By / Dec 27

It rarely happens to me, but I could not speak. I just sat in a kind of stunned silence when I heard the news. Then, I felt like crying, which is also rare for me. My tears, however, were tears of joy. It should not be this way, but I was surprised that God had positively answered a prayer I had been praying for 32 years since I became a Christian. Roe v. Wade was overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court in the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision with a 6-3 ruling. No longer is the purposeful destruction of life in the womb counted as a federally protected right. 

I have been reminded in the ensuing days of many of the tireless heroes I have known who have been on the front lines, relentlessly fighting for the end of Roe. Most of these people are ordinary Americans from all walks of life, full of faith and hope. They are people whose compassion compels them to be champions for life, from womb to tomb. The coalition looks nothing like the cartoonish caricatures some on the cultural left attempt to make them out to be. Their chief weapons in this battle have been kindness, generosity, and persistence. 

More recently, my thoughts have turned to the fact that our pro-life coalition, while rightly rejoicing in a significant victory, must not grow weary in well-doing (Gal. 6:9). The toppling of Roe did not make abortion illegal across the nation but rather turned the issue back to the states. There is work to be done—more work, not less—in every state across the nation in defending and caring for life.

What legislation is like in a more pro-life state

My state, Kentucky, faces a far different situation than my brothers and sisters in California. While our governor, Andy Beshear, is radically pro-abortion, the state is not. During statewide COVID lockdowns, the governor’s edict called for only life-saving medical procedures to be permitted, but he made an exception for the EMW Women’s Surgical Center, the state’s only abortion clinic. Nevertheless, the Kentucky General Assembly preemptively passed a trigger law in 2019 to take effect immediately upon the overturning of Roe. The trigger law bans abortion in the state with an exception to save the life of the mother. Attorney General Daniel Cameron has clarified that he will enforce Kentucky’s pro-life laws. Kentucky was one of 13 states to pass post-Roe trigger laws.1https://www.guttmacher.org/article/2022/06/13-states-have-abortion-trigger-bans-heres-what-happens-when-roe-overturned

However, Kentucky is not a state free of pro-life concerns. In the recent November general elections, Kentuckians were asked to pass Constitutional Amendment 2.

The one-sentence amendment stated, “To protect human life, nothing in this Constitution shall be construed to secure or protect a right to abortion or require the funding of abortion.” The amendment was already passed by the state legislature in November 2021.

Constitutional Amendment 2 was simply worded to prevent activist judges from “finding” a right to abortion in Kentucky’s Constitution and ensures that the state’s abortion policy will be set exclusively by the citizens of the Commonwealth and its elected representatives. The amendment would have ensured that the citizens of Kentucky would not be coerced into funding the destruction of babies’ lives in the womb.2https://www.kentucky.com/news/state/kentucky/article267183231.html Though the pro-life coalition in Kentucky advocated strongly for the bill, it failed to garner the support necessary. This demonstrates that end of Roe was but a new beginning for the work of the pro-life movement.

These legislative battles are strategically important in post-Roe America. No Christian should minimize their importance in the least. In our federal democratic republic, the sword is placed in each of our hands, and we must wield it faithfully to the glory of Christ. Nevertheless, with equal vehemence, we must assert that legislative battles are only a part of the story for the church in our post-Roe world. Our gaze must stretch from ballot initiatives all the way to the consummation of Christ’s kingdom. 

Advocating for life made in God’s image

For Christians, our pro-life commitment is rooted in the fact that we are all made in the image of our Creator God. Any thought of life, for the Christian, should always prompt thoughts about eternal life. There is always more to the story for believers than any particular cultural moment. The truth is, the bulk of on-the-ground pro-lifers I have known throughout my life as a follower of Jesus have lived this reality. The power of the pro-life cause has been that most pro-lifers have not viewed their cultural opponents as enemies. I have known many people won to the pro-life cause because of how they were served and loved by someone they viewed as an enemy. 

I will never forget when a woman came up to me after a morning church service and said, “I want to introduce you to my child. My child is only alive because of your church.” Then she told me about the day she headed to the abortion clinic where people were pleading with her to keep her baby and offering to pray for her. She said she screamed, “You do not care about this baby’s life! Just its birth!” Those people, members of the church I pastor, gave her money to get on her feet, paid for the baby’s needs, and helped her get a job. 

You know what? I still do not know who the particular members of my church were that served and loved this confused and frightened woman. I do not know because they did not do it so that others would know. They did it because they love Christ and love the people made in his image. I do not know if that woman is a Christian today, but I do know she heard the gospel and has been shown love in Christ’s name. I also know that every time she sees her child she is reminded of that love.

I thank God for the fall of Roe, and I pray that my beloved state of Kentucky will become a state where abortion is unthinkable. We must continue to work on legislative measures that will end government-sponsored predation on women in moments of crisis and confusion by legally protecting something so egregiously wrong. But I also know this: regardless, there will still be confused and frightened women in Kentucky and around the nation facing a pregnancy who will need believers to show them the love of Christ. 

Our fight against the deceitful culture of death will continue until that ancient serpent of old is thrown into the lake of fire (Rev. 20:2, 10). The Evil One has hated babies and sought their destruction since the first gospel promise that one born of woman will bring his demise (Genesis 3:15). Supreme courts matter, elected officials matter, but the Messiah and his church transcends all. The Church must understand that the pro-life movement did not begin in the 1960s; it began in the garden, and its ultimate victory is not in courts, but in a New Heavens and New Earth.

  • 1
    https://www.guttmacher.org/article/2022/06/13-states-have-abortion-trigger-bans-heres-what-happens-when-roe-overturned
  • 2
    https://www.kentucky.com/news/state/kentucky/article267183231.html
By / Aug 6

As American culture continues to transform, one of the areas of particular concern for communities of faith is the preservation of religious liberty and all its applications. From the pew to the public square, people of faith have long enjoyed accommodations allowing them to act according to their conscience, abstaining from actions that would violate their deeply held religious convictions, for instance. This has long been a hallmark of life in America.

But recent actions by the current administration threaten to undermine these fundamental exercises of freedom. The Department of Justice, on July 30, dismissed a lawsuit filed by its Civil Rights Division against the University of Vermont Medical Center (UVMMC) which stated that UVMMC, in forcing a staff member to participate in an abortive procedure despite her stated moral objections, violated “the federal anti-discrimination statute known as the Church Amendments.” What proved to be a clear violation of the law by UVMMC ended with “no admission of guilt, no injunction, no corrective action, no settlement,” resulting in what Roger Severino says is “effectively a full pardon” for the organization. The ERLC joins Severino and the team at the Ethics and Public Policy Center in decrying this outrageous development. 

What was the lawsuit about?

On Aug. 28, 2019, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Office for Civil Rights issued a Notice of Violation stating that “after a thorough investigation and prolonged attempts to resolve the matter,” it was determined that UVMMC “violated the Church Amendments (42 U.S.C. 300a-7) by forcing a nurse to assist in an elective abortion procedure over the nurse’s conscience-based objections.” 

In response to these findings, “the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division”, on Dec. 16, 2020, “filed a civil lawsuit in Vermont federal court against the University of Vermont Medical Center” for its egregious act of discrimination. 

In the Justice Department’s press release, referring to the aforementioned “Church Amendments,” the statement declares that “that statute prohibits health care entities like UVMMC from discriminating against health care workers who follow their conscience and refuse to perform or assist with abortions.” The statement goes on to call UVMMC’s actions “an indecent coercion that violates everything this country stands for,” a “shocking and outrageous attack against the right of all people in this free country to follow their conscience,” and stating, “the U.S. Department of Justice will not stand for it.” 

Why was the lawsuit dropped?

Shockingly, though, the newly appointed Justice Department had a dramatic change of mind, deciding to “stand for it,” after all. 

According to Severino, the Department of Justice’s and HHS’ unusual step of dropping “a duly authorized lawsuit after it has been investigated and filed” is attributable to the newly elected and appointed administration. Since the violation, investigation, and eventual lawsuit all occurred under the previous administration, and seemed headed for some sort of lawful resolution, it is difficult to explain this move in any other way.

What happens next in this case?

Because the case was voluntarily dropped by the Department of Justice, it appears that no further action will be taken. As Severino pointed out, there was no admission of guilt, no order of injunction, no recommendation for corrective actions or measures, and no settlement awarded to the victim in this case. Furthermore, the victim herself has little-to-no legal actions at her disposal “due to nuances around private rights of action.” 

As such, the University of Vermont Medical Center will continue to receive federal funds “despite it having been found by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to have violated the law.”

What’s at stake in this case and others like it?

Considering the language used by Eric Dreiband, former assistant attorney general for the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, “everything that this country stands for” is at stake in a case such as this. 

Flagrant forms of discrimination like this against persons of faith are a direct violation of federal law, as the HHS Office for Civil Rights articulated in its Notice of Violation. Moreover, it is a transgression against one of the most fundamental human rights, freedom of conscience. If the outcome of this case is indicative of this administration’s intentions toward people of faith, then it signals a blatant disavowal of America’s most foundational and cherished liberty. 

Christians should stand ready to involve ourselves in the work of preserving and expanding conscience-protections on behalf of all people of faith, ensuring that religious and civil liberties continue to enjoy robust protections.  As always, the ERLC is committed to working on behalf of Southern Baptists, the broader Christian community, and all people of faith to defend these fundamental rights. 

Are there forthcoming legislative remedies?

In terms of expanding conscience-protections, specifically in the field of healthcare, Sen. James Lankford (R-OK), in January 2019, introduced the Conscience Protection Act, an effort “to protect healthcare providers, including health care professionals, entities, and health insurance plans from government discrimination if they decline to participate in abortions,” which he then reintroduced on Feb. 23, 2021.

Whereas, in the event of a situation like that which occurred at UVMMC, where conscience-protections were clearly violated, “the only recourse is to file a complaint with the HHS Office for Civil Rights,” the Conscience Protection Act “provides doctors, nurses, and other health care workers permanent protection from being discriminated against by employers if they choose to follow their conscience and do not wish to perform, participate in, or provide an abortion.” As Lankford says, “Many entered health care to protect life; they should not be forced to take a life to keep their jobs.”

The passage of this bill would be a commendable step toward protecting the rights of conscience for those employed in the healthcare industry, and it’s one that the ERLC wholeheartedly supports. 

It is likely that cases similar to the one at UVMMC will continue to pop up as culture trends in a secular direction, but legislation like the Conscience Protection Act would ensure that robust and necessary protections are guaranteed for conscience-bound healthcare workers who find themselves in morally objectionable situations. 

By / Mar 16

Last month, H.R. 5, the Equality Act passed the U.S. House of Representatives by a vote of 224-206, with all Democrats and three Republicans voting in favor of the legislation. The legislation seeks to expand the definition of “sex” to include “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” (SOGI) and would revise every title of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to add these categories as new protected classes in the federal code. This sweeping bill was voted on in the House without a hearing at the House Judiciary Committee. The bill first passed the House in the 116th Congress, but did not receive a hearing or floor vote in the Senate under a Republican majority.

For more on this problematic bill and its alarming implications, see this previous explainer from the ERLC staff as well as this helpful resource page with articles, podcast episodes, and our policy brief. 

The ERLC affirms the full dignity of every human being. At the 2018 Annual Meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention, the Messengers passed a resolution to “reaffirm the sacredness and full dignity and worthiness of respect and Christian love for every single human being, without any reservation.” However, the Equality Act does not advance the cause of human dignity. If passed, the bill would punish faith-based charities for their core religious beliefs about human dignity and marriage and would undermine decades of civil rights protections for women and girls. 

This bill would also substantially undermine religious liberty protections in the United States. America has long been a place where people with different views and beliefs have been able to live at peace with one other. This bill would undermine fundamental protections that allow Americans of good will to disagree with one another without penalizing those with dissenting beliefs.

What will happen next with the Equality Act?

The Senate Judiciary Committee will be holding a hearing on the Equality Act this Wednesday. Due to the Democrat’s narrow control of the Senate, it is possible that the Equality Act will be voted out of committee, making it eligible for a vote on the Senate floor. However, under Senate rules, 60 votes are required to overcome the filibuster when the Senate is considering new policy. In its current form, H.R. 5 would likely fall short of this threshold. 

The ERLC is actively engaging lawmakers on this issue. We will continue promoting and defending the dignity and religious liberty of all people on Capitol Hill, before the courts, and in the public square.

H.R. 5 is out of step with basic American ideals. It seeks to end debate on critical issues by using the legal system to crush ideological opponents. Equality cannot be achieved by eliminating fundamental freedoms. 

How else might the Equality Act become law?

The ERLC is closely monitoring efforts by the LGBT lobby to append components of the Equality Act to other legislation under consideration by Congress through the amendment process. This includes spending or appropriations bills as well as legislation that is focused on other aims and objectives.

These efforts would also expand the definition of sex to include gender identity and sexual orientation or create new references to “sexual and gender minorities.” Depending on the context, such language can pave the way for the government to have the power to punish faith-based agencies charged with serving our nation’s most vulnerable children or undermine hard-fought protections for women and girls.

What’s next?

As the ERLC works to inform members of the U.S. Senate on the harms of the Equality Act, we will also combat attempts to pass components of the Equality Act in other places. This week, join us in praying that members of the Senate Judiciary Committee will see clearly, perhaps for the first time, the myriad problems the Equality Act would create. 

By / Feb 26

As a husband, pastor, and the father of eight children, five of whom are daughters, there are many reasons I am deeply troubled by H.R. 5, legislation ironically named the Equality Act. In this article, I want to focus on my concerns as a girl dad who loves sports.  

As a girl dad, I am concerned about the Equality Act because it will undermine female equality by negating the biological reality of sex. Erasing biological sex as a legal category will negatively affect all of us, but it will disproportionately harm women.

Women and Title IX

Under H.R. 5, vital laws protecting women from discrimination on the basis of “sex” would be upended. A person’s sex would no longer be a matter of biology, but of one’s internal sense of “gender identity.” Title IX is a portion of the United States Education Amendments of 1972, designed to ensure equal opportunities in programs and activities for biological females. The amendment is probably best known for its impact on high school and college athletics. Title IX reads,

No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.

Of course, when Title IX was adopted, “sex” merely indicated whether a person was biologically male or female. If the legal definition of “sex” is expanded to include non-verifiable gender identities, which H.R. would do, then what is the purpose of Title IX? How can you have an anti-discrimination law in place to protect women if there is no objective way to determine who is male and female? Any attempt to enforce such regulations would be nonsensical.

Impossible standards

In athletics, a refusal to account for biological, sex-dependent differences will legally enshrine inequality in sports. In addition to being unfair, it is insulting and demeaning to females when we proceed as if biological males are the standard by which they ought to evaluate themselves. Acknowledging biological differences in athletic competition is as necessary as acknowledging differences in age.

This is not hyperbole. 

Female athletes nationwide are already experiencing the unjust effects of our cultural gender chaos. In Texas, a 17-year-old female student transitioning to male and undergoing testosterone treatments won the girl’s state championship in wrestling. Performance-enhancing drugs are banned in most sports competitions but not if allowing them accommodates the student to “transition.” In Connecticut, biological males competing as females combined to win 15 girls state outdoor or indoor championship races. And how should we respond if a male who self-identifies as a female seriously injures a female while wrestling? It is not inconceivable that such issues portend the end of public school athletics.

Even tennis champion, long-time gay rights activist, and open lesbian Martina Navratilova responded with shock and outrage when she heard about biological transgender males competing against females. She penned a February 2019 article titled, “The rules on trans athletes reward cheats and punish the innocent.”

Navratilova asserted, “It’s insane and it’s cheating. I am happy to address a transgender woman in whatever form she prefers, but I would not be happy to compete against her. It would not be fair.” She continued, “To put the argument at its most basic: a man can decide to be female, take hormones if required by whatever sporting organization is concerned, win everything in sight and perhaps earn a small fortune, and then reverse his decision and go back to making babies if he so desires.” Of course, she was pilloried for her common sense comments and walked them back a bit.

Level playing field

My oldest daughter has enough talent as a tennis player, competing against other girls, to earn an athletic college scholarship to an excellent school. Would that be the case if she had to compete against biological males? No. Not even close. 

Let’s be honest; legislation like the Equality Act is not about protecting people who have been unfairly excluded from participation in sports. It is about politicizing everything in our culture, including sports, in service of the sexual revolution. 

I have no plans to turn my back on the reality of biological science. Nor to accept the new sexual orthodoxy. Still, I am gutted when I think about the implications of this legislative assault on my five daughters. There are far worse ramifications of H.R. 5 than the end of female sports, but as a dad who fiercely loves his daughters and has spent a lifetime enjoying sports, I grieve the thought of that loss in particular. 

The truth is found on the opening page of Scripture. “God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them” (Genesis 1:27). I cannot wait until the weather warms, to watch my daughters compete against other girls on a tennis court. The beauty of competition taking place on a level playing field brings me great joy. I plan to enjoy it as long as I can.

By / Feb 3

As we step into a new year, as well as a new administration in Washington, D.C., we want to join together to discuss this important moment in the pro-life movement. We believe that the 50th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court case which will occur in January of 2023 will mark a significant moment in time for the pro-life movement. We have a powerful opportunity now to begin 2021 discussing the future of the pro-life movement and begin casting a vision for the next three years—what we are calling the “Road to Roe50”.

This panel first aired during the ERLC’s Evangelicals for Life conference on Thursday, January 28, 2021.

This episode was sponsored by The Good Book Company, publisher of Being the Bad Guy by Stephen McAlpine.

Guest Biographies

Denise Harle serves as senior counsel for Alliance Defending Freedom. Denise focuses her litigation efforts on defending the First Amendment freedoms of pro-life health care professionals and pregnancy resource centers. She also works to defend pro-life legislation around the nation. Since joining ADF, Harle took the primary role in drafting the briefs to the U.S. Supreme Court in NIFLA v. Becerra, resulting in a free speech victory for California pro-life pregnancy centers.

Steven Aden serves as Chief Legal Officer and General Counsel for Americans United for Life. Aden is an experienced litigator, having appeared in court against Planned Parenthood and the abortion industry dozens of times and appointed by the attorneys general of six states to defend pro-life laws securing numerous victories.

Resources from the Conversation

By / Jan 22

The inauguration of a new president and the swearing-in of a new Congress always means a time of change and new beginnings. The 117th Congress, though, begins in a time of unique peril and uncertainty for our country. A global pandemic—and the resulting economic distress—along with the January 6 insurrection against our country mean that a level of anxiety exists in perhaps unprecedented levels. But, God as revealed in Scripture does not give us, as the people of Christ, the option to yield to fear or, maybe even worse, to cynicism. A time of peril is also a time of opportunity, for witness, for cooperation, and for the quest for justice.

In some ways, our Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) agenda will be the same as that of all Americans of goodwill—an end to the COVID-19 disease that has long plagued the world. In other ways, multiple issues will emerge unique to the mission of the ERLC. We will work with any and all of those elected by the people, or appointed to serve in our government by those who were so elected, on issues where we may share common concern. On some of those issues—such as criminal justice reform, the regulation of payday lenders, and providing a just solution to the plight of children brought to this country by their parents and now in legal limbo—there may well prove to be broad bipartisan consensus already. On other issues—such as protecting preborn children and their mothers, strengthening protections for religious freedom and conscience, and advocacy for religious minorities in peril around the world—there will probably be much less consensus in a divided and increasingly partisan America. Nonetheless, whether issues are currently popular or unpopular, we have the opportunity to bear witness, to seek to persuade, and to build the consensus needed to make change.

In addition to our work with the executive and legislative branches of the federal government, the ERLC will continue our work with the judicial branch on issues consistent with our mission, and will expand our work in multiple states, in partnership with state conventions and state advocacy groups, on issues of missional priority that are of national import.

The following agenda is not an exhaustive blueprint, but a sketch of the core public policy priorities for the next year through the cooperation of congregations throughout the Southern Baptist Convention.

By / Nov 12

Every person is created in the image of God. The ERLC affirms the biological differences between male and female reflected in God’s creation. God’s design was intended for human good and flourishing (Gen. 1:27). The ERLC upholds the Southern Baptist Convention’s position on gender identity stated in its summary of faith, the Baptist Faith and Message which says “Man is the special creation of God, made in His own image. He created them male and female as the crowning work of His creation. The gift of gender is thus part of the goodness of God’s creation.”

Allowing biological males to participate in female sports is unfair to women and girls. Athletic competition clearly demonstrates the physiological differences between male and female. Biological males possess distinct physical advantages over biological females, which give them an unfair athletic advantage. These biological differences are the purpose of sports, separated by sex. Opening up sports to males hinders females the opportunity to compete and thrive in athletics.

Title IX prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex. Allowing biological men to compete against women and girls disrupts the intent of  Title IX civil rights law. Schools that allow biological males to participate in female sports programs are discriminating against biological females. In order to protect the integrity of women’s sports, only biological females should be allowed to compete.

The ERLC calls on Congress to pass the Protection of Women and Girls in Sports Act of 2021. The Act would clarify that it is a Title IX violation for schools that receive federal education funds to permit biological males to participate in female sports. Congress should protect women and girls by ensuring they are given a fair opportunity to compete in athletics. 

By / Jan 15

The ERLC publishes a legislative agenda at the beginning of each year to outline the issues and policies we will focus on in our work in Washington, D.C. to serve Southern Baptists and advance the common good. The ERLC policy team, with Lauren Konkol joining the Capitol Conversations roundtable for the first time, talk about our 2019 Legislative Agenda. The team also discusses the new 116th Congress and what to expect in the year ahead.

Resources from the Conversation

By / Jan 31

In Washington, we are in the second session of the 115th Congress. This is an election year, which means the window for legislative activity is shorter than usual and tensions will heighten when voting on difficult issues. While 2017 was a year of many surprises and political uncertainty, we remained focused on our priorities and were able to secure several victories in advancing our priorities.

The following lays out the legislative and policy initiatives we will engage this year. Some issues are new for 2018, but much of this agenda consists of continuing and completing the work we started in the first session of the 115th Congress. A good example is the work done in the context of appropriations and spending. We worked hard to ensure many of our priorities were included as riders in the appropriations bills passed by the House of Representatives last year. We will now continue working with the Senate and the White House to ensure these priorities remain in the final legislation when Congress takes up an omnibus appropriations bill this spring.

Though not exhaustive, the following agenda provides insight into the range of issues the ERLC will focus on this year to serve Southern Baptists and the common good. This is an ambitious agenda and that many of these items are long-term initiatives that will require incremental progress and a sustained commitment over time. Above all, we believe that rigorous integrity produces the most fruitful political engagement. We will continue to work to that end for Southern Baptists in Washington, D.C. this year.

By / Nov 28

Now that the consumer-focused shopping events Black Friday and Cyber Monday have passed, many Americans will be supporting #GivingTuesday. This global event is the unofficial marker for the start of the charitable season, when many focus on their holiday and end-of-year giving.

One of the main reasons charitable giving increases in December is because of the tax implications. As the year closes, so does the deadline for being able to make contributions that will increase the amount that can be claimed under the Charitable Deduction.

According to the IRS, taxpayers may deduct charitable contributions of money or property made to qualified organizations if they itemize their deductions. Generally, a taxpayer may deduct up to 50 percent of their adjusted gross income, but 20 percent and 30 percent limitations apply in some cases. This deduction has a profound effect on charitable giving, but has been undercut by the both the standard deduction and the requirement to itemize deductions.

This wasn’t always the case. Soon after the U.S. federal government passed the first law implementing a tax on income in 1913, many Americans became concerned that the new tax would decrease giving, particularly in a time of increased wartime tax rates. The Charitable Deduction was thus included in 1917 to provide an incentive and to offset the effect of taxation on giving.

Here’s why ERLC calls for Congress to extend the Charitable Deduction to 100 percent of taxpayers.

When it was first implemented, most income taxes were paid by the wealthy. But because of federal spending after the Great Depression and during World War II, the government needed to expand the tax base. By the mid-1940s, approximately 75 percent of the American population was paying federal income taxes. The process of calculating taxes and deductions was complex, though, so in 1944 the federal government implemented the first standard deduction.

The standard deduction—a set dollar amount that reduces the amount of income on which a taxpayer is taxed—made tax-filing simpler, and by 2014 only 30 percent of households still chose to itemize deductions. But while this was an improvement for most taxpayers, it reduced the number of people who were eligible for the Charitable Deduction.

The current tax reform plan would decrease that number even more as it increases the standard deduction and eliminates many other deductions. If the current tax reform is passed less than 5 percent of taxpayers able to claim the Charitable Deduction. This could have a devastating effect since research has shown that increasing the standard deduction has a negative effect on charitable giving for both religious congregations and other charities.

Fortunately there’s a simple solution to this problem: create a Universal Charitable Deduction. Extending the Charitable Deduction to 100 percent of taxpayers, not just those who itemize, would have the immediate effect of increasing total charitable giving. A study by the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy finds that extending the charitable deduction to non-itemizers would increase charitable giving by $12.2 billion (4.3 percent) and decrease tax revenue by $13.1 billion (-0.5 percent). The net difference between charitable giving and tax revenue would be -$0.9 billion (-0.03 percent).

As a new white paper produced by ERLC notes, the beneficiaries of the Charitable Deduction are those served by charity. Institutions of civil society remind us we are not merely economic units managed by a government bureaucracy. Rather, we have obligations to one another as neighbors. In an era where government budgets are already under high pressure, the last thing lawmakers should do is risk the viability of private sector charity. When private sector charities reduce or cease operations their clients have few options other than to join government social service programs, which in turn burdens government budgets.

For these reasons ERLC calls for Congress to extend the Charitable Deduction to 100 percent of taxpayers, not just those who itemize. A Universal Charitable Deduction would incentivize all taxpayers, not just those in upper income brackets who itemize their deductions.

Current legislative proposals that would allow above-the- line deductions for individuals not itemizing include Senator James Lankford’s S.2123 and Congressman Mark Walker’s H.R. 3988. Both of these amendments would amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 for an individual who does not elect to itemize his deductions to claim the charitable deduction up to one-third the value of the standard deduction.

It’s time the government should encourage the voluntary financial giving of all citizens, at all levels of income. As Americans open their hearts and wallets to contribute to support their favorite charities, the government needs to give all taxpayers a way to avoid being taxed on their generosity.