By / Feb 27

NASHVILLE (BP) – The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) has released its first state public policy agenda, which examines upcoming pieces of state legislation that are noteworthy for Southern Baptists.

The agenda, released Wednesday (Feb. 21), is meant to work in tandem with the ERLC’s annual federal public policy agenda which released last month. The entity provided state policy review in 2023, and this year’s agenda expands those efforts.

ERLC President Brent Leatherwood spoke to the importance of the document amid the current political landscape.

“With dysfunction dominating Washington, more and more consequential decisions are being made at the state level,” Leatherwood said.

“Each year, thousands of proposals that substantially affect the sanctity of life, the advance of religious liberty, the defense of marriage and family, and the protection of human dignity make their way through state legislatures around the country.

“This document, modeled off our federal public policy agenda, is our contribution to these important debates. It has been crafted with the feedback of state ethics leaders from different states and consultations with a number of Baptist state executives. Just as our distinctly Baptist voice makes a difference in Washington, we believe a cooperative Baptist effort like this can help shape policy in the halls of our state capitals.”

Read the full Baptist Press article here.

By / Feb 21

The 2024 State Policy Agenda is not an exhaustive list of every policy priority, but rather, serves as a guide to equip Southern Baptists and lawmakers. It provides examples embodying good policy that captures the concerns of Southern Baptists regarding the current debates happening at the state level. We examine these policies to chart a hopeful vision for public policy that will help individuals and communities thrive.

The Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission assists Southern Baptist Convention churches by communicating and advocating for our moral and ethical concerns in the public arena. This “public arena” includes the vital work being done at both the federal and state levels, where we partner with other advocacy groups and our state conventions to address matters of concern to Southern Baptists.

Download the 2024 State Policy Agenda

While our advocacy work in Washington, D.C., remains a vital component of effective policy, the politically divided and often lengthy federal processes have resulted in weighty decisions being made at the state level. 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 by state legislatures. Some of these include:

  • gambling,
  • conscience protections for medical professionals,
  • prohibitions on “gender transition” procedures and prescriptions for children,
  • opposing mail-order abortion pills that put both babies and mothers at risk,
  • restricting predatory lending,
  • and more.

Effective state-level engagement has been displayed following the historic 2022 Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization Supreme Court decision which overturned Roe v. Wade and freed up state and federal legislators to act against the horror of abortion. While we still advocate and pray for Congress to pass a permanent federal prohibition of abortion, the pro-life movement has adapted to fill in the gap of federal policy work by encouraging states to pass legislation that protects as many lives as possible, as quickly as possible. As of Jan. 8, 2024, 21 states have restricted or prohibited access to abortion. Alongside our fellow Southern Baptists, we pray that the number of states will grow as we diligently work toward that goal.

We are also encouraged by the proliferation of pro-family and pro-life policies being proposed and passed in many states. These policies—from creating tax exemptions for diapers and baby formula to supporting pregnancy resource centers—protect and safeguard children and mothers targeted by the abortion industry, thereby enabling parents to choose life and undermining lies perpetuated by the abortion industry.

With many state legislative sessions already underway, the ERLC has identified key state legislation that overlaps with Southern Baptist priorities of which we want government leaders, elected officials, Southern Baptist Convention affiliates, and partners in our state work to be aware.

In releasing the first State Policy Agenda, we invite you to join us in envisioning a world where abortion is unthinkable, where religious liberty is celebrated, where human beings are valued as made in God’s image, and where Southern Baptists clearly see the Lord being glorified through their state government. For any of these proposals, we encourage interested readers to engage with their Baptist state convention and local lawmakers, whose teams will have the latest information about developments related to these bills.

Download the 2024 State Policy Agenda

By / Jan 26

Public policy advocacy is one of the primary ways that the ERLC fulfills its ministry in the public square. We recently released our 2024 Public Policy Agenda, which outlines more than three dozen policy issues that will shape our work in Washington, D.C., this year.

The first session of the 118th Congress proved to be wildly unproductive and crippled by intraparty fighting, culminating in the historic ouster of a speaker of the House. Congress left 2023 without funding the government and with little progress made on dozens of priorities. It is in the midst of this dysfunction and division that we must find a way to press forward on priorities relevant to the mission of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission: 

  • protecting life, 
  • safeguarding religious liberty, 
  • bolstering marriage and families, 
  • and upholding human dignity. 

Below is an overview of our policy priorities in these areas. You can learn more about each of these items in the agenda itself.

Life

As Southern Baptists, we believe that every person is made in the image of God, and thus, is worthy of protection and dignity, regardless of age, level of ability, or stage of development. Because of that, the ERLC will always advocate for life to be protected. Following the Dobbs decision in 2022, we’ve seen both monumental gains for life in many states and new challenges emerge. We must persuade our lawmakers that the federal government still has an important role to play in protecting life and combatting this evil in all forms. Here are some aspects of our federal pro-life legislative priorities:

  • Protect Pro-life Riders in the Congressional Appropriations Process: Longstanding policy riders such as the Hyde Amendment are essential aspects of preventing taxpayer funding for abortion
  • Ending the Proliferation of Chemical Abortions: Chemical abortions make up a majority of all abortions and not only take the life of a preborn child, but also pose significant risks to women.  
  • Respond to the Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine v. FDA decision: This summer, the Supreme Court will decide whether significant restrictions on the chemical abortion drug, mifepristone, must be reinstated.
  • Oppose the Women’s Health Protection Act: This act would allow for abortion on demand nationwide, strip away conscience protections, and allow for taxpayer funding for abortion.
  • Support the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act: This bill would codify the protections found in the Hyde Amendment and other pro-life funding riders.
  • Support the Born Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act: This bill provides basic protections for precious children who survive an abortion attempt.
  • Support Federal Abortion Restrictions: Though the Dobbs decision gave power back to the states on the issue of abortion, it did not absolve Congress of its responsibility to protect life in the womb.
  • Oppose “Abortion Tourism”: Since the Dobbs decision, the Biden administration has worked to promote and mandate the right for women to travel to receive an abortion in another state.
  • Expand Hyde Protections to Prohibit Taxpayer-Funded Abortion Travel: Many of the aforementioned actions have circumvented Hyde-Amendment protections to require taxpayer funding for such abortion-related travel.
  • Oppose the Biden Administration’s Pro-Abortion Regulatory Agenda: In the absence of congressional action, the Biden administration has used its regulatory powers to promote and expand access to abortion in all contexts.
  • Support the Work of Pregnancy Resource Centers: Pregnancy resource centers are on the front line of the pro-life movement and have faced increasing attacks regarding their funding and perceived legitimacy.
  • Strengthen International Pro-Life Work: Organizations like the United Nations and other international bodies continue to press for an “international right to abortion” and seek to use international aid funding to promote abortion.
  • Oppose Physician-Assisted Suicide and all Euthanasia Efforts: Across the United States, there is an effort to expand the availability of physician-assisted suicide under the guise of “compassionate healthcare.”

Religious Liberty

A bedrock of Baptist belief is that “God alone is Lord of the conscience.” The Baptist Faith & Message continues in stating that “A free church in a free state is the Christian ideal, and this implies the right of free and unhindered access to God on the part of all men, and the right to form and propagate opinions in the sphere of religion without interference by the civil power.” Our Baptist ancestors in the U.S. 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 state-driven religion. The ERLC will continue this legacy in our moral education and in our advocacy. We expect some of the following to be issues of particular concern in 2024:

  • Oppose The Equality Act: This act would codify sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) as protected classes in federal civil rights law and is the greatest threat to religious liberty ever considered in the U.S. Congress. 
  • Oppose attacks on the Religious Freedom Restoration Act: Recent legislation from both parties has explicitly removed vital religious liberty protections guaranteed by law in RFRA.
  • Support the Child Welfare Provider Inclusion Act: This bill 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.
  • Support the Conscience Protection Act: This bill provides conscience protections for healthcare workers with religious and moral convictions that prohibit them from participating in activities that go against their pro-life beliefs.
  • Oppose the Biden Administration’s Regulatory Actions: The Biden administration has extensively used its regulatory powers to curtail religious liberty and conscience protections, especially as they intersect with sexual orientation and gender identity issues.
  • Support the Safeguarding Charity Act: This bill would protect the religious liberty of faith-based organizations by clearly stating that simply holding tax-exempt status does not equate to receiving federal financial assistance.
  • Support a Two-year Universal Charitable Deduction to Encourage Giving to Charities: Under the federal tax code, people can only claim a deduction for charitable contributions if they itemize their deductions, but a universal charitable deduction would incentivize such giving from all taxpayers. 
  • Combat Global Antisemitism: Following the horrific attack on Israel on Oct. 7, there has been a significant rise in antisemitism both domestically and abroad, with alarming tolerance for antisemitic rhetoric and actions on college campuses across the country and at many of our global institutions, such as the United Nations
  • Support Protections for the Uyghur People in China: Though national attention has shifted elsewhere, the Uyghur people continue to face a genocide, and more must be done to prioritize this issue in U.S. foreign policy with China.
  • Advocate for the Elimination of Blasphemy and Apostasy Laws: Dozens of countries still enforce these laws—often through the death penalty—prohibiting one from converting to another religion or speaking or acting in any way that is deemed offensive to the god of their particular religion.
  • Support the Designation of Nigeria as a Country of Particular Concern: Despite intense persecution of Christians, the U.S. State Department has ignored the recommendation of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom to designate Nigeria as a Country of Particular Concern for religious freedom for three consecutive years.

Marriage & Family

We believe that families are the foundational institution of our society. However, shifting views in our culture regarding marriage, gender, sexuality, and family have left our society in disarray. We will continue to advocate for policies that promote availability and accessibility in adoption and foster care; provide wrap-around care for vulnerable mothers and families; and promote the rights and responsibilities of parents in raising their children and pushing back on harmful gender ideology. Some aspects of our advocacy for marriage and family include:

  • Support Adoption and Foster Care Policies: In addition to pushing back on the alarming religious liberty trends discussed above in the adoption and foster care systems, we are advocating for policies that would support and strengthen adoption, making it more affordable and accessible
  • Support the Adoptee Citizenship Act: The Child Citizenship Act of 2000 granted automatic citizenship to all foreign-born children brought to the U.S. who had at least one parent who was a U.S. citizen, but it only applied to adoptees under the age of 18 when the bill was enacted, leaving an entire population of adopted children without full U.S. citizenship. This bill closes that loophole. 
  • Ensure Intercountry Adoption Remains a Viable Option: Amidst significant declines in international adoptions, the ERLC is working with like-minded partners and the U.S. Department of State to ensure that intercountry adoption remains a viable option for families and vulnerable children around the world.
  • Support Pro-Family Policy in a 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. 
  • Oppose Harmful “Gender-Transition” Surgeries and Procedures: Going against both God’s good design and sound medical practice, “gender-transition” procedures are preying on vulnerable minors and should be outlawed. 
  • Oppose Taxpayer Funding for “Gender-Transition” Surgeries and Procedures: It is unconscionable that taxpayer dollars continue to be used to fund “gender-transition” surgeries and procedures that harm those experiencing gender dysphoria and that millions of Americans find objectionable. 
  • Support Parental Rights: Recent years have seen increased challenges to the fundamental rights and responsibilities of parents in areas of education, online access, and matters of gender and sexuality, and the ERLC will continue to support the rights of parents in both legislation and the courts.
  • Support Protections for Children Online: New data has demonstrated the detrimental effects on mental health, learning, and self-image that have come as a result from unhindered access for minors without the knowledge and consent of parents. More must be done to prevent children from accessing harmful content, such as pornography, and to empower parents in overseeing the online activity of their children.
  • Oppose Marijuana Expansion: The ERLC will continue to oppose various efforts to expand the availability and legality of marijuana in our communities, understanding the devastating impacts it has on many families.

Human Dignity

We believe that every person is made in the image of God and is worthy of protection and dignity, regardless of age, race, nationality, level of ability, or stage of development. The Bible also calls us to seek justice and righteousness, especially for those who are vulnerable. 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. These realities spur on our commitment to the following priorities for this year:

  • Support a Permanent Solution for Dreamers: With litigation on its way to the Supreme Court that will likely end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, these young immigrants who were brought to the U.S. by their parents remain in an unstable situation without action from Congress.
  • Rebuild the Refugee Resettlement Program: Though progress has been made in rebuilding infrastructure, we will continue to advocate for fully restoring the refugee resettlement program and America’s legacy as a beacon of hope to those fleeing persecution.
  • Support the Afghan Adjustment Act:  This bill provides a path to permanent legal status after additional vetting for Afghans who were brought to the U.S. following the fall of Afghanistan and who remain in limbo.
  • Support Border Security Enhancements and Asylum Reforms: At the 2023 annual meeting, Southern Baptists called on lawmakers to “provide clear guidance for immigrants and asylum seekers,” “maintain robust avenues for valid asylum claimants seeking refuge,” and “prioritize measures that secure our borders and to provide adequate resources to border patrol and those working in our immigration system.” 
  • Support Further Criminal Justice Reform: The ERLC will continue to advocate for reforms that focus on fairness, safety, rehabilitation, and recognize the dignity of those in prison, including provisions requiring that only biological females may be housed together.
  • Combat the Epidemic of Mass Shootings and Gun Violence: In 2018, messengers to the Southern Baptist Convention gave support for “preventative measures that would reduce gun violence and mass shootings while operating in accordance with the Second Amendment of the United States Constitution.” In 2022, messengers urged lawmakers “to take concrete steps, towards solutions that uphold the dignity and value of every human life, especially the most vulnerable among us, and to minimize the threat of gun violence throughout our society.”
  • Support Payday Lending Regulations: Short-term payday loans often come with deceptive and predatory annual interest rates of over 400%, trapping the poor in a vicious cycle of debt and despair. 
  • Oppose Efforts to Expand Gambling: Even as millions are trapped in the addictive and destructive cycle of gambling, efforts are underway at both the state and federal levels to expand gambling, particularly through sports betting. 
  • Advocate for Anti-Human Trafficking Laws: The ERLC will continue to advocate for anti-human trafficking legislation in Congress—particularly legislation aimed at supporting trafficking victims and increasing the responsibility of companies to remove this explicit content from their platforms. 
  • Support Efforts to Shape Artificial Intelligence and Technology that Emphasize Human Dignity: In 2023, Southern Baptists called on lawmakers to “proactively engage and shape these emerging technologies rather than simply respond to the challenges of AI and other emerging technologies after they have already affected our churches and communities.” The ERLC will continue to assist lawmakers in understanding these realities and advocate for policies in line with this call of human dignity and the common good.
By / Jan 25

Welcome to the ERLC Podcast where our goal is to help you think biblically about today’s cultural issues. Today, we’re focusing on the ERLC’s 2024 Public Policy Agenda.

The mission entrusted to the ERLC by the Southern Baptist Convention includes applying Christian principles to moral and social problems and questions of public policy and promoting religious liberty. One of the ways we do this is through our public policy advocacy, both in Washington, D.C., and throughout individual states. 

Every year, we compile and release a public policy agenda, highlighting the key pieces of federal legislation our staff is watching and working on within our four categories of priority:

More recently, we’ve also started assembling a state policy agenda, focusing on our cooperation with Baptist state conventions in advocating at the state level. 

On today’s episode, you’ll hear from Hannah Daniel, our director of public policy who is based in D.C., and Brent Leatherwood, president of the ERLC. They’ll explain the importance of our policy agendas and highlight major pieces of legislation that matter to Southern Baptists. 

The ERLC podcast is a production of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission. It is produced by Lindsay Nicolet and Elizabeth Bristow. Technical production is provided by Owens Productions. It is edited and mixed by Mark Owens.

By / Jan 24

WASHINGTON, D.C., Jan. 24, 2024—The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention has released its 2024 Public Policy Agenda, highlighting its federal legislative and policy priorities that the organization plans to address relevant to its mission. 

“Each year, the ERLC assembles a detailed federal public policy agenda that highlights critical policies and legislation that are being considered in our nation’s capital,” said ERLC President Brent Leatherwood. “Our team spends a substantial number of hours researching and creating this thoughtful report to bring awareness to Southern Baptists about issues related to life, religious liberty, marriage and family, and human dignity. As stated in our Baptist Faith & 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.’ In other words, we want our neighbors to flourish. That objective is at the very heart of this important document.”

The following are highlights from the ERLC’s policy priorities for 2024:

Life 

  1. Protect Pro-life Riders in the Congressional Appropriations Process: The ERLC will work to preserve the Hyde Amendment and other pro-life riders to prevent government-funded violence against preborn children and to protect citizens from being coerced into violating their consciences by using their tax dollars to support abortion.
  2. Ending the Proliferation of Chemical Abortions: Because these drugs not only take the life of a preborn child but also pose serious threats to the women who take them, the ERLC has asked the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to categorize the abortion pill mifepristone as an “imminent hazard to the public health.” The ERLC continues to push back against mail-order abortion drugs and supports federal legislation, such as the SAVE Moms and Babies Act, which would codify regulatory standards into federal law.
  3. Oppose “Abortion Tourism”: As many states across the country moved to ban or severely restrict abortion following the Dobbs decision, the ERLC saw moves from both the Biden administration and corporate America to promote and provide resources for pregnant women seeking abortion to travel to states where it remains legal. The ERLC has strongly advocated against the use of any use of taxpayer funds toward these efforts and is looking for new ways to prohibit the use of federal funding to subsidize the abortion industry.

Religious Liberty

  1. Oppose The Equality Act: The Equality Act would codify the demands of the sexual revolution and radically reshape religious freedom in the U.S. 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.
  2. Support the Conscience Protection Act: No healthcare worker should have to compromise their deeply held beliefs in order to administer care. The Conscience Protection Act provides conscience protections for Americans with religious or moral objections to health insurance that covers contraception methods. The ERLC believes such legislation is critical to curb conscience abuses across the country. 
  3. Combat Global Antisemitism: Following the Hamas attack on Israel on Oct. 7, 2023, and Israel’s subsequent response, there has been a significant rise in antisemitism both domestically and abroad. After the horrific attack on Israel, the ERLC led in drafting an Evangelical Statement in Support of Israel, and will continue to build support for Israel’s right to exist and defend themselves. 

Marriage and Family

  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 as parents struggle with addiction. The ERLC is advocating for policies that would support and strengthen adoption, making it both more affordable and accessible. 
  2. Oppose Harmful “Gender Transition” Surgeries and Procedures: The ERLC is advocating for these procedures on minors to be outlawed and supports the Protecting Minors from Medical Malpractice Act, which provides conscience protections for medical providers and ensures parents and children affected by “gender transition” surgeries and procedures have a private right of action.
  3. Support Parental Rights: In 2023, the ERLC worked with numerous Baptist state conventions to oppose laws that hid information about a child’s adopted gender identity from his or her parents. The ERLC will continue to actively oppose and work against these efforts in the courts while also supporting federal legislation, including the Families’ Rights and Responsibilities Act, which further strengthens the rights of parents.
  4. Support Protections for Children Online: With many children gaining unsupervised access to the internet at younger and younger ages, there has been an explosion in awareness of the harms this is bringing to many children. More must be done to prevent children from accessing harmful content, such as pornography, and to empower parents in overseeing the online activity of their children. 

Human Dignity 

  1. Support a Permanent Solution for Dreamers: With litigation on its way to the Supreme Court that will likely end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, these young immigrants who were brought to the U.S. by their parents remain in an unstable situation. Now young adults, “Dreamers”—many of whom have families of their own with children who are U.S. citizens—are workers, students, and positive contributors to our communities. The ERLC will continue to urge Congress to act to provide a legislative pathway to permanent status for these individuals.
  2. Combat the Epidemic of Mass Shootings and Gun Violence: In 2018, messengers to the Southern Baptist Convention gave support for “preventative measures that would reduce gun violence and mass shootings while operating in accordance with the Second Amendment of the United States Constitution,” and in 2022, messengers urged lawmakers “to take concrete steps…to minimize the threat of gun violence throughout our society.” The ERLC will advocate for these types of measures that prevent the loss of innocent life to the evil of gun violence and mass shootings and provide help to those suffering severe mental distress. 
  3. Support Efforts to Shape Artificial Intelligence and Technology that Emphasize Human Dignity: In June 2023, the SBC overwhelmingly passed a resolution offering guidelines on this topic, becoming the first denomination to make an official statement on the ethics of artificial intelligence. The ERLC will continue to assist lawmakers in understanding these realities and advocate for policies in line with this call of human dignity and the common good.

“The ERLC will continue its mission on Capitol Hill throughout 2024—loving our neighbors and seeking their flourishing through public policy,” said Hannah Daniel, ERLC director of public policy. “Grounded in Scripture and guided by the SBC’s resolutions, this document outlines how our advocacy will take shape this year. Despite deep divisions across our nation and dysfunction in Washington, we must find a way to press forward on these issues of missional importance: protecting life, safeguarding religious liberty, bolstering marriage and families and upholding human dignity.”

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

The Southern Baptist Convention is America’s largest Protestant denomination with more than 13.6 million members and a network of over 47,000 cooperating churches and congregations. The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission is the SBC’s ethics, religious liberty and public policy agency with offices in Nashville, Tenn., and Washington, D.C.

To request an interview contact Elizabeth Bristow by email at [email protected] 

By / Jan 30

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

What will make advocacy challenging?

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

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

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

Religious Liberty

Oppose The Equality Act

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

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

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

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

Support Conscience Protections for Healthcare Workers

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

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

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

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

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

Respond to the Decision in 303 Creative v. Elenis

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

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

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

Continue the China International Religious Freedom Initiative

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

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

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

Sanctity of Human Life

Protect Pro-life Riders in the Congressional Appropriations Process

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

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

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

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

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

Ending the Proliferation of Chemical Abortions

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

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

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

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

Oppose the Women’s Health Protection Act

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

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

Family and Marriage

Support Pro-Family Policy in a Post-Roe World

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

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

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

Support the Adoptee Citizenship Act

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

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

Ensure Intercountry Adoption Remains a Viable Option

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

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

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

Human Dignity

Support a Permanent Solution for Dreamers

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

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

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

Support Further Criminal Justice Reform

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

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

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

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

Rebuild the Refugee Resettlement Program

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

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

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

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

By / Feb 11

In this episode, Chelsea and Lindsay discuss the ERLC’s 2022 Policy Agenda, seeking justice, and Valentine’s Day. 

ERLC Content

Culture

  1. ERLC’s 2022 Policy Agenda 
  2. Government funding deadline 

Lunchroom

Connect with us on Twitter

Sponsors

  • Prison Fellowship | Second Chance Month // Every person has dignity and potential. But one in three American adults has a criminal record, which limits their access to education, jobs, housing, and other things they need to reach that potential. Join Prison Fellowship this April as they celebrate “Second Chance Month”. Find out how you and your church can help unlock second chances for formerly incarcerated people who have repaid their debt to society. Learn how at prisonfellowship.org.
  • Psalm 139 Project // Through the Psalm 139 Project, the ERLC is placing 50 ultrasound machines by the 50th anniversary of Roe v. Wade in 2023, and thanks to the overwhelming generosity of Southern Baptists and our pro-life partners, we’re already halfway to our goal. But requests for these lifesaving machines continue to pour in from around the country, and our team can’t keep up without your help. Will you take a stand for life by helping us place our next ultrasound machine? One hundred percent of financial contributions designated to the Psalm 139 Project go toward purchasing ultrasound machines and providing training for workers. Learn more at ERLC.com/50by50.