By / Jan 8

Catholics around the world are sharply divided by the Vatican’s recent declaration giving priests more leeway to bless same-sex couples. Supporters of LGBTQ inclusion welcome the move; some conservative bishops assail the new policy as a betrayal of the church’s condemnation of sexual relations between gay or lesbian partners.

Strikingly, the flare-up of debate in Catholic ranks coincides with developments in two other international Christian denominations — the global Anglican Communion and the United Methodist Church — that are fracturing over differences in LGBTQ-related policies.

Taken together, it’s a dramatic illustration of how – in a religion that stresses God’s love for humanity – divisions over marriage, sexuality, and inclusion of gays and lesbians are proving insurmountable for the foreseeable future in many sectors of Christianity.

Some conservative denominations — such as the Southern Baptist Convention and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints — have adhered firmly to policies that reject recognition of same-sex relationships and ordination of openly LGBTQ people. These policies have prompted departures, but no major schism.

Brent Leatherwood, president of the Southern Baptists’ public policy commission, reiterated the SBC’s position in a statement asserting that the Vatican — under Pope Francis — “has been on a trajectory that seems destined for the allowance of same-sex marriage.”

The reality is marriage has been defined by God … It is a union between one man and one woman for life. Southern Baptists remain anchored in this truth.

Brent Leatherwood

Read the full Associated Press article here.

By / Jan 5

As we enter 2024, the complex political landscape in the United States, marked by division and a struggling Congress, presents unique challenges and opportunities for Christian engagement in public policy. It is in the midst of this dysfunction and division that we must find a way to press forward on the issues relevant to the mission of the ERLC: protecting life, safeguarding religious liberty, bolstering marriage and families, and upholding human dignity. Here are some of the top policy issues to watch in 2024.

Life: Beyond Dobbs

The overturning of Roe v. Wade in the Dobbs decision has reshaped the pro-life landscape. However, challenges like the rise of chemical abortions and “abortion tourism” persist. The sanctity of life is foundational (Gen. 1:27), and our advocacy must extend to all life stages, echoing our commitment to life and human dignity. 

Here are some federal pro-life legislative issues to be aware of:

  • Pro-life riders in congressional appropriations: A key legislative priority is maintaining and including historic pro-life amendments, known as riders, in Congressional appropriations bills. For example, the Hyde Amendment, a significant pro-life rider for over 40 years, prevents government-funded abortions and protects citizens’ consciences from funding actions they consider unjust. An effort will be made this year to extend Hyde Amendment-like protections to prevent taxpayer funding for abortion-related travel and services.
  • Proliferation of chemical abortions: The use of chemical abortions, which accounted for 53% of all abortions in 2021, has been on the rise, and the number likely increased following the Dobbs decision. The FDA has even increased access to these drugs, including mail delivery and availability at retail pharmacies, raising concerns about the risks to women and preborn children. Legislation like the SAVE Moms and Babies Act would help to regulate this industry.
  • The Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine v. FDA decision: The U.S. Supreme Court is set to hear a case challenging the deregulation of the abortion drug mifepristone. The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals previously ruled to reinstate significant restrictions on the drug including in-person medical visits, halting mail-order distribution, and limiting its use to the first 7 weeks of pregnancy. By upholding this decision, the Supreme Court would be helping to protect preborn lives and women’s health.
  • The Women’s Health Protection Act: This act would remove all abortion restrictions and limits. The result would be to allow abortions up to birth, remove pro-life protections, and force taxpayer funding for abortions. 
  • Pro-life legislation: Several new pieces of pro-life legislation may be considered this year: The No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act, which aims to codify the Hyde Amendment; and the Support for the Born Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act, which requires healthcare practitioners to provide the same level of care to children born alive after a failed abortion as they would to any child born at the same gestational age. The Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act and the Heartbeat Protection Act would also impose further federal restrictions on abortion. 

Religious Liberty: A Baptist distinctive

The Baptist tradition, with its strong emphasis on religious liberty and separation of church and state, informs our approach to issues like The Equality Act and attacks on the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. This principle, grounded in Scripture’s teaching on the conscience (Rom. 14:23), is not just for Christians but for all, reflecting God’s Lordship over the conscience and our call to live in a society that respects diverse convictions.

Some legislative and regulatory issues of particular concern to this issue in 2024 include:

  • The Equality Act: The Equality Act, which passed the House in February 2021 and amends the 1964 Civil Rights Act to include sexual orientation and gender identity as protected classes, is likely to curtail religious freedom, impacting healthcare professionals and faith-based hospitals, and undermining rights for women and girls.
  • The Do No Harm Act: This act is a threat to the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), as it could weaken religious freedom protections. 
  • The Child Welfare Provider Inclusion Act: This act aims to prevent government discrimination against child welfare agencies based on their religious beliefs, ensuring a broader range of child welfare providers are available.
  • The Conscience Protection Act: This act offers protections for healthcare workers with religious or moral objections to participating in or providing insurance coverage for certain medical procedures, including contraception.
  • Regulatory actions under the Biden administration: As with the past few years, the regulatory changes proposed by the Biden administration could threaten religious liberty and conscience rights, including those affecting foster care, healthcare, and college campuses.
  • The Universal Charitable Deduction: This policy encourages charitable giving by allowing all taxpayers to claim deductions for donations, regardless of whether they itemize their deductions.

Marriage and Family: Upholding biblical standards

In a post-Roe world, the focus on marriage and family policies becomes even more critical. Advocacy for adoption, opposition to “gender transition” surgeries, and supporting pro-family policies are not merely social stances but are deeply theological, reflecting God’s design for the family (Eph. 5:31-32) and the value of children (Psa. 127:3).

Some aspects of particular interest in 2024 include the following:

  • Adoption and Foster Care policies: Congress might consider various proposals, including the Adoption Tax Credit Refundability Act, which would ease the financial burden of adoption.
  • The Adoptee Citizenship Act: This act aims to grant immediate citizenship to foreign-born children adopted by U.S. citizens who were excluded from the Child Citizenship Act of 2000.
  • Marijuana expansion and related banking legislation: Proposed efforts to legalize marijuana federally, including the SAFER Banking Act, would contribute to the drug epidemic. The Biden administration’s is also attempting to reclassify marijuana under the Controlled Substances Act, which is a further leap toward federal legalization.
  • Gender “transitions” and parental rights: In recent years, we have seen alarming increases in the number of individuals, many of whom are minors, undergo physically damaging “gender transition” surgeries and procedures. This issue is also being pushed forward in all contexts, often without the knowledge of consent of parents. Many pieces of new legislation are seeking to outlaw these harmful practices and empower parents.

Human Dignity: Addressing global and societal issues

Our focus on issues such as the persecution of Uyghurs in China, anti-Semitism, and human trafficking aligns with the biblical mandate to “do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with God” (Micah 6:8). These issues challenge us to recognize the imago Dei in all people, leading to advocacy that transcends national and ethnic boundaries. Here are a few examples:

  • The Afghan Adjustment Act: This legislation would provide a path to permanent legal status for Afghan evacuees brought to the U.S. under humanitarian parole following the fall of Afghanistan in 2021.
  • Gambling expansion: As nearly every state across the country has loosened restrictions on gambling, Americans spent approximately $213 billion on legal betting alone in 2021. Online sports betting has spread rapidly, making it easier than ever to become trapped in the addictive and destructive cycle of gambling. Lawmakers at the state and federal level will be thinking about how to push back on this trend. 

The road ahead 

These issues are just a sampling of areas that require our attention in the days ahead. Throughout 2024, the ERLC is committed to leading the way for Christian engagement in a world marked by division and ethical complexity. Because, as guided by Scripture, we value the sanctity of life, religious liberty, marriage and the family, and human dignity, we are called not only to advocate for policies but also to embody the transformative power of the gospel in public life. As we engage these issues, our ultimate hope rests not in legislative victories but in the sovereign grace of God, who calls us to be salt and light in a world in need of the hope found in Christ alone.

By / Dec 15

The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission exists to assist Southern Baptist churches by helping them understand the moral demands of the gospel, apply Christian principles to moral and social problems and questions of public policy, and to promote religious liberty in cooperation with churches and other Southern Baptist entities.

Under the leadership of Brent Leatherwood, elected as president in 2022, the ERLC has consistently shown a steadfast commitment to its foundational principles while adeptly navigating the evolving challenges of our time. From our offices in Nashville, Tennessee, and Washington, D.C., our work is rooted in the truths of Scripture and can be categorized in four main areas: life, religious liberty, marriage and family, and human dignity.

Here are some of the highlights from our work in these areas featured in our 2023 Annual Report.

Life

In the wake of the landmark Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision, the ERLC reinforced its dedication to pro-life advocacy. This pivotal ruling, which overturned Roe v. Wade, brought new challenges and opportunities for the Commission. The ERLC remains resolute in its mission to foster a culture where life is cherished at every stage, advocating for the dignity of all, from conception to natural death.

During the ongoing Fiscal Year 2024 appropriations session, ERLC has prioritized safeguarding life and religious liberty. In recent years, we were concerned with the removal of pro-life and conscience protection riders, including the Hyde Amendment, from the initially proposed 2022 and 2023 appropriations bills. At the 2021 Southern Baptist Convention, a resolution was passed condemning efforts to remove these pro-life riders. The ERLC thoroughly reviewed the appropriations bills and continues to advocate for these riders and against pro-abortion funding.

Post-Dobbs, the Biden administration pushed policies promoting abortion access such as expanding access to abortion pills, funding abortion travel, and using taxpayer funds for abortion access education. This included changes by the VA and the Department of Defense to facilitate abortions, and the adaptation of HIPAA by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), which could hinder investigations into illegal abortion and gender-transition procedures, raising concerns about the protection of those who have been abused.

The Food and Drug Administration also made chemical abortion drugs more accessible, despite a high complication rate. And we continue to monitor a court case challenging the FDA’s approval of the abortion drug mifepristone.

At the state level, the ERLC collaborated with North Carolina Baptists to impose a 12-week abortion limit in North Carolina and with Nevada Baptists to prevent Nevada from becoming a destination for assisted suicide. We are committed to working with state conventions to protect life from conception to natural death.

Religious Liberty

The ERLC’s defense of religious liberty has been unwavering. In 2023 we championed this cause through significant legislative and Supreme Court victories. By upholding the Baptist principle of a “free church in a free state,” the ERLC has ensured that the proclamation of the gospel continues unimpeded by governmental constraints.

We’ve recently focused on responding to two significant Supreme Court decisions impacting religious liberty: Groff v. Dejoy and 303 Creative v. Elenis.

In the Groff case, the Supreme Court unanimously ruled that the standard for religious accommodations in the workplace, set by a 1977 decision, had been misinterpreted. This unanimous ruling clarifies that employers face a higher burden before denying religious accommodations. As Southern Baptists, we firmly believe in the inseparability of our faith from our work. Reflecting this belief, we filed an amicus brief to support the expansion of religious accommodations.

The 303 Creative case was another crucial victory. The court sided with Lorie Smith, a web designer who chose not to create websites for same-sex marriages, against a Colorado law that had targeted others for their beliefs, like cake artist Jack Phillips. This ruling not only upheld free speech but also acknowledged the constitutional protection of creative expression. It’s a significant win for individuals wanting to express their faith publicly.

At the federal level, we’ve been actively countering efforts by Congress and the administration that threaten religious liberty. We’ve opposed the Respect for Marriage Act and the Equality Act, both of which we find detrimental to religious freedom. The administration’s push to expand regulations on sexual orientation, gender identity, and abortion access often undermines religious liberty. We’ve responded through public comments pushing back against these changes across various federal departments including Education, Health and Human Services, Labor, Justice, Veterans Affairs, Homeland Security, Housing and Urban Development, and USAID.

At the state level, our partnership has extended to various SBC groups. With the Arkansas Baptists, we encouraged the adoption of a state-level Religious Freedom Restoration Act. In Wisconsin, we joined the Minnesota-Wisconsin Baptists in an amicus brief supporting a Catholic charity’s right to operate according to their religious convictions. Our advocacy always aims to protect the ability of religious organizations to function without undue government interference.

Marriage and Family

Upholding the God-ordained institutions of marriage and family remains a cornerstone of the ERLC’s advocacy. In 2023, we actively engaged in policy discussions, supporting legislation aligned with biblical values and opposing acts like the Equal Rights Amendment and the Respect for Marriage Act, which deviate from these principles.

We achieved a significant victory in the area of marriage and family with the defeat of the “transgender mandate.” This mandate, part of the Affordable Care Act and implemented through the HHS, would have compelled medical professionals to provide gender-transition care, conflicting with their religious beliefs and medical judgment. Since its inception, we have actively opposed this policy.

In early 2022, we reiterated our stance by submitting public comments to HHS, calling for the repeal of the mandate. Thankfully, two federal court cases challenged the mandate and successfully struck it down as unconstitutional. The Biden administration chose not to appeal these decisions, preserving religious liberty and conscience protections.

We believe that this gender ideology directly contradicts God’s design for family and human flourishing. Our commitment remains strong to oppose any future policies that would undermine these values or infringe upon religious and conscience protections.

Part of our advocacy includes supporting parents in their pivotal role within the family. We collaborated with the Iowa Baptists and Minnesota-Wisconsin Baptists to file amicus briefs in state-level cases. These briefs emphasized the critical role of parents and contested any efforts by schools to intervene in matters of gender and sexuality, which are sensitive and significant for a child’s upbringing.

In Congress, our advocacy continues to focus on policies that support and strengthen families. In the post-Dobbs environment, there’s a growing momentum to support vulnerable women and families. While there’s ongoing debate about the most effective policies, it’s heartening to see congressional recognition of family needs and the exploration of creative solutions. The ERLC is dedicated to endorsing policy changes that bolster family and marriage, enhance child welfare, respect the dignity of work, and responsibly manage financial resources.

Human Dignity

The ERLC’s commitment to human dignity is evident in its wide-ranging efforts. From criminal justice reform to the care of immigrants, the Commission has been a vocal advocate for policies that recognize the inherent value of every person because each individual is made in the image of God (imago Dei).

Our work in promoting human dignity faced challenges due to a divided Congress, hindering the passage of significant legislation in areas like immigration and criminal justice reform.

Regarding immigration, we actively advocated for improvements in border security and a permanent solution for “Dreamers.” Despite our efforts, a compromise was not reached in time. We also championed a secure legal status pathway for Afghan and Ukrainian evacuees in the U.S. under “humanitarian parole.” Although these individuals are essentially refugees, they lack formal pathways to permanent status. Disappointingly, the Afghan Adjustment Act, despite having broad bipartisan support, was not included in the final legislative package.

Our commitment to immigration issues led us to join other Southern Baptists on an educational trip to the border. This experience significantly informed our approach, especially in light of the anticipated end of Title 42. Working with SEND Relief, we prepared border states for this policy change and urged Congress to take the necessary actions.

In the realm of criminal justice, we hoped to see the passage of the Eliminating a Quantifiably Unjust Application of the Law (EQUAL) Act in the fiscal year 2023 appropriations. This bill aimed to address sentencing disparities that disproportionately affect Black Americans. Despite its passage in the House and substantial bipartisan Senate support, it was not included in the final appropriations package.

Despite these setbacks, we remain committed to engaging in these critical issues. Our efforts extend to regulating predatory gambling and lending practices, supporting human rights and religious freedom globally, and fighting against human trafficking. Our dedication to these causes is unwavering, even in the face of slow progress, as we continue to advocate for policies that uphold human dignity and justice.

Shaping public policy for Southern Baptist interests

Throughout 2023, the ERLC diligently represented Southern Baptist interests in public policy while navigating complex legislative landscapes. Our work, particularly in defending pro-life and pro-religious liberty provisions in appropriations bills, underscores our influential role in shaping policies that resonate with Southern Baptist beliefs.

As we look to the future, the ERLC remains dedicated to guiding churches in addressing the pressing moral and social issues of our times, continuing our vital role in the service of truth and gospel proclamation.

Editor’s Note: Will you give this year so that the ERLC can do more to support Southern Baptists and represent your interests in 2024? Click here to help us bring hope to the public square.

By / Sep 27

The Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission has a full-time presence in Washington, D.C., based out of the Leland House, and has a scope of policy work that covers religious liberty, life, human dignity, and marriage and family. In the following interview, President Brent Leatherwood discusses the fundamentals of representing Southern Baptists on the Hill and the ultimate work the ERLC hopes to accomplish. 

Jill Waggoner: What is the ERLC? What do we do here?

Brent Leatherwood: When we are talking to the man on the street, we tend to describe the ERLC as the public policy arm of the Southern Baptist Convention. What that means on a practical level is that we speak both for and from our churches. I use that purposely because we can only effectively speak in the public square for our churches if we are actually working alongside and serving our churches. I like to tell people it is from that service that we’re rendering to our churches that we’re able to effectively speak on the issues of the day, the issues that our churches are dealing with, or the issues that may affect their ability to do ministry. 

We have been doing this for over 100 years now, and I’d like to remind folks that this institution has always sought to be a voice that represents the principles of our convention of churches, whether that’s to policymakers or to the media. We’re always trying to make sure that we are bringing the thoughts, cares, and principles that guide our churches to the issues of the day.

JW: There are a lot of groups in Washington, D.C., advocating for their various policy concerns. What is so unique about the ERLC and our role on Capitol Hill?

BL: The best way I can answer that question is from an experience I had last summer on Capitol Hill. We were invited into a meeting with a U.S. senator who was looking forward, at that point, to the post-Roe moment when there would be no more Roe v. Wade. This senator was saying, 

“I brought you here to this meeting because I really want to map out what actual pro-family policy will look like. And I want you as representatives of the ERLC to be here because I look at you and I know that you are guided by eternal and unchanging truths. And I can’t say that about a number of other organizations that do good work in Washington. Oftentimes, they are driven by political items, the political calendar, or maybe even sometimes political expediency.” 

Knowing that a U.S. senator recognizes that about the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission is the best kind of endorsement that I could offer here, because it shows that we are different than a number of our peers. A lot of our peers do really good work, but oftentimes they want to do that work and immediately turn it into fundraising appeals or trying to get some sort of grassroots activism.

Instead, we’re coming because we’re saying, “This is what our pastors care about. This is what Southern Baptists have said they care about. This is what the Bible has to say about this issue.” And that really resonates with those policymakers because they have a number of activists and lobbyists in their ear at any given time. But when they invite us to the table, they know that they’re getting something that has a much longer-range view in mind.

JW: In broad terms, what do we hope to accomplish with the ERLC’s policy work?

BL: At a basic level, we want to make this a better world. We live in this time between times—a fallen world that is racked by sin. In a sense, we’re doing Kingdom work because we are trying to point policymakers toward a better world. And that Kingdom that we learn about in Scripture actually has principles that can be enacted now. That’s what we’re driving for. It’s a hope-filled kind of work, knowing that at the end of the day, for eternal flourishing, one needs to have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. 

In a conversation with a member of Congress, a staff member for a senator, or some other representative from the committees on Capitol Hill, we may not get a policy passed, but you never know how those conversations are allowing you to plant gospel seeds in that person’s life.

That reality underlies the work that we do, whether it’s at the federal, state, or local level. Are we always being attuned to how the Lord might be opening an avenue to spread the gospel? I never want to diminish or forget that because I think, in many respects, the work that we do on Capitol Hill or in the policy arena is akin to missional work. We are missionaries in the public square.

For more on the ERLC’s policy work, listen to this episode of the ERLC Podcast.

By / May 26

The Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) is the SBC entity tasked with speaking for Southern Baptists in the public square and speaking to Southern Baptists on matters of moral importance. As an organization committed to bridging the gap between the moral demands of the gospel and the practical realities of life and society, the ERLC is dedicated to assisting local churches in navigating contemporary issues from a Christian perspective.

One of the key ways the ERLC supports local churches is by helping them understand the moral implications of the gospel for our culture. We provide resources, training, and education to empower church leaders and members in comprehending the ethical demands of their faith and how these principles can be lived out in their daily lives.

We have identified four key areas where our Commission is uniquely positioned to provide a distinctly Baptist voice in the public square on behalf of our convention. Our team continually produces insightful content and analysis in these areas, enabling you to stay informed and engaged. Visit our website to explore the extensive resources available in these categories:

  1. Religious liberty
  2. Life
  3. Human Dignity
  4. Marriage and Family 

Light magazine

By connecting the agenda of the kingdom of Christ to the cultures of local congregations, the ERLC seeks to help churches carry out the mission of the gospel in the world​​. We do this by providing guidance on how to interact with contemporary culture in a way that is both faithful to Christian principles and responsive to current societal needs and concerns.

A key resource in this area is Light, our in-house magazine, which provides in-depth articles, interviews, and thought-provoking content on a range of topics relevant to Southern Baptist churches. We encourage you to explore our past issues by visiting our landing page, where you can access content on pursing a culture of life, human dignity around the world, and being salt and light in the public square.

Ethics primer series

The task of equipping and assisting churches with resources often involves addressing complex moral and ethical issues including bioethics, religious liberty, war, biblical justice, and human dignity. That’s why we have developed our Ethics Primer Series, which provides concise yet comprehensive guides on a variety of topics. These primers serve as valuable resources for you and your congregation.

Digital downloads

Over the years, we have also compiled a library of digital downloads that cover a wide range of subjects, from guidance regarding religious liberty to cultural engagement strategies. These resources are readily accessible on our website, allowing you to equip yourself and your church community with relevant information and practical tools. For instance, check out this resource for pastors on gender and sexuality. 

Public policy 

The ERLC also aids local churches in applying Christian principles to moral, social, and public policy problems. As the public policy arm of the Southern Baptist Convention, the ERLC actively engages with legislation and court cases that have implications for a variety of ethical issues. By doing so, we provide a necessary bridge between local churches and broader societal and political discussions, ensuring the voice and convictions of these religious communities are represented.

Additionally, the ERLC promotes religious liberty in cooperation with churches and other Southern Baptist entities. In a world where religious liberty is increasingly coming under threat, the ERLC advocates for the rights of Christians and other religious groups to practice their faith freely. This work not only involves advocatingat the legislative level but also providing resources and support to local churches facing challenges to their religious liberty.

Past conferences

Over the past six years, the ERLC has held national conferences on such topics as Christ-Centered Parenting in a Complex World, the Cross-Shaped Family, Caring Well: Equipping the Church to Confront the Abuse Crisis, How Christians Can Serve Refugees, Pursuing Unity: A Discussion of Racial Reconciliation Efforts and the SBC, and ​​the Future of the Pro-Life Movement.

As a part of our assignment from the Southern Baptist Convention, the ERLC has sought to be a valuable resource for local churches, providing guidance, representation, and advocacy in matters of ethics, religious liberty, and public policy. Our work empowers local churches to not only understand their faith in more profound ways but also to live it out in their communities, influencing society for the gospel and God’s glory.

By / Mar 17

On this episode, Lindsay Nicolet talks with Hannah Daniel about the Equal Rights Amendment and why it’s harmful, especially to women. We also discuss a review of states policies that cover the areas of human dignity, religious liberty, family and marriage, and the sanctity of human life. 

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  • Racial unity | If we, as Southern Baptists, can be willing to listen and have good conversations about race, we will see fruit that will draw us closer together. That’s why we believe that A Conversation with Pastor Jon Nelson will be a helpful resource for you and your congregation. Watch this NEW video at ERLC.com/racialunity and listen as Jon candidly shares his thoughts on how we can meaningfully partner together on this work within our churches and communities. Again that link is ERLC.com/racialunity
  • Email updates | Now that 2023 is fully underway, we want to make sure you are kept up to date about the important work we are doing on behalf of Southern Baptists. Whether it’s our 2023 Public Policy Agenda or another ultrasound machine placement, we want to make sure you know how we are serving our churches and acting as missionaries to the public square. As we move forward in 2023, know that first in our hearts and at the top of our minds are our churches. And we are taking those next steps with a Mark 10:44 mindset: to be a servant of all. The best way to learn more is by joining us at ERLC.com/updates. Signing up for email updates allows you to hear directly from us about our work and ways we are serving you on the issues that matter most to Southern Baptists. You’ll learn about our work on your behalf in our nation’s capital, about exciting new partnerships with our state conventions and the ways we are working across the convention with our sister entities. Become an email subscriber at ERLC.com/updates
By / Mar 15

Across the nation state legislative sessions are underway. Though we typically think of Washington, D.C., as the primary location for policy change, the realities of a polarized nation and nearly evenly divided federal legislature make it difficult for substantial decisions to be made at a national level. As a result, state legislatures are in a position to make more consequential decisions in the policy areas that Southern Baptists care about and have addressed.

One of the ministry assignments of the ERLC is to assist churches through the communication and advocacy of moral and ethical concerns in the public arena. While the public arena is often thought of federally, it is also just as important locally. We will continue to serve and partner with state conventions and state advocacy groups on the issues of missional priority that are not just of national importance, but state importance as well.

A picture of state-level engagement 

Perhaps the best picture of state-level engagement has been seen in the aftermath of the overturning of Roe v. Wade. 

Since the historic Dobbs decision, the pro-life movement has substantially shifted focus to the states. Though there certainly remains a role for federal legislation, it is now up to each state to decide the status of abortion. As a result, there is now a greater opportunity than ever before for the citizens of each state to advocate for both protections for the pre-born and care for vulnerable mothers. We’ve already seen creative action from several states to do more to meet the needs of abortion-vulnerable women and empower them to choose life in their states. 

Other issues of interest 

Beyond protecting life, there are several other issues being legislated at the state level that are of interest to Southern Baptists. Just as the ERLC advocates for life, religious liberty, marriage and family, and human dignity at the national level, many of these same issues are currently being considered in state legislatures. Some of these include gambling, conscience protections for medical professionals, gender-transition procedures, the abortion pill, predatory lending, and more. 

This review is not an exhaustive list of policy priorities but just a few examples of current debates happening at the state level where Southern Baptists may choose to engage. Regardless of the current state or outcome of these specific pieces of legislation, we look at these policies to chart a hopeful vision for the landscape of state legislatures in this season and years to come. 

Our hope is that this document will serve as a framework for engagement as believers and policymakers alike review the thousands of proposals made in each state this legislative session. For any of these proposals, we would encourage interested readers to engage with their Baptist state convention whose team will have the latest information about developments related to these bills.

Read the full ERLC 2023 State Policy Review

By / Mar 15

Across the nation state legislative sessions are underway. Though we typically think of Washington, D.C., as the primary location for policy change, the realities of a polarized nation and nearly evenly divided federal legislature make it difficult for substantial decisions to be made at a national level. As a result, state legislatures are in a position to make more consequential decisions in the policy areas that Southern Baptists care about and have addressed.

One of the ministry assignments of the ERLC is to assist churches through the communication and advocacy of moral and ethical concerns in the public arena. While the public arena is often thought of federally, it is also just as important locally. We will continue to serve and partner with state conventions and state advocacy groups on the issues of missional priority that are not just of national importance, but state importance as well.

Perhaps the best picture of state-level engagement has been seen in the aftermath of the overturning of Roe v. Wade. Since the historic Dobbs decision, the pro-life movement has significantly shifted focus to the states. Though there certainly remains a role for federal legislation, it is now up to each state to decide the status of abortion. As a result, there is a greater opportunity than ever before for the citizens of each state to advocate for both protections for the preborn and care for vulnerable mothers. We’ve already seen creative action from several states to do more to meet the needs of abortion-vulnerable women and empower them to choose life in their states. 

Beyond protecting life, there are several other issues being legislated at the state level that are of interest to Southern Baptists. Just as the ERLC advocates for life, religious liberty, marriage and family, and human dignity at the national level, many of these same issues are currently being considered in state legislatures. Some of these include gambling, conscience protections for medical professionals, gender-transition procedures, the abortion pill, predatory lending, and more. 

The following review is not an exhaustive list of policy priorities but just a few examples of current debates happening at the state level where Southern Baptists may choose to engage. Regardless of the current state or outcome of these specific pieces of legislation, we look at these policies to chart a hopeful vision for the landscape of state legislatures in this season and years to come. Our hope is that this document will serve as a framework for engagement as believers and policymakers alike review the thousands of proposals made in each state this legislative session. For any of these proposals, we would encourage interested readers to engage with their Baptist state convention whose team will have the latest information about developments related to these bills.

Religious Liberty 

The Baptist Faith and Message summarizes the biblical teaching on religious liberty and freedom of conscience, a distinctive passed down to us from our Baptist forefathers and foremothers, some of whom were imprisoned or executed as they stood for these truths. Moreover, our Baptist ancestors in the United States were instrumental in the crafting and adoption of the First Amendment to our Constitution, which guarantees free exercise of religion for all, and forbids the establishment of a religion. Recent years have seen simultaneous gains for religious freedom in the courts and threats from administrative and legislative action. The following issues are a few areas where we see key debates about religious liberty happening in the states:

Support conscience protections for healthcare workers

No healthcare worker should feel compelled to compromise their deeply held beliefs in order to continue serving others. 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. In the states, there are opportunities to advocate for the protection of consciences in legislation. This session, Kentucky is one state considering such legislation:

  • House Bill 58 seeks to prevent any discrimination or criminal action against a medical practitioner, health care institution, or health care payer who chooses to not participate in a health care service on the basis of conscience.

Southern Baptists spoke to conscience protections at the 2019 annual meeting through a Resolution on Protecting Religious Liberty and at the 2016 annual meeting through the Resolution on Biblical Sexuality and The Freedom Of Conscience.

Support state Religious Freedom Restoration Act efforts

In 1993 Congress passed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) which served the purpose of preventing other laws passed on the federal level from inducing a substantial burden on an individual’s religious freedom. Many Supreme Court cases have relied on RFRA in rulings, one most notably being Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores. The original intent was for RFRA to apply to all three branches of government and both federal and state governments. However, the Supreme Court ruled that the application of RFRA to the states was an overreach. In response, 23 states have passed their own RFRA. This session, there are more states considering a Religious Freedom Restoration Act, and we want to see more do the same. One such state is Michigan:

  • The Michigan Religious Freedom Act would limit the state of Michigan’s governmental actions that would cause a substantial burden on a person’s exercise of free religion.

Southern Baptists spoke to the Religious Freedom Restoration Act at the 2016 annual meeting through the Resolution on Biblical Sexuality and The Freedom Of Conscience.

Protect the religious liberty of foster care and adoption service providers

Across the country, child welfare and child protection systems are overcrowded and under significant strain. Unfortunately, it is in this context that some states and cities are working to exclude child welfare providers who seek to operate in a manner consistent with their religious convictions. This leads to fewer families available for foster care and adoption. Legislation is needed that would prohibit government discrimination against child welfare agencies on the basis of their beliefs and ultimately protect children in the foster system and children waiting for adoption by ensuring that a wide range of child welfare providers are available to serve them. This session, Iowa is one state considering such legislation: 

  • Senate Bill 119 aims to protect the rights of “any person that advertises, provides, or facilitates adoption or foster care” and their religious beliefs. Our hope is that more states pursue legislation similar to this in an effort to preserve religious liberty and help vulnerable children find a place to call home.

 Southern Baptists spoke to religious liberty at the 2019 annual meeting through a Resolution on Protecting Religious Liberty.

Sanctity of Human Life

The Baptist Faith and Message summarizes the biblical revelation that every person bears the image of God, and thus, is worthy of protection and dignity, regardless of age, level of ability, or stage of development. 2022 was a monumental year for life in the United States. After 50 years of dedicated advocacy, the disastrous precedents in Roe and Casey were overturned, sending the issue of abortion largely back to the states. While there certainly is a role for the federal government to play, states now primarily have the responsibility to restrict and regulate abortion. Some states have already completely banned abortion while others have worked to become “abortion destinations.” Each state has unique challenges and opportunities to protect the preborn. The following issues are a few areas where we see key debates about life happening in the states:

Oppose any efforts to expand abortion access or enshrine a constitutional right to abortion

Since the Dobbs decision, many states are working to enshrine and expand abortion access and become “abortion destinations,” even going as far as considering constitutional amendments to safeguard future access to abortion. Others are considering efforts to repeal the pro-life laws currently in effect in their states. This session, many state legislatures are considering such bills that would expand abortion access and take more preborn lives. Three examples of this type of legislation being considered are:

  • The Right to Reproductive Freedom with Protection for Health and Safety is a constitutional amendment proposed in Ohio which will make abortion a constitutional right within the state. 
  • Alabama House Bill 17 would repeal Alabama’s current pro-life law that charges “any person who induces or attempts to induce an abortion, miscarriage, or premature delivery” with a misdemeanor. 
  • Maryland House Bill 705 would amend the Maryland Constitution to enshrine “reproductive rights,” codifying a right to abortion. Other states, such as California, are pursuing similar strategies. We believe Southern Baptists should unequivocally oppose the codifying of abortion in any state.

Southern Baptists spoke to abortion at 2022 annual meeting through the Resolution On Anticipation of a Historic Moment in the Pro-life Movement

Support further efforts to restrict abortion through pro-life laws and constitutional amendments as we work toward its end

Since the Dobbs decision, many states have already taken significant steps to restrict or make abortion illegal in their state. It is our hope that other states will follow their lead and take further steps to protect the preborn. While attainable pro-life victories will look different across the country, it is important that each state work toward any positive steps it can to save lives. Some states that already have laws to protect life are considering further steps to amend the state constitution, ensuring that abortion has no place in their state. This session, multiple states are considering bills that would take steps toward the end of abortion:

  • Missouri Senate Joint Resolution 8 would amend Missouri’s constitution to ban the expenditure of taxpayer money to any clinic, office, or facility which plays any role in the inducing or performing of abortions.
  • North Carolina House Bill 31 would outlaw abortion after a fetal heartbeat is detected with exceptions for a “medical emergency.” The bill would also provide conscience protections for healthcare workers who do not wish to participate in abortion procedures because of their beliefs.

Southern Baptists spoke to abortion at 2022 annual meeting through the Resolution On Anticipation of a Historic Moment in the Pro-life Movement

Support efforts to end the proliferation of chemical abortions

Chemical abortion (sometimes referred to as medication abortion or the abortion pill) is a method that uses an abortifacient to stimulate uterine contractions and end the pregnancy in a process similar to a natural 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. These drugs not only take the life of a preborn child but also pose serious threats to the women who take them. 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. This session, one state considering legislation to regulate this predatory industry is Wyoming:

  • Senate Bill 109 prohibits manufacturing, distributing, prescribing, dispensing, selling, or transferring of any chemical abortion drug for the purpose of procuring or performing an abortion.

Southern Baptists spoke to abortion at 2022 annual meeting through the Resolution On Anticipation of a Historic Moment in the Pro-life Movement

Southern Baptists spoke to abortion causing drugs at the 2019 annual meeting through a Resolution on Protecting Religious Liberty

Oppose physician-assisted suicide and all euthanasia efforts

Physician-assisted suicide is currently legal in nine states and the District of Columbia, as well as Montana by court decision. This is a practice in clear conflict with ethical principles of the Bible and from both a biblical worldview and the Hippocratic tradition. There is currently a concerted effort in several states to legalize and expand this practice. This session, New York is one such state considering such legislation:

  • The Medical Aid in Dying Act would add a new article to the public health law allowing terminally-ill patients to request and use medication to end their lives.

Southern Baptists spoke to physician-assisted suicide at the 1996 annual meeting through the Resolution On Assisted Suicide.

Family and Marriage

The Baptist Faith and Message affirms the biblical teaching that “God has ordained the family as the foundational institution of human society. It is composed of persons related to one another by marriage, blood, or adoption.” It continues in saying that “Marriage is the uniting of one man and one woman in covenant commitment for a lifetime.” These gifts of marriage and family are creation ordinances and blessings from God, foundational to human flourishing. States have many opportunities to advocate for policies that maintain and protect these essential aspects of life together. The following issues are a few areas where we see key debates about marriage and family happening in the states:

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 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. States have the opportunity to pursue 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.” Two examples of such proposals are:

  • Indiana House Bill 1009 would increase the responsibility of the father in regards to assisting the mother with pregnancy expenses. Indiana already orders the father to help support various pregnancy expenses, but this bill narrowly adds “postpartum expenses” and “other necessary expenses incurred in connection with the child’s birth” to the list of covered expenses.
  • Tennessee Senate Bill 529 aims to help families by waiving sales and use tax on diapers, wipes, and infant formula, helping families better take care of their children and assisting vulnerable mothers in choosing life.

Southern Baptists spoke to pro-family policy at the 2022 annual meeting through the Resolution On Anticipation of a Historic Moment in the Pro-life Movement.

Support adoption and foster care policies

The defense of vulnerable children is woven through a wide variety of policies, from religious liberty concerns involved in adoption and foster care to the various support of families as they work to take care of children in the adoption and foster care system. States should pursue policies that would support and strengthen adoption, making it both more affordable and accessible. Some states are already taking proactive steps to support vulnerable children, and this session, two of those states are South Carolina and New Hampshire:

  • House Bill 3593 in South Carolina would provide a tax credit for any adoption expenses incurred with a domestic adoption. This legislation helps raise the economic burden of adoption on families with an aim for more families being able to adopt.
  • Senate Bill 172 in New Hampshire would extend Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) benefits to foster families and court appointed guardians who had been previously excluded from the program.

Southern Baptists spoke to adoption and foster care at the 2009 annual meeting through the Resolution On Adoption and Orphan Care

Advocate for a biblical view of gender and sexuality

Scripture is clear that marriage is between one man and woman, and that every person is made in the image of God. Our culture is radically turning aways from this foundational biblical view of gender and sexuality, and the repercussions are devastating. States have many opportunities to push back against harmful gender-transition practices and affirm the foundational rights of parents in decision-making regarding their children. Two examples of legislation pursuing those goals are:

  • Tennessee’s Youth Health Protection Act seeks to make it unlawful for a minor to undergo any medical practice which changes the minor’s presentation or appearance in a way that is contradictory to their biological sex. The law also protects parental rights and state funds. House Bill 470, in Kentucky, is another example of a proposal seeking to protect children from these procedures.
  • Georgia’s Parents and Children Protection Act of 2023 would increase the rights of parents in schools and require parental consent to discuss sensitive topics surrounding gender and sexuality and for a student to be recognized as being of a different gender.

Southern Baptists spoke to a biblical view of gender and sexuality at the 2014 annual meeting through the Resolution On Transgender Identity

Human Dignity

The Baptist Faith and Message both affirms the biblical revelation that every person bears the image of God, and thus, is worthy of protection and dignity, regardless of age, level of ability, or stage of development and echoes the biblical mandate to seek justice and righteousness, especially for those who are vulnerable. God revealed in the words of the prophet Micah: “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” (6:8) In our advocacy for fair and impartial judgment and equitable treatment of the unjustly oppressed and marginalized, we bear witness to a God who is ultimately the just Judge, and to a gospel that saves all who believe without partiality. States have a number of opportunities to enact policies that recognize the dignity of all. The following issues are a few areas where we see key debates about human dignity happening in the states:

Oppose the legalization and expansion of recreational marijuana

According to the CDC, the use of mairjuana can have significant effects on a person’s brain, specifically relating to memory, learning, decision-making, and other traits. As Christians we believe in the imago Dei, that all people were made in the image of God, that includes not only spirit, but body as well. The effects of marijuana not only negatively impact the user but also can be a detriment to relationships and families. This session, Oklahoma was one state considering expanding access to this harmful substance:

  • SQ820 was a ballot initiative for Oklahoma voters which would have officially legalized marijuana in the state for people over the age of 21. If passed, personal use of marijuana would have become legal, regulated, and taxed. Thankfully, Oklahoma voters defeated this ballot initiative in early March. This defeat serves an encouraging roadmap for other states to oppose the legalization and expansion of recreational marijuana.

Southern Baptists spoke to recreational marijuana at the 1973 annual meeting through the Resolution On Alcohol And Other Drugs

Oppose the expansion of gambling and sports betting

As nearly every state across the country has loosened restrictions on gambling, Americans spent approximately $213 billion on legal betting alone in 2021. Online sports betting has spread rapidly, making it easier than ever to become trapped in the addictive and destructive cycle of gambling. Churches across the convention have repeatedly shared that this issue is a key driver in the tearing apart of marriages and families in their congregations. This session, Georgia is one such state considering this type of legislation:

  • The Georgia Sports Betting Integrity Act will legalize online sports betting in the state. Sports betting has rapidly spread across the country and is quickly trapping many through its addictive, predatory nature. Many other states have recently legalized sports betting or are considering doing so.

Southern Baptists spoke to gambling at the 2017 annual meeting through the Resolution On The Sin Of Gambling.

Support payday lending regulations

Payday lending is an industry that preys on the poor through offering short-term, small-dollar loans at exorbitantly high interest rates. The average annual interest rate on a payday loan is 400%, trapping the poor in cycles of despair and debt. These practices should be regulated to restrict this industry’s ability to prey on the poor among us. This session, South Carolina is one state considering this type of action:

  • Senate Bill 67 would cap the effective annual percentage interest rate at 36% for payday loans.

Southern Baptists spoke to payday lending at the 2014 annual meeting through the Resolution On Predatory Payday Lending

Support efforts to combat and prevent sexual abuse

Sexual abuse is an evil that the SBC will unequivocally fight against. We first and foremost wish to see a world in which no one suffers any kind of abuse. Subsequently, we recognize the necessity of  just policies that will prevent abuse and serve justice to abusers. Mississippi and Washington are taking proactive steps toward combatting sexual abuse:

  • Mississippi House Bill 1371 addresses the behavior of physicians, therapists, clergy, or spiritual leaders in relation to someone in their care. This legislation addresses mandatory reporting and increases the scope of available disciplinary actions and criminal punishments for abusers.
  • Washington Senate Bill 5280 expands mandated reporter requirements regarding child abuse or neglect to clergy, with an exception for information obtained by clergy while performing their duties in receiving confession.

Southern Baptists spoke to sexual abuse at the 2022 annual meeting through the Resolution On Support for Consistent Laws Regarding Pastoral Sexual Abuse and at the 2019 annual meeting through the Resolution On The Evil Of Sexual Abuse.

Support efforts to improve prisoner reentry

True justice executed by the government not only punishes wrongdoers but also upholds the dignity of both parties and provides a path toward reconciliation for the offender. Oftentimes, the formerly incarcerated face significant challenges in obtaining housing, education, and employment, making reentry into society more difficult and recidivism more likely. States have an opportunity to support policy changes that strengthen families and reintegrate past offenders to their communities. One state considering such legislation is Oklahoma.

  • Senate Bill 11 removes barriers to state financial aid for incarcerated students allowing for greater opportunities and lower risk of recidivism upon reentry. 

Southern Baptists spoke to prison reentry at the 2013 annual meeting through the Resolution On America’s Growing Prison Population.

By / Feb 3

In this episode, Brent and Lindsay talk to Hannah Daniel about the ERLC’s advocacy priorities for 2023. These priorities are in the important areas of religious liberty, marriage and family, sanctity of life, and human dignity. 

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  • Internships | While it may seem early, now is the time when many college students begin planning for their Summer 2023 internships. You likely already know this if you have a college student in your life—whether it’s in your own household, or your church ministry. At the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, we believe strongly in investing in the next generation. Our internship program exists to prepare students and young professionals with a gospel-centered, kingdom-focused perspective on the issues of everyday life. Interns come alongside ERLC staff to equip church leaders to address complex ethical issues in their communities, local churches, and represent Southern Baptists to the United States government. They help write policy briefs, draft correspondence to congressional staff, assist with communication strategy, provide research on ethical debates, meet with state and federal Christian officials working in the public square, and so much more. In sum, ERLC Interns do much more than simple errands and coffee runs. If you know of a college student looking for an internship for summer 2023, or you are a college student in need of an internship, visit ERLC.com/interns to apply. That’s ERLC.com/interns
  • Psalm 139 | Thousands of women are now traveling to states where abortion is still legal. Abortion providers like Planned Parenthood are targeting these states by placing mobile abortion centers near the border to take advantage of vulnerable women. The need for lifesaving ultrasound machines is greater than ever. That’s where the Psalm 139 Project comes in. As an initiative of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, the Psalm 139 Project works on behalf of Southern Baptists to place ultrasound machines in pro-life clinics across the country. Will you help us save vulnerable lives in 2023 and beyond? When you partner with the Psalm 139 Project, 100% of your gift goes directly to placing ultrasound machines and training PRC staff and volunteers. All of our administrative costs are covered by the ongoing generosity of Southern Baptists through the Cooperative Program. That’s what makes us unique — and that’s why partnering with us will make a real, tangible difference. Learn more and partner with us at ERLC.com/psalm139. That’s ERLC.com/psalm139.
By / Jan 30

WASHINGTON, D.C., Jan. 30, 2023—The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention has released its 2023 Public Policy Agenda, highlighting its national legislative and public policy priorities that the organization plans to address in the year ahead.

“As stated in the Baptist Faith and Message, Every Christian should seek to bring industry, government, and society as a whole under the sway of the principles of righteousness, truth, and brotherly love.’ This statement guides us in our task as we engage in a chaotic public square. In advocating for these policy goals, we are ever mindful that our ultimate responsibility is to be messengers of the Gospel. I hope Southern Baptists will join me in praying that we will represent our Savior well as we interact with public policy leaders in 2023 about religious liberty, the sanctity of human life, marriage and family, and human dignity.”

The following are highlights from the ERLC’s policy priorities for 2023:

Religious Liberty

1. Oppose The Equality Act: In 2021, the U.S. House of Representatives passed The Equality Act. 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. This bill represents the most significant threat to religious liberty ever considered in Congress.

2. Respond to the Decision in 303 Creative v. Elenis: In 2022, the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments in this religious liberty case. At the center of this litigation is a creative professional who has created many kinds of custom websites for all types of people. However, she refuses to use her “design skills and creativity to express messages that violate her deeply held religious convictions.” While the results of this case will have ramifications for religious liberty, the primary issue centers on speech. 

Sanctity of Human Life

1. Ending the Proliferation of Chemical Abortions: Chemical abortion is a method that uses an abortifacient to stimulate uterine contractions and end the pregnancy in a process similar to miscarriage. The ERLC has asked the Food and Drug Administration to categorize the abortion pill mifepristone as an “imminent hazard to the public health.” In January 2023, the FDA moved to allow local retail pharmacies to dispense these drugs in states where it is legal, putting more women and preborn children at risk. The ERLC supports federal legislation such as the SAVE Moms and Babies Actthat would begin to regulate this predatory industry.

2. Protect Pro-life Riders in the Congressional Appropriations Process: In 2022, the ERLC saw a serious threat to the Hyde Amendment. The ERLC 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 unjust. All prolife riders are important and must be protected.

Family and Marriage

1. Support Adoption and Foster Care Policies: The ERLC’s defense of vulnerable children is woven through a wide variety of priorities, from religious liberty concerns involved in adoption to the effect the opioid crisis has on foster care. In addition to the Child Welfare Provider Inclusion Act, the ERLC will advocate for policies that would support and strengthen adoption, making it both more affordable and accessible.

2. Support Pro-Family Policy in a Post-Roe World: It is crucial that all aspects of federal policy provide a platform for families to thrive and flourish. In this post-Roe world, the ERLC will advocate 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.” 

Human Dignity 

1. Support a Permanent Solution for Dreamers: After multiple attempts to rescind the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, immigrants who were brought to the United States by their parents, known as Dreamers, remain in an unstable situation. As part of desperately needed immigration reform, The ERLC will continue to advocate for  a permanent legislative solution for Dreamers. 

2. Oppose Efforts to Expand Gambling: As nearly every state across the country has loosened restrictions on gambling, Americans spent approximately $213 billion on legal betting alone in 2021. Churches across the SBC have repeatedly shared that this issue is a key driver in the tearing apart of marriages and families in their congregations. The ERLC is actively looking for ways to engage this issue to better regulate this harmful, predatory industry.

“Our 2023 public policy agenda outlines the ways the ERLC will advocate with our government on the issues Southern Baptists care about,” said Hannah Daniel, ERLC policy manager. “This year holds both new opportunities and challenges for our work as we begin a period of divided government, enter the first legislative session in a post-Roe world, and face deepening divides among our citizenry. Amidst these realities, we will press on in our ministry assignment defending the vulnerable and championing the causes of life, religious liberty, family and human dignity.”

For more information and the expanded list of public policy priorities, please visit the public policy landing page.