense includes kidnapping or an attempt to kidnap, aggravated sexual abuse or an attempt to commit aggravated sexual abuse, or an attempt to kill, be imprisoned for not more than 30 years, fined in accordance with this title, or both.

Who was Emmitt Till?

Born in 1941, Emmett Till grew up in a middle-class black neighborhood in Chicago. In August 1955, at the age of 14, he traveled to Mississippi to spend time with his cousins. Three days after arriving in Money, Mississippi, Till and a group of teenagers entered Bryant’s Grocery and Meat Market. Till purchased bubble gum and, in later accounts, was accused of either whistling at, flirting with, or touching the hand of Carolyn Bryant, a white female whose husband, Roy Bryant, owned the store.

Four days after the alleged incident at the store, Till was kidnapped from his uncle’s home by Bryant and Bryant’s half-brother, J.W. Milam. The two men brutally beat the teenager, shot him in the head, tied him with barbed wire to a large metal fan, and tossed his body into the Tallahatchie River. When Till’s body was discovered three days later, his face was so mutilated he could only be positively identified by the ring on his finger — a signet ring engraved with his late father’s initials that his mother had given him a day before he left Chicago.

The teen’s body was sent back to Chicago, and his mother opted for an open casket to show the world how her son was brutally tortured. Tens of thousands of people came during the five days Till’s body was on display at his church. Two black publications, Jet magazine and the Chicago Defender, published graphic images of the body. The reaction to the murder helped spark the civil rights movement. Rosa Parks is reported to have said she was thinking about Till when she refused to give up her seat on a bus in Montgomery, Alabama.

By / Mar 21

On Friday, Feb. 25, President Biden named Ketanji Brown Jackson as his nominee to succeed Justice Stephen Breyer on the U.S. Supreme Court. Breyer “will retire at the end of the 2021-22 term” after 28 years. Jackson’s nomination is historic in that, if confirmed, she would be the first African American woman to serve on the Supreme Court. Confirmation hearings for the nomination of Jackson are set to begin later this month.

Here is what you should know about Jackson, nominee for associate justice of the Supreme Court of the United States.

Ketanji Brown Jackson

Age: 51

Birthplace: Washington, D.C.

Education: A.B., magna cum laude, in Government from Harvard-Radcliffe College (1992); J.D., cum laude, from Harvard Law School (1996).

Current judgeship: U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit (appointed by President Joe Biden in June 2021).

Previous roles: Jackson has served as a law clerk to three federal judges: Associate Justice Stephen G. Breyer of the Supreme Court of the United States, Judge Bruce M. Selya of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit, and Judge Patti B. Saris of the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts. Following her clerkships, and after years as a public defender, Jackson was nominated by President Obama to serve as the Vice-Chair of the U.S. Sentencing Commission, where she served from 2010-2014. From 2013 to 2021, Jackson served on the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.

Religious denomination: Unknown

Family: Jackson is married and has two daughters. Her parents were both public school teachers “and leaders in the Miami-Dade Public School System.”

Judicial philosophy: In the confirmation hearing after her nomination to the seat of United States District Judge for the District of Columbia, when asked by Sen. Amy Klobuchar to “describe” and “characterize” her judicial philosophy,” JJackson said the following:

My judicial philosophy is to approach all cases with professional integrity, meaning strict adherence to the rule of law, keeping an open mind, and deciding each issue in a transparent, straightforward manner, without bias or any preconceived notion of how the matter is going to turn out.

As reported by The New York Times, Jackson has “not yet written a body of appeals court opinions expressing a legal philosophy,” but her earlier rulings “comport with those of a liberal-leaning judge.” It would seem that her judicial philosophy is reminiscent of that of Justice Stephen Breyer. 

What is Jackson’s history regarding life and religious liberty issues?

On matters of religious freedom, though Jackson’s judicial record is limited, she has publicly expressed support for religious liberty, “describing it as a foundational tenet of our entire government.” 

In 2017, Jackson issued an opinion in Tyson v. Brennan, a case alleging religious discrimination against a Christian worker by his employer, the United States Postal Service. In her opinion, Jackson allowed the discrimination claims to proceed. While the USPS sought to have the charges dismissed, Jackson argued that Mr. Tyson’s complaint was “sufficient to state a plausible claim for discrimination.” In this instance and others, the tenet of religious liberty was upheld. Thus, it seems likely that Jackson will seek to preserve First Amendment freedoms.

Her position on the issue of life seems more troubling, however. Because Jackson “hasn’t done a ton of rulings or work in the health-care space . . . it’s difficult to predict her judicial thinking on a wide array of issues,” including the issue of abortion. However, because she received strong statements of support from pro-abortion groups like Planned Parenthood and NARAL Pro-Choice America, one may logically assume that Jackson sides with the views held by these organizations, which are the predominant views among most within the Democratic party today. This is the opinion of Rachel Roubein of The Washington Post, who said, because “she was nominated by a Democratic President — one who has publicly committed to appointing judges that “respect foundational precedents like Roe [v. Wade].” She’s likely to vote with the more liberal justices on hot-button issues, like abortion . . . ” 

What’s next?

Now that Jackson has been nominated, “the President will seek the Senate’s consent to confirm Judge Jackson to the Supreme Court.” The confirmation hearings are scheduled to begin on March 21, “with Democratic leaders setting a goal of reaching a final Senate vote by April 8th,” just prior to the April 11 recess.

By / Feb 28

On March 1, President Biden will deliver his first State of the Union address. The U.S. Constitution (Article II, Section 3, clause 1) requires that the president “shall from time to time give to the Congress Information of the State of the Union, and recommend to their Consideration such Measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient.” The State of the Union (SOTU) gives the president the opportunity to report to Congress and the American people on the current condition of the United States and provides a policy vision for the upcoming legislative year.

State of the Union addresses are typically delivered during the first two months of the year, and it’s unusual for a president to be invited by the Speaker of the House to deliver this speech in March as is the case this year.

Without a doubt, a large part of the speech will likely be dedicated to articulating the President’s views about the ongoing war in Ukraine, the largest foreign policy crisis of Biden’s term thus far. Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine fundamentally challenges the post-Cold War world-order and presents a host of questions and unknowns for the United States and its NATO allies. Biden will be tasked with communicating a clear plan to address all of this and offering a compelling vision of why this matters to the American people.

Amidst these overarching issues of the war in Ukraine, record-breaking inflation, and a pandemic that continues to take American lives, Biden hasn’t been able to push forward his broad policy agenda. Democratic leadership had hoped to use a procedural tool known as budget reconciliation to pass the “Build Back Better” package that contained a number of Democratic priorities. However, moderate Democratic Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona have signaled their unwillingness to support this package as it currently exists. We anticipate portions of the President’s remarks to give some support to this liberal package. 

Beyond that, we anticipate President Biden to speak on the issue of abortion. On Monday, Senate Majority Leader Schumer brought the Women’s Health Protection Act to the Senate floor for a vote. While it failed to pass the Senate, this legislation is the most pro-abortion bill to ever pass the House of Representatives. It is a deeply disturbing bill and it would be concerning for this bill to be highlighted as an achievement in the President’s address. 

While we have many strongdisagreements with Biden, such as on the issue of abortion, we also see areas of potential cooperation and bipartisanship, where positive policies could be pursued by Congress and the administration. In this deeply divided Congress and with a stalled agenda, Biden ought to use this address to direct his administration’s and Congress’ focus away from areas of extreme partisanship and toward areas of potential bipartisan agreement. Three areas where we’d like to see him do that are on immigration reform, refugee resettlement, and countering China. We highlight these areas because they have been clearly addressed by the Southern Baptist Convention through resolutions passed at the convention’s annual meeting over the years. 

Immigration reform

Though immigration reform was a key promise in Biden’s campaign, little has been done on the issue since he took office. At the beginning of his presidency, he signed a number of immigration-related executive orders and sent his sweeping “U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021” to Congress. However, that bill has not moved forward, and few efforts have been made to gain Republican support. 

Though there are areas of sharp disagreement between the two parties on the area of immigration, there are also significant areas of agreement that should be explored. There is bipartisan support for a permanent, legislative solution for Dreamers, such as the “Dream Act.” Other proposals to reform our asylum system and border security could receive bipartisan support as well through legislation such as the “Bipartisan Border Solutions Act.” And just recently, Republican Congresswoman Salazar (FL) introduced her “Dignity Act” which could prove to be a starting point for negotiations toward a legalization effort between the two parties. 

While none of these pieces of legislation are perfect, they demonstrate that ample ground exists where the two parties could come together and legislate reasonable solutions to these important challenges. In his address, Biden should encourage the two parties to find common ground on this issue and pass bipartisan, commonsense solutions on areas of agreement rather than using these vulnerable immigrants as political pawns and continuing to fail to address these issues that affect human lives.

Refugees

After resettling a record-low number of refugees in fiscal year 2021, Biden set an ambitious goal of resettling 125,000 refugees in fiscal year 2022. Despite this admirable goal, the United States has only resettled 4,362 refugees this fiscal year as of Jan. 31, and is on track to resettle well below that target. 

Under the previous administration, refugee resettlement was largely halted, and many resettlement organizations were forced to close offices and significantly reduce operations. The resettlement pipeline overseas and the resettlement program in the United States were both further decimated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Seriously restarting the refugee resettlement program and reclaiming the United States’ position as a beacon of hope for those seeking refuge is not as simple as flipping a switch and increasing the number of refugees we are willing to accept. Government agencies that handle refugee resettlement and resettlement organizations need serious direction and support to be able to adequately serve these vulnerable populations.

This is also partly due to the resettlement of tens of thousands of vulnerable Afghans who were brought to the United States using humanitarian parole, rather than the formal refugee process, due to the urgency of their evacuation. Resettlement agencies have swiftly jumped in to provide resettlement services to these Afghans despite facing considerable challenges.

Biden must keep the United States’ promises to the Afghan people, particularly those who assisted our troops. He should direct his administration to expedite processing through the refugee resettlement program of Afghans still stuck in third countries or in vulnerable situations overseas and should urge Congress to provide resettlement agencies with the resources they need to fully rebuild. 

China

A third area we’d like to see discussed in President Biden’s State of the Union address is how he plans to bolster the United States’ policies countering China. Though the Biden administration ultimately claimed the passage of the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act at the end of last year as a victory, reporting suggests that they were working behind the scenes to delay and dilute the bill. Similarly, the administration diplomatically boycotted the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing but failed to effectively use their power to help persuade other countries to follow suit.

Throughout the first year of his presidency, the horrendous human rights abuses and genocide of the Uyghur people in China have at times been deprioritized to economic or climate concerns. More must be done to counter China morally. President Biden should use his State of the Union address to lay out plans to do just that. The Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act was passed with broad, bipartisan support, and President Biden should encourage Congress to continue this cooperation to further hold China accountable for its abuses.

President Biden certainly has a difficult task at hand to bring the country together amidst the ongoing challenges in the world. Our hope is that he will pursue these policy areas where compromises can be made and divisions can be overcome, rather than pursuing divisive and extreme policies. Ultimately, Christians do not put their faith in any one leader but trust God and pray that he gives President Biden wisdom as he leads our nation during these difficult times.

By / Jan 21

In this episode, Brent and Lindsay discuss President Biden’s press conference, the trust deficit in the U.S., and the failure of changing the filibuster. They also talk about a COVID-19 blind date that lasted for days, the pro-life movement and human dignity, and the value of senior adults. 

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  2. The U.S. has a trust deficit
  3. Attempt to change filibuster fails 
  4. Blind date lasts for days during COVID lockdowns 

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By / Jan 7

Today, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in emergency requests challenging the Biden administration’s vaccine mandates. The justices have declined to hear oral arguments in cases regarding state-level mandates, and this is the first case related to vaccine mandates they have agreed to hear. 

What are the Biden administration’s vaccine mandates?

There are two vaccine mandates that the Biden administration has issued — one dealing with large employers and the other dealing with healthcare workers. 

OSHA vaccine mandate

On Nov. 4, the Biden administration, through the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), issued a COVID-19 Vaccination and Testing Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS). The stated purpose of this rule is “to protect unvaccinated employees of large employers (100 or more employees) from the risk of contracting COVID-19 by strongly encouraging vaccination.” The intent to issue this rule was announced in September by President Biden, but the text of the rule was issued in November.

The rule states that “covered employers must develop, implement, and enforce a mandatory COVID-19 vaccination policy, with an exception for employers that instead adopt a policy requiring employees to either get vaccinated or elect to undergo regular COVID-19 testing and wear a face covering at work in lieu of vaccination.”

In short, the rule requires employers with 100 or more employees to submit their employees to weekly COVID-19 testing and masking requirements, or the employees can opt to receive one of the three vaccines that are approved or authorized for the prevention of COVID-19 in the U.S.: Pfizer, Moderna, or Johnson & Johnson.

The OSHA rule will affect approximately 84 million private-sector workers across the country, including some 31 million who are believed to be unvaccinated.

It’s important to note that this rule doesn’t require an employee to receive the vaccine, but if they choose not to be vaccinated, they must undergo testing every week. 

CMS vaccine mandate

The second vaccination mandate is issued from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) and requires COVID-19 vaccinations for workers in most healthcare settings that receive Medicare or Medicaid reimbursement, including but not limited to hospitals, dialysis facilities, ambulatory surgical settings, and home health agencies. 

The key difference between the two mandates is that the OSHA mandate allows weekly testing as an alternative to receiving the vaccine.

Are there religious exemptions?

There are three exemptions listed in the OSHA rule:

  1. For whom a vaccine is medically contraindicated;
  2. For whom medical necessity requires a delay in vaccination; or
  3. Who are legally entitled to a reasonable accommodation under federal civil rights laws because they have a disability or sincerely held religious beliefs, practices, or observances that conflict with the vaccination requirement.

While there are stated religious liberty exemptions, it is concerning that the ETS requires each covered employer to establish and implement their own written policy regarding religious exemptions. With this rule, each employer is effectively tasked with creating their own policies, and there will be thousands of different policies throughout the country, leading to inconsistent application and confusion. The proposed OSHA rule doesn’t offer any guidance for how to structure exemptions for objectors who have sincerely held religious beliefs.

The CMS rule also allows for religious exemptions and states that “employers have the flexibility to establish their own processes and procedures, including forms.” It also states, “we point to The Safer Federal Workforce Task Force’s ‘request for a religious exception to the COVID–19 vaccination requirement’ template as an example.”

How did these cases reach the Supreme Court?

After the OHSA mandate was issued, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit ordered a stay of the vaccine mandate and halted enforcement. According to the Alliance Defending Freedom, 

“ . . . multiple lawsuits were filed all over the country, allowing the government to seek a consolidation and transfer to a randomly designated court. The 6th Circuit was selected to handle the consolidated OSHA case. The three-judge panel for the 6th Circuit lifted the stay previously issued by the 5th Circuit that had halted enforcement of the vaccine mandate for private employers with 100 or more employees. In a separate order only days before, a group of eight judges on the 6th Circuit indicated their view that the mandate is unlawful.”

OSHA has stated that it will be exercising “enforcement discretion with respect to the compliance dates of the ETS. To provide employers with sufficient time to come into compliance, OSHA will not issue citations for noncompliance with any requirements of the ETS before January 10 and will not issue citations for noncompliance with the standard’s testing requirements before February 9, so long as an employer is exercising reasonable, good faith efforts to come into compliance with the standard.”

Following decisions by the Court of Appeals for the 5th, 8th, and 11th Circuit, the United States District Court and the Northern District of Texas, the CMS vaccine requirement is preliminary enjoined in 25 states. CMS announced that those states are not required to comply, pending further developments in litigation. However, in the states and the District of Columbia, the rule will be implemented and enforced, following a modified timeline. The deadline for implementing Phase 1 is Jan, 27, 2022, and the deadline for Phase 2 implementation is Feb. 28, 2022.

How does this affect SBC entities?

On Nov. 5, the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (SBTS) and Asbury Theological Seminary filed a petition with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit to challenge the OSHA rule. Dr. Albert Mohler, president of SBTS, stated that “it is unacceptable for the government to force religious institutions to become coercive extensions of state power. We have no choice but to push back against this intrusion of the government into matters of conscience and religious conviction.”

According to the Alliance Defending Freedom, 

“ . . . the lawsuit The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary v. Occupational Safety and Health Administration, alleges that the Biden administration lacks jurisdiction to dictate employment practices to religious institutions, lacks constitutional and statutory authority to issue the employer mandate, and that the mandate failed to meet the required procedural hurdles. In short, the federal government cannot coerce individuals nationwide to undergo medical treatment, and it lacks authority to conscript employers to compel that result.”

The Southern Seminary lawsuit has been consolidated with multiple other cases that now make up the OSHA case SCOTUS is hearing today, with the Alliance Defending Freedom representing the groups.

Additionally, the CMS vaccine mandates impacts faith-based organizations such as the Baptist Homes and Healthcare Ministries, Christian ministries that provide independent living and skilled nursing care to the ageist and elderly.  

Is this the proper role of the government?

These rules raise questions and concerns about limits of government regulation both in terms of public health and safety measures. While governments do have heightened responsibilities during a public health crisis, the state must not use public health emergencies to overstep and exert authority that the Constitution has not entrusted it with.

How will the ERLC engage?

The OSHA interim final rule is open for public comments through Jan. 19, 2022. As we have done on previous occasions with proposed rules affecting churches and religious organizations, the ERLC will submit public comments expressing concerns with the scope of the regulation on behalf of our convention of churches. 

How should Christians think about this?

The ERLC has emphatically stated since the beginning of this public health challenge that government officials should opt for providing guidance over mandates, while at the same time seeking to uphold the free exercise of religion. Elected officials and local health experts should be actively partnering with pastors and churches to serve local communities as this pandemic rages on.

By / Dec 16

Mail order abortion pills are the next front for the pro-life movement, especially in light of the recent oral arguments in the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization case. The FDA today made permanent the temporary regulations allowing women to obtain the pills without an in-person consultation with their physician. This decision represents an extension of the abortion regime’s attempt to expand their ability to provide the abortion and a failure of the government to protect women from dangerous complications that may occur. In addition to making the regulations permanent, the FDA will require that pharmacies that dispense mifepristone be certified. 

What is the abortion pill and procedure?

The use of abortifacient medications has quickly become one of the most common forms of abortion. In 2019, abortion pills accounted for over 40% of all abortions in the United States. The pills may be used up to the 10th week of pregnancy. The procedure uses two separate medications. The first, mifepristone, blocks production of the hormone progesterone which thins the uterine lining and prevents the embryo from remaining implanted. The second pill, misoprostol, is taken 24 to 48 hours after the first dose. It causes the uterus to contract and discharge the child and placenta. A follow-up appointment is required after two weeks. Though this previously included either a sonogram to check for any remaining tissue or blood work to check for an infection caused from any remaining tissue, current regulations allow this to be completed by telephone. 

Previous FDA restrictions

Previously, the first pill had to be administered in a doctor’s office or at a clinic. The second pill could be taken at home. However in April 2021, the Biden administration lifted this requirement because of COVID-19 restrictions on gathering together. The temporary guidance allowed individuals to receive a prescription for the pill with only a telemedicine appointment. They were then shipped through the mail. At the time, the FDA argued that this was a result of review of multiple studies that noted no link between a lack of in-person visit and serious safety concerns. The decision by the Biden administration was a rollback of Trump-era policies that required the in-person visit and which were subsequently upheld by the Supreme Court in a 6-3 decision.

The current regulations were temporary, in effect only because of the pandemic. However, the FDA’s decision today makes permanent the regulation, clearing the way for any certified healthcare provider to prescribe the drugs online and send them by mail. If the Supreme Court were to overturn the precedents in Roe, a possible outcome of the recent Dobbs abortion case heard earlier this month, individuals could still obtain the abortion pills through the mail with a telehealth consultation. Even in states which have passed restrictions on mail-order abortion pills, some companies have said that they will continue to ship the medication and disregard the laws and regulations. 

Dangers of mail-order chemical abortion

The FDA stated in their updated regulations that the “benefits outweighed the risks” as they removed the requirement for in-person consultation. However, though the rates of serious effects are statistically rare (between 1-2%), complications are not uncommon. Also, it should be noted that of the statistics that are available, there are disputes as to their accuracy because women may not report their adverse effects as being linked to the pill if they choose to go to the emergency room, thus leading to an undercounting of complications. 

Common complications from the abortion pills include severe bleeding or cramps as well as hemorrhaging. More dangerous, however, is the threat of an infection that may result from the medication not causing all of the fetal tissue and placenta to be expelled. Also, for individuals who have an ectopic pregnancy (an instance where the embryo implants outside of the uterus), detectable only through a sonogram, taking the first dose of medication — mifepristone — could cause very serious complications such as the rupture of the pregnancy and severe bleeding. 

How should Christians respond to the new regulations?

As Christians, we should lament the lengths to which abortion providers will go to extend the ghoulish practice of taking unborn lives. In some ways, it should be an encouragement that abortion providers feel the need to push for such drastic measures because it evidences the success of the pro-life movement in advancing and passing legislation restricting access to abortion and protecting the lives of the preborn. At the same time, Christians must recognize that this is further evidence that it is not enough just to make abortion illegal. We must convince the culture that the destruction of life is unthinkable.

Even in states that have outlawed the abortion pills, enforcement is difficult. Thus, Christians must work to ensure that they do not confuse the passing of pro-life legislation or the overturning of the precedents in Roe and Casey as the end of the fight. Important as that is, if people still desire abortions, these pills will be available. Christians must work tirelessly to proclaim the dignity of every human life and address those factors that lead women to consider abortion.

By / Dec 10

In this episode, Brent and Lindsay discuss Carson v. Makin at the Supreme Court, the Olympics in China, and Biden confronting Putin over Ukraine. They also talk about biblical justice, friendship and the pro-life movement, and vaccine mandates. 

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  1. Biden confronts Putin over Ukraine
  2. Carson v. Makin before the Supreme Court; ERLC filed brief
  3. China says US diplomatic boycott violates Olympic spirit
  4. Democrats souring on vaccine mandates

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By / Nov 5

On Nov. 4, the Biden administration issued a COVID-19 Vaccination and Testing Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS). The stated purpose of this rule is “to protect unvaccinated employees of large employers (100 or more employees) from the risk of contracting COVID-19 by strongly encouraging vaccination.” The intent to issue this rule was announced in September by President Biden, but the text of the rule was issued in November.

What is OSHA?

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

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

What is the proposed rule?

The rule states that “covered employers must develop, implement, and enforce a mandatory COVID-19 vaccination policy, with an exception for employers that instead adopt a policy requiring employees to either get vaccinated or elect to undergo regular COVID-19 testing and wear a face covering at work in lieu of vaccination.”

In short, the rule requires employers with 100 or more employees to submit their employees to weekly COVID-19 testing and masking requirements, or the employees can opt to receive one of the three vaccines that are approved or authorized for the prevention of COVID-19 in the U.S.: Pfizer, Moderna, or Johnson & Johnson.

The OSHA rule will affect approximately 84 million private-sector workers across the country, including some 31 million who are believed to be unvaccinated.

It’s important to note that this rule doesn’t require an employee to receive the vaccine, but if they choose not to be vaccinated, they must undergo testing every week.  

What is the timeframe?

By Jan. 4, 2022 employees who work for employers with 100 or more people must be vaccinated or submit to weekly testing and masking requirements. The rule was published in the federal register on Nov. 5, and it is open for public comments for 30 days. The ERLC will be submitting public comments to OSHA about this issue.

Are there religious exemptions?

There are three exemptions listed in the rule rule:

  1. For whom a vaccine is medically contraindicated;
  2. For whom medical necessity requires a delay in vaccination; or
  3. Who are legally entitled to a reasonable accommodation under federal civil rights laws because they have a disability or sincerely held religious beliefs, practices, or observances that conflict with the vaccination requirement.

While there are stated religious liberty exemptions, it is concerning that the ETS requires each covered employer to establish and implement their own written policy regarding religious exemptions. With this rule, each employer is effectively tasked with creating their own policies, and there will be thousands of different policies throughout the country, leading to inconsistent application and confusion. The proposed rule doesn’t offer any guidance for how to structure exemptions for objectors who have sincerely held religious beliefs.

How does this affect SBC entities?

On Nov. 5, the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (SBTS) and Asbury Theological Seminary, filed a petition with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit to challenge the OSHA rule. Dr. Albert Mohler, president of SBTS, stated that “it is unacceptable for the government to force religious institutions to become coercive extensions of state power. We have no choice but to push back against this intrusion of the government into matters of conscience and religious conviction.”

According to the Alliance Defending Freedom, 

“the lawsuit The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary v. Occupational Safety and Health Administration, alleges that the Biden administration lacks jurisdiction to dictate employment practices to religious institutions, lacks constitutional and statutory authority to issue the employer mandate, and that the mandate failed to meet the required procedural hurdles. In short, the federal government cannot coerce individuals nationwide to undergo medical treatment, and it lacks authority to conscript employers to compel that result.”

Is this the proper role of the government?

This rule raises questions and concerns about limits of government regulation both in terms of public health and safety measures. While governments do have heightened responsibilities during a public health crisis, the state must not use public health emergencies to overstep and exert authority that the Constitution has not entrusted it with.

ERLC’s Acting President, Brent Leatherwood stated:

From the outset of the challenges presented by COVID-19, we have consistently argued that  guidance from elected officials and public health experts is the path to take in lieu of mandates –– particularly as it relates to religious entities. This proposed rule is not that. Some private institutions will raise serious objections to government overreach. The better route for the state to take is providing clear, consistent, and coherent counsel that our fight is against a deadly disease, not one another.

How will the ERLC engage?

The OSHA interim final rule is open for public comments through Dec. 6. As we have done on previous occasions with proposed rules affecting churches and religious organizations, the ERLC will submit public comments expressing concerns with the scope of the regulation on behalf of our convention of churches. 

How should Christians think about this?

The ERLC has emphatically stated since the beginning of this public health challenge that government officials should opt for providing guidance over mandates, while at the same time seeking to uphold the free exercise of religion. Elected officials and local health experts should be actively partnering with pastors and churches to serve local communities as this pandemic rages on.

By / Nov 5

President Biden traveled to Rome last week to attend the annual G20 summit, a gathering of leaders from the world’s most powerful nations. Here is what you should know about the influential forum.

What is the G20 summit?

The G20 Summit is an informal forum, held annually, that includes 20 of the world’s major economies, known collectively as the G20, G-20, or Group of Twenty. The G20 was founded in 1999 with the aim of studying, reviewing, and promoting high-level discussion of policy issues pertaining to the promotion of international financial stability. The members of the G20 account for more than 80% of world GDP, 75% of global trade, and 60% of the population of the planet.

What countries comprise the G20?

The G20 includes the European Union (EU) and 19 individual countries: Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, South Korea, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Turkey, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

Several international organizations also regularly participate in the G20 summits, including the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank (WB), the Financial Stability Board (FSB), the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the World Trade Organization (WTO), the International Labour Organization (ILO), and the United Nations (UN). Each hosting country can also invite other countries, regional organizations, and international organizations to the summit.

Who represents these countries at the summit?

Each country is represented by their head of government, finance minister, and governor of the central bank. The EU is represented by the heads of the European Commission and by the European Central Bank. For the United States, the representatives are President Biden, Secretary of the Treasury Janet Yellen, Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powel, and United States Trade Representative Katherine Tai.

​​How is the G20 organized?

The G20 has no permanent staff or organization, but rather rotates annually among the members. Each member is assigned to one of five groups to ensure a “regional balance over time”:  Group 1 includes Australia, Canada, Saudi Arabia, and the United States; Group 2 includes India, Russia, South Africa, and Turkey; Group 3 includes Argentina, Brazil, and Mexico; Group 4 includes France, Germany, Italy, and the United Kingdom; Group 5 includes China, Indonesia, Japan, and South Korea.

A revolving three-member management group of past, present, and future chairs, referred to as the “Troika”, ensures continuity. The Troika countries are currently Saudi Arabia, Italy, and Indonesia. 

Where is the current G20, and where were they held in the past?

Italy assumed the G20 Presidency for 2021 and will host the Summit of the Heads of State and Government on October 30th and 31st in Rome.

Previous hosts of the G20 Leaders’ Summit were the United States (2008 and 2009), the United Kingdom (2009), Canada (2010), the Republic of Korea (2010), France (2011), Mexico (2012), Russia (2013), Australia (2014), Turkey (2015), China (2016), Germany (2017), Argentina (2018), and Japan (2019). Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2020 summit hosted by Saudi Arabia was held virtually. 

What issues were discussed at the summit?

The G20 started in 1999 as a meeting of finance ministers and central bank governors in the aftermath of the Asian financial crisis. Since the global financial crisis in 2008, though, the focus has expanded to include “working to strengthen the resilience of the global financial system and to improve the regulation and supervision of financial market participants, including what is known as the shadow banking system. The aim is to ensure that no financial market, financial market participant or financial product remains unsupervised.”

The summits have traditionally focused on issues relating to financial market regulation, global economic growth, and international trade. But almost anything of global significance that is closely linked with economic questions may be considered. Previous summits have included discussions about climate change, counter-terrorism, development policy, digital technology, migration, and refugee flows.  

For 2021, the G20, under the Italian Presidency, will focus on “three broad, interconnected pillars of action: People, Planet, Prosperity.” 

On the issue of the climate, these leaders committed to the key Paris Agreement goal of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, pledged action against dirty coal plants, and pledged to reach a target of net zero carbon emissions “by or around mid-century.”

On financial regulation, they approved an agreement that will subject multinationals to a minimum 15% tax as part of an effort to build “a more stable and fairer international tax system.” (This must first be approved by each national legislature, such as the U.S. Congress.)

On the pandemic, they vowed to support the WHO’s goal of vaccinating at least 40% of the world’s population against COVID-19 by 2021 and 70% by the middle of next year.

Despite including in their agenda “protecting the most vulnerable,” the summit will not include discussion of how to deal with the ongoing genocide of the Uyghur people by the Chinese Communist Party or other issues related to religious liberty.

By / Oct 4

Today, the Office of Population Affairs (OPA) at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) issued the final rule to revise regulations that govern the Title X family planning program “by readopting the 2000 regulations, with several revisions.” The stated effect of the final rule is to revoke the requirements of changes ordered in 2018 that included “removing restrictions on non-directive options counseling and referrals for abortion services and eliminating requirements for strict physical and financial separation between abortion-related activities and Title X project activities.”

The new rule, which takes effect on Nov. 8, will allow health centers to receive the federal funds even if they refer patients for abortions. With this reinstatement, Planned Parenthood stands to gain up to $60 million annually in federal taxpayer funding.

ERLC acting president Brent Leatherwood said, “While some will couch this in the Orwellian terms of advancing reproductive health, we should be clear about what is occuring here: Preborn lives are in danger, mothers are rendered vulnerable to a predatory abortion industry, and taxpayer consciences are being steamrolled. This should be unacceptable in the eyes of every American. But as long as we remain a society that refuses to recognize the inherent dignity and right to life that each person possesses in the womb, we will remain a throwaway culture that wantonly discards children and bankrolls abortionists.”

What is the Title X funding program?

Title X or Title X Family Planning is the common name for Public Law 91-572 — the “Family Planning Services and Population Research Act of 1970.” Title X is a federal grant program “dedicated solely to providing individuals with comprehensive family planning and related preventive health services.” The funds — currently $286.5 million a year — are given to the individual states who, based on federal rules and regulations, disperse it to qualified Title X clinics. The statute prohibits this money from being used to support abortion as a method of family planning. According to the law, “[n]one of the funds appropriated under this subchapter shall be used in programs where abortion is a method of family planning.”

Title X allows grant money to be “used only to support preventive family planning services.” All this really means, though, is that grant recipients like Planned Parenthood cannot directly use money from the federal government for abortion services. But money is fungible. A dollar spent for one purpose can also cover other purposes. For example, the money the federal government gives to Planned Parenthood can be used indirectly to cover operating and overhead costs such as rent and staff salary. This allows Planned Parenthood to provide abortions that are essentially subsidized by the government.  

History of Title X

In 2019 under the Trump administration, HHS issued a new final rule to reinstate Title X regulations that separate taxpayer dollars from funding abortion. The rule shifted funding from abortion providers — such as Planned Parenthood — and steered some of it toward faith-based care providers. In June 2019, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals refused to block the final Title X rule.

Title X has been somewhat of a political football, changing with different administrations.

During the Reagan administration, a regulation was issued that required that Title X projects be organized so that they are “physically and financially separate” from prohibited abortion activities. This regulation was challenged in the courts but was upheld in the 1991 Supreme Court ruling Rust v. Sullivan.

When former President Clinton took office, he reversed that regulation, and it was never reinstated. Former President Obama issued an additional regulation prohibiting states from defunding or deprioritizing abortion businesses in issuing subgrants with their Title X money. (This regulation was overturned by Congress in March 2017.) President Trump’s rule was loosely based on the Reagan-era framework.

The ERLC strongly opposed the reversal of this rule, and we will always advocate for life before Congress, the courts, and the administration. We know the abortion industry devalues human life and exploits families, and we are deeply grieved by this action. The ERLC will continue to be a voice for the voiceless and work toward a day when abortion is both unnecessary and unthinkable.