By / Jul 6

Nashville, Tenn., July 6, 2021—A search committee has been formed to identify the next President of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission.

On behalf of the ERLC Executive Committee, Dr. David E. Prince, chairman of the ERLC Board of Trustees, announced that Todd Howard, pastor of Watson Chapel Baptist Church in Pine Bluff, Ark., will serve as chairman of the presidential search committee.

In addition to Howard, the other ERLC trustees appointed to the committee include Lori Bova, founder of Veritas Classical Christian Academy and member of Taylor Memorial Baptist Church in Hobbs, N.M.; Traci Griggs, communications and public policy specialist, radio show host, and member of Fairview Baptist Church in Apex, N.C.; Christine Hoover, author and Bible teacher and member of Charlottesville Community Church in Charlottesville, Va.; Juan Sanchez, pastor of High Pointe Baptist Church in Austin, Texas; A. B. Vines, pastor of New Seasons Church in Spring Valley, Calif. Prince, who is pastor of Ashland Avenue Baptist Church in Lexington, Ky., and an at-large trustee, will serve as an ex-officio member.

“The men and women serving on this search committee come from diverse backgrounds and ministry contexts but share a deep and abiding commitment to the gospel and the need for faithful Christian witness in the public square,” said David Prince. “I am thankful in advance of the way in which I know this group will work diligently, methodically, and prayerfully to search for and recommend a candidate who can serve both the Commission and our Convention of churches with faithfulness, excellence, and skill.”

In the weeks ahead, the search committee will meet to establish guidelines, a presidential profile, and procedures for how recommendations may be submitted. Once completed, more information will be released for those interested in recommending a candidate for consideration.

By / Jan 21

Yesterday, Joseph R. Biden, Jr. was sworn in as the 46th President of the United States. To begin his presidency he is signing a flurry of executive orders (EOs), memoranda, directives, and letters. The Biden White House prepared and the new president signed 15 executive orders on his first day in office, more than any of his predecessors. This all comes in a week when the United States surpassed 400,000 lives lost to COVID-19. On that note, President Biden made clear with a memorial Tuesday night that combatting the pandemic is his top priority for his administration.

Some of the planned actions are praiseworthy, as they accord with the convictions and biblical principles of Southern Baptists. However, some of the administrative actions raise concern for the ERLC as they conflict with our public policy positions, informed by our theological convictions. Below is a discussion of a few of the actions taken by the Biden Administration yesterday, and those actions we expect in the coming days:

Protection for Dreamers and DACA recipients 

Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) is a program that defers deportation proceedings for a subgroup of undocumented immigrants—those who entered the United States as children brought by their parents. DACA recipients are often referred to as “Dreamers.” Participants in the program, among other requirements, must demonstrate a commitment to education, employment, or service in our military; have no criminal backgrounds; and report for a biometric appointment with federal officials. The Trump Administration attempted to rescind the policy in 2017, but several lawsuits were filed shortly after the rollback began. In June 2020, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the Trump Administration did not follow proper procedures in rescinding the program, and as a result, DACA was kept in place.

Yesterday, President Biden signed a Presidential Memorandum directing the Secretary of Homeland Security, in consultation with the Attorney General, to take all appropriate actions under the law to achieve the original goals of the DACA program. The Presidential Memorandum also calls on Congress to enact legislation providing permanent status and a path to citizenship for Dreamers.

The ERLC has long advocated for our government to provide a permanent solution for this special category of immigrants. We believe the only sustainable way forward, recognizing the range of beliefs about the legality of the DACA program, is for Congress to legislate a path to legal permanent resident status and, eventually, citizenship for Dreamers. Messengers at the Southern Baptist Convention of 2018 explicitly urged Congress to develop a “just and compassionate path to legal status” for undocumented immigrants already living in our country. Dreamers need a permanent legal solution that is not subject to the cycle of executives or the makeup of judicial benches.

Repeal of the Mexico City Policy

Next week, we anticipate that President Biden will rescind the pro-life Mexico City Policy. This policy was established by President Reagan to prohibit U.S. foreign aid to groups that provide or promote abortion overseas and has been a political football since President Clinton first rescinded it. The Trump Administration broadened the Mexico City Policy, and it is currently known as the “Protecting Life in Global Health Assistance Policy (PLGHA). The purpose of PLGHA is to “prevent American taxpayers from subsidizing abortion through global health assistance provided for populations in need.” This policy ensured that, in order to recieve any foreign aid, international nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) agreed to neither perform nor actively promote abortion as a method of family planning overseas. PLGHA expanded the Mexico City Policy to “global health assistance furnished by all departments or agencies” to the extent allowable by law. This policy only applied to voluntary family planning assistance funded by USAID and assistance for certain voluntary population planning furnished by the Department of State. 

The ERLC has advocated for this life-saving policy, and would strongly object to its rescission. Yet this expected change will not deter us from continuing to advocate for life in our international engagement.

Family reunification task force executive order​

In 2018, the Trump administration issued a “zero tolerance” immigration enforcement approach intended to deter illegal immigration. The policy change resulted in thousands of children being separated from their parents as they await adjudication. The children were kept in separate facilities and were unable to see their parents. While the refugee resettlement office at the Department of Health and Human Services made great strides at reuniting families, currently 628 parents of separated children are still missing. 

President Biden has signaled that he will create a task force to reunify families separated by the Trump Administration’s Immigration policies. The ERLC strongly supports family reunification and will work with the Biden Administration to see that children are safe again in their parent’s arms. 

Bostock executive order

Also yesterday, President Biden signed an executive order that seeks to implement and expand on the U.S. Supreme Court’s Bostock decision. Last summer, in a 6-3 ruling of a consolidated group of cases styled Bostock v. Clayton County, the Supreme Court expanded the definition of “sex” to be read to include “sexual orientation and gender identity” under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 which relates to employment discrimination. The order will likely direct federal agencies to include sexual orientation and gender identity as protected classes where discirminaton on the basis of sex is prohibited.

Although styled as implementing Supreme Court precedent, this EO in fact dramatically expands the scope of the Bostock decision, which only applies in the employment context. This EO will mean that sexual orientation and gender identity could be treated as protected classes in a range of contexts, such as education, health care, and child welfare. This will, in turn, raise a host of religious liberty problems, many of which will likely have to be litigated. 

The ERLC will be focused on the regulatory actions taken by the Biden Administration and will defend the inalienable rights of religious freedom and freedom of conscience for those who hold biblical beliefs about marriage and sexuality. Ensuring that these bedrock rights are respected by federal agencies will be crucial to the ability of faith-based organizations and people of faith to live out their faith and serve their communities without violating their consciences.

Repeal of the “Muslim Ban”

One of President Trump’s first actions in 2017 was signing an executive order to ban entry into the United States of nationals from seven Muslim-majority countries (Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Syrian, Sudan, and Yemen) for 90 days, of all refugees for 120 days, and all Syrian refugees indefinitely. In response, Russell Moore sent the president a letter outlining his concerns with the order, noting that the Southern Baptist Convention reaffirmed its decades-long commitment to care for and minister to refugees in a 2016 resolution

On his first day in office, President Biden signed an Executive Action to end the policy that came to be known as the “Muslim Ban.” The ERLC welcomes this action as Southern Baptist’s commitment to welcoming the stranger has long been reflected in the SBC’s resolutions about those fleeing persecution in their home countries.

Government-wide regulatory freeze

Finally, President Biden intends to issue a memorandum that will pause any new regulations from the Trump Administration that have not yet gone into effect. The ERLC strongly opposes this move, as the freeze may hinder lawfully promulgated regulations from becoming final, including several regulations the ERLC supports. 

As an example of significant interest to the ERLC, on January 12, 2021 the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) announced and published its final rule on nondiscrimination requirements in grants. This rule directly impacts grantees, especially faith-based child welfare providers by allowing them to continue serving vulnerable children in a manner consistent with their religious beliefs. Due to the delay of the finalization of this rule, this important regulation may be frozen and not implemented. The ERLC will continue to advocate for lawfully promulgated regulations to be finalized. 

Looking ahead

Every election brings new opportunities and new challenges. The ERLC will continue to work with the executive branch to advance issues of concern to Southern Baptists and will bear witness to policies pursued by the government that run contrary to biblical principles.

By / Jan 20

Every four years our nation celebrates the inauguration of a new president. The occasion is always marked by ceremony, pomp, and circumstance, as power is transferred to or reinvested in America’s commander in chief. For Christians, bearing witness to another inauguration is a unique reminder of our duty to pray for those in authority. One place that command is found in the Scriptures is 1 Timothy 2:1-4, where Paul provides the following instructions:

First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.

One of the benefits of this passage is its clarity. Here Paul tells us not only that we are to pray for those in authority, but how we should do so. As we commemorate this day, here are four specific ways to pray based on Paul’s words from this passage.

1. Pray for our country 

Paul is clear that we are to pray “for all people.” As citizens of this country, we should take this opportunity to pray for our neighbors and fellow citizens. We can ask for God’s blessings upon those we live alongside. We can pray for God to grant them wisdom and success in every good endeavor. We can pray for their health and safety. And we can thank God for the privilege of living together in this republic.

2. Pray for our new president 

Paul tells us to pray for those “in high positions.” In our country, there is no higher office than the presidency. And with a new president comes a host of new leaders in the apparatus of government. We should pray for God to grant President Joe Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris, and those in their administration the wisdom to enact just policies that lead to human flourishing. We should pray for God to bless their efforts to accomplish the work of government in all the ways that are pleasing to him, and we should pray that God would stay their hands from actions or policies that do not align to his will. 

3. Pray for our peace 

Paul tells us that we are to offer these prayers so “that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life.” The reason for this is simple, government is necessary to order our common life. Its primary task is to promote peace and justice (Rom. 13). We can pray today that these incoming leaders will lead well, that they will preserve domestic peace, and that our nation and our world will enjoy greater peace in the days and years ahead. In our polarized and fractious country, we should all desire peace, not only in the policy realm, but at the family and community level as well.

4. Pray for our lost neighbors

As we pray for our new leaders, as well as our nation and our neighbors, we must remember that our goal is their salvation. God “desires all people to be saved.” Paul recognized that a good and just government allows more freedom for the church to do its work of bearing witness to the gospel. We should pray that over the next four years, our churches would be free to minister and to point the way to Jesus. More than anything else, our neighbors and our world need the hope of the gospel.

By / Jan 15

In this episode, Josh, Brent, and Meagan discuss president Trump becoming the first president to be impeached twice, the increased national guard presence at the U.S. Capitol, COVID-19’s raging numbers, new thoughts on COVID-19 immunity length, US Space Command, Alabama winning the National Championship, and ‘Way Maker’ topping the charts in 2020. Meagan and Josh also gives a rundown of this week’s ERLC content including Carl Laferton with “3 ways smartphone usage can distort our perceptions: Habits, theology, and Christian discipleship,” Jason Thacker, and Josh Wester with “Understanding Twitter suspensions and the need for consistent policies,” and Russell Moore with “The Roman Road from Insurrection.” Also in this episode, the hosts are joined by Haley Byrd Wilt for a conversation about life and ministry. 

About Haley

Haley Byrd Wilt is an associate editor for The Dispatch. She previously reported on Congress for CNN and The Weekly Standard. Haley and her husband Evan live in Washington, D.C. You can connect with her on Twitter: @byrdinator

ERLC Content

Culture

  1. Trump becomes first president to be impeached twice
  2. Here are the Republicans who voted to impeach Trump
  3. Here’s what the U.S. Capitol looks like as impeachment is underway
  4. Axios: Next move is the Senate
  5. Multiple resignations in wake of Capitol riot
  6. Capitol Hill police chief resigns, said he requested back-up
  7. US Space Command Headquarters is coming to Huntsville
  8. Air passengers entering the United States will be required to present a negative COVID-19 test, according to the CDC
  9. Coronavirus Immunity May Last Years, Possibly Even Decades, Study Suggests
  10. Covid is raging
  11. Alabama wins national championship
  12. ‘Way Maker’ top 2020 worship song

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By / Jan 15

The peaceful transition of power from one chief executive to another is one of the most enduring and cherished legacies of the American government. But it’s also a complicated process. There is a lot that has to happen between Election Day and Inauguration Day.

Here is a brief outline of some of the steps that have to be taken in the transition from President Trump to President Biden.

Presidential campaigns usually create a transition team during the summer before the election. The Presidential Transition Act of 1963 and the Presidential Transition Enhancement Act of 2019 authorize funding for pre-election activities and support. But after the election, the president-elect is authorized to receive additional funding to pay for his staff, secure office space, and pay for other expenses. (The President’s FY2020 budget request included $9.62 million in funding for the transition.)

Pre-election transition activities continue until the General Services Administration (GSA) officially declares the winner of the presidential election through what is known as ascertainment. Although President Trump disputed the election results on social media, GSA ascertained President-elect Biden as the winner of the 2020 election on November 23. Ascertainment allows the transition team to begin a broad range of official activities, such as getting guidance from the National Archives and Record Administration on preserving presidential records.

Around that time, the transition team will also create agency review teams, which as the Center for Presidential Transition explains, are responsible for “collecting information about the unique roles and responsibilities of each major department and agency of the federal government, and providing information that is relevant, useful and important to the new administration.” Presidential transition team members can also begin receiving security clearances, classified information, as well as access to government offices and staff.

The transition team also selects the top 50 Cabinet appointees and key White House personnel, develops a policy implementation plan, budget and management agenda, sends intended Cabinet agency appointments to the Senate, and determines how to fill roughly 4,000 politically appointed positions—including more than 1,000 jobs requiring Senate confirmation.

They will also begin to draft new executive orders so that they can be implemented as soon as the president-elect takes office, and work with Office of Management and Budget (OMB) career staff to develop a “shadow” presidential budget aligned with the president-elect’s top policy priorities.

The Presidential Transition Act requires the Trump administration to provide President-elect Biden with a classified summary of the nation’s national security threats and major military or covert operations. The briefing is generally given daily during the transition period. The law also requires the Trump administration to host interagency emergency preparedness and response exercises. Around mid-January, the transition team submits agency review reports and briefs incoming agency heads, prepares a Cabinet orientation/retreat, and takes care of other last minute items.

Under the Constitution, the President and the Senate share the power to appoint the principal officers of the United States. Since most of the highest-level political appointee positions in the federal government—including all cabinet members—are filled by such officers, the Senate has to hold confirmation hearings to fulfill its “advise and consent” role. The Senate typically also begins the process of holding confirmation hearings prior to Inauguration Day. But because the Georgia Senate race wasn’t decided until early January (thus determining who controlled the Senate) the process has been significantly delayed.

The Senate has set a date of January 19 for hearings on his nominees for Homeland Security, Defense, State, and Treasury. But those positions might not be confirmed and able to start work for days or even weeks later. Until the cabinet is officially confirmed, Biden will rely mostly on acting officials. (Under the Vacancies Act, acting officials can be chosen from among first assistants to the vacant position, Senate-confirmed officials in any agency, and agency workers who have served at least 90 days prior to the vacancy and paid at least at the GS-15 level.) Because the Senate’s trial for President Trump’s second impeachment takes precedence over other floor business in the chamber, the confirmation process may be delayed several weeks.

President-elect Biden will take the Oath of Office and become the President of the United States at noon on January 20. Following the inaugural ceremony at the U.S. Capitol, the outgoing President and First Lady normally leave to begin their post-presidential lives. But President Trump has said he will not attend the inauguration. (Three other presidents—John Adams in 1801, John Quincy Adams in 1829, and Andrew Johnson in 1869—refused to attend their successors’ inaugurations.) Later that day, after the completion of inaugural festivities, President Biden will move into the White House. Because of COVID-19, the federal government has increased White House janitorial and housekeeping work in order to perform a deep cleaning, allotting $127,249 for “2021 Inaugural Cleaning.”

By / Nov 3

What makes a good president of the United States? Are there certain traits that naturally lend themselves toward an individual’s success in the highest office in the land? Do we expect too much from the individuals we choose to be president? These questions are just a handful of the ones that author John Dickerson tackles in his fascinating new book, The Hardest Job in the World: The American Presidency.

Dickerson, easily one of my favorite political analysts, has written one of the most engaging overviews of the American executive branch. As I read it in the run-up to the 2020 election, it helped clarify for me the real and imagined roles of the presidency and gave me an appreciation for the men who have held the office in our history. One thing it confirmed for me: character matters.

“Character in many ways is everything in leadership,” remarked former U.S. President Dwight “Ike” Eisenhower. “Character is really integrity.” As you read the book, you can’t help but come away with a new appreciation for Ike and his deep knowledge of effective leadership. That seems to have been a major objective for Dickerson in writing this book (he said in a recent interview he fell in love with Eisenhower as Dickerson researched his administration for this book).

High demands of our nation’s leader

Why is that so important as a reader? Because in this time where leadership too often is defined as having the loudest voice or the deepest grievance, our nation’s greatest leaders have often provided helpful examples in opposition to those things. In fact, as you read this book, you come to realize that our most successful presidents have cast a vision that is accessible to more than just the Americans who voted for them. As one example, Dickerson uses John F. Kennedy’s prediction that television would allow presidential candidates to speak directly to Americans––and then doing just that in his campaign.

Beyond the poetry of campaigning, this leadership trait of inclusion extends to the prose of governing, as well. Dickerson discusses how it informs the team-building process of presidential administrations. He highlights a quote from famed management expert Peter Drucker who said, “The leaders who work most effectively, it seems to me, never say ‘I.’ They don’t think ‘I.’ They think ‘we’; they think ‘team.’” When a president takes this approach, he or she will be sowing seeds for potential success as the administration takes flight after Inauguration Day. 

Throughout the book, Dickerson explores the various constitutional roles required of the nation’s chief executive as well as the ones Americans have now come to expect the president to play. Our Constitution is very clear that the president is the commander in chief of the U.S. armed forces. As the years have passed, though, we’ve also asked the president to be what Dickerson calls our “consoler in chief” when tragedy strikes our nation. When a deranged white supremacist murdered nine members of Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina, former President Barack Obama used the moment to discuss God’s grace––a particularly poignant theme the nation needed to hear in that dark hour. But why is this vital for our nation? 

Dickerson answers that by pointing to former Reagan speechwriter Peggy Noonan who said, “speeches are important because they are one of the great constants of our political history. They have not only been the way we measure public men, they how we tell each other who we are.” Thus, a president’s words matter, not only because they have the ability to soothe or unite, but because they connect the current occupant of the White House with those who came before him. While speeches can play an important role in binding up the wounds of a nation, it is probably unrealistic to expect one person to resolve all the issues that come across the president’s desk. Dickerson shows us that it was never designed to be like this. 

Designed to be different 

Our Founding Fathers meticulously built our democratic republic, carefully weighing how each “grain” of power would affect one branch over the others. Their expectation was that the executive, legislative, and judicial branches would work in tension with one another, balancing out the ambition and moves of the other. The Founders were especially concerned with ensuring the president was kept in check. Why? Dickerson writes, “The founders were realistic about human weakness, but they believed that because they were so aware of its shortcomings, they could design a new government that not only accounted for man’s weakness but used it to keep balance.” To underscore this, Dickerson also includes a foreboding prediction by Benjamin Franklin: “The executive will always be increasing here, as elsewhere, till it ends in monarchy.” The last word should send a shudder down the spine of every American since that is what our ancestors revolted against in 1776. 


Ultimately, that continual use of the lens of history may be the most important takeaway from Dickerson’s book. He continually provides the reader with perspective. Whether it’s the quadrennial assertion that this election is the most important election of our lifetimes or the claims of certain disaster if one candidate or the other prevails, we live in a time devoid of such perspective. That can be especially worrisome when every individual has a megaphone and can broadcast their hottest takes for the world to see. As Christians, though, we are called to a higher standard, one of discernment. I have found that reading books like this highly-informative one help push me further along the road toward wisdom and understanding. After reading The Hardest Job in the World, those will be two traits I always look for in a president (or candidate for any office) from now on.

By / Oct 16

In this episode, Josh, Lindsay, and Brent discuss updates on the Capitol Hill Baptist Church court case, SCOTUS hearings, world COVID-19 updates, Barron Trump and Nick Saban test positive for coronavirus, Kamala Harris pausing her campaign travel, a huge fundraising update from Biden’s campaign, the cancelation of the second presidential debate, and the Los Angeles Lakers winning their 17th title. Lindsay also gives a rundown of this week’s ERLC content including “The Pearl Brown Story,” Lindsay Nicolet with “How churches and civic leaders can work together during the pandemic,” and Russell Moore with “Why life should be viewed as a miracle.” Also in this episode, the hosts are joined by Benjamin Watson for a conversation about life and ministry. 

About Benjamin

Benjamin Watson is a former American football tight end. He was drafted by the New England Patriots 32nd overall in the 2004 NFL Draft and later he would win Super Bowl XXXIX with the team over the Philadelphia Eagles. He played college football at Georgia. Watson has also played for the Cleveland Browns, Baltimore Ravens, and New Orleans Saints. Benjamin is the author of Under Our Skin: Getting Real about Race-and Getting Free from the Fears and Frustrations that Divide Us and The New Dad’s Playbook. Benjamin has been a long time friend of the ERLC and has spoken at our Evangelicals Life Conference. He is known for being a very vocal opponent of abortion and just released a documentary Divided Hearts of America which aim to bring empathy and understanding to all sides of the abortion debate. Benjamin has been married to his wife Kirsten for 15 years and together they have seven children. You can connect with him on  Twitter: @BenjaminSWatson

ERLC Content

Culture

  1. Capitol Hill Baptist gains religious liberty win in court
  2. SCOTUS hearings: Barrett answers questions on healthcare, voting rights and presidential powers
  3. Sen Ben Sasse tells Dems to follow basic civics during Judge Barrett’s confirmation hearing.
  4. Italy and U.K report record coronavirus surges
  5. Paris Under Curfew: Europe Reacts As Countries See Highest-Ever Coronavirus Numbers
  6. Hunker down’: The fall Covid-19 surge is here
  7. Kids struggle with Covid-19 and its months of aftermath
  8. Melania Trump reveals son Barron had COVID-19, opens up about diagnosis
  9. Kamala Harris pausing campaign travel
  10. Alabama football coach Nick Saban tests positive for Covid-19
  11. Major coronavirus vaccine trial is paused to investigate unexplained illness
  12. Americans’ Readiness to Get COVID-19 Vaccine Falls to 50%
  13. Biden says campaign raised $383 million in September
  14. The Latest: 2nd presidential debate is officially canceled
  15. NOBTS and NAMB partner for church planting center in New Orleans
  16. Los Angeles Lakers win 17th NBA title

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By / Sep 4

In this episode, Josh, Lindsay, and Brent discuss religious liberty in Nevada, Caring Well Challenge, The Rock, U.S. debt, the Benadryl challenge, and Chadwick Boseman. Lindsay also gives a rundown of this week’s ERLC content including a piece by Ryan Tucker and Travis Wussow with “What’s next for religious freedom in Nevada,” Josh Wester with “What does cognitive dissonance have to do with abortion and social justice?,” and Faye Scott with “Protocols to help protect against sexual abuse while meeting virtually.” Also in this episode, the hosts are joined by DJ Jenkins for a conversation about life and ministry.

About DJ

DJ Jenkins grew up east of Los Angeles in Redlands, California. During his college years at Cal Poly Pomona, DJ met a great group of students & staff of the local Cru (Campus Crusade for Christ) chapter. It was through this organization DJ placed his faith in Jesus and started following Him. After graduating with a B.S. in biology, DJ spent nine years working with Cru, including one year overseas in São Paulo, Brazil. He met his wife Alisha through Cru and, before moving to Studio City, they worked together at the University of Arizona for five years. In 2012, DJ and Alisha and their team moved to Studio City, an influential neighborhood of Los Angeles, to start Anthology Church. DJ and Alisha have two children. DJ is currently in the final semester of receiving his Masters of Divinity from Gateway Seminary. You can connect with him on Twitter: @DJJenkins

ERLC Content

Culture

  1. The Rock tests positive for COVID-19
  2. U.S. Debt to reach 100% of GDP
  3. What the CDC Means by describing COVID-19 as the ‘only cause’ of 6% of patient deaths
  4. Alabama gives the OK to return to the buffet
  5. United, Delta, American say they are dropping change fees for domestic flights
  6. Commission on Presidential Debates announces moderators
  7. Biden, Democrats Shatter Fundraising Record with $364.5 million in August
  8. Benadryl challenge is a dangerous and deadly fad on social media: medical experts
  9. Chadwick Boseman, who embodied Black icons, dies of cancer

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By / Dec 10

Southern Baptists affirm adoption as a central theological theme for our communities. We adopt because we ourselves were adopted through Christ into the family of God. A recent resolution of the Southern Baptist Convention stated this aspiration, “We pray what God is doing in creating an adoption culture in so many churches and families can point us to a gospel oneness that is determined not by ‘the flesh,’ or race, or economics, or cultural sameness but by the Spirit, unity, and peace in Christ Jesus.”

Unfortunately, there are ongoing attempts to bar from child-welfare programs faithbased organizations that believe marriage is between a man and woman. In 2018, Philadelphia barred Catholic Social Services from placing children in homes unless it changed its teaching on marriage. In 2019, the Attorney General of Michigan cancelled a contract for foster-care and adoption services with St. Vincent Catholic Charities citing a federal rule from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). The cited rule was set in place in January 2017 as a last-minute attempt by the Obama Administration to redefine federal nondiscrimination policies in a way that excluded many faith-based groups.

The Trump Administration proposed an HHS regulation that will help ensure the child welfare system remains about the welfare of children. The rule was proposed in November 2019 to bring the department’s regulations back in line with all other federal nondiscrimination law and Supreme Court precedent. The plight of over 435,000 children in foster care and 115,000 waiting to be adopted in the U.S. warrants a resounding call to make available as many safe and loving homes as possible.

This rule ensures no one is prevented from serving on the basis of their sincerely held beliefs. The previous Administration’s rule, like the laws in several cities and states, actually decreased the number of providers serving children. When faith-based providers are pushed out, the rate of youth aging out of foster-care without being adopted trends up as happened in Massachusetts, and the number of foster homes available plummets as happened in Illinois.

Christians are among the most motivated in American life to open their homes to children in need. Faith-based agencies should not be barred from providing foster-care and adoption services because of their theological convictions. The HHS rule change is an important start in the right direction.

By / Apr 7

The 2016 election cycle has pressed forward for months without an apparent GOP presidential nominee. The results of this week’s Wisconsin primary increased the odds that Republicans will have their first open convention since 1976.

To obtain a party’s nomination, a candidate must win a majority of delegates. For Republicans, a candidate must win 1,237 delegates—half the total number of delegates plus one. As the number of available delegates continues to dwindle, so does the probability that either Trump or Cruz will secure the nomination ahead of July’s convention. As a result, expect the speculation concerning an open GOP convention to reach a fever pitch, because such a scenario has not occurred in the Republican Party since 1976.

What is an open convention?

In the course of the nominating process, candidates mainly acquire delegates by winning victories in state primaries and caucuses. These delegates then become “bound” (required) to vote for respective candidates at the party’s nominating convention during the first—or multiple—rounds of voting depending on party rules that vary according to each state. For the GOP, a majority of delegates, 1,237, is required to secure the party’s nomination. If no candidate is able to secure a majority of delegates on the first ballot, an open convention commences with successive rounds of voting until a candidate obtains the support of a majority of delegates.

What could happen at an open convention?

When the convention begins voting on the party’s nominee, the votes cast on the first ballot will likely reflect the delegates gained through primaries and caucuses. However, if voting should extend beyond the first ballot, anything could happen. There are no guaranteed outcomes in an open convention.

Why are they so rare?

Both parties have a vested interest in selecting nominees before the national conventions. Party leaders aim for their nominee to exit the convention with party members firmly united behind him or her and significant momentum built up for November’s general election. Not only are open conventions divisive and unpredictable, they are also aired in prime time. The potential for harm to the image of the eventual nominee has led officials in both parties to create nominating processes that are designed to avoid open conventions entirely.

This is underscored by the fact that the phrase “open convention” is itself fairly novel. Perhaps signaling their concern that such an event was inevitable, many Republicans have recently adopted the phrase in order to frame the issue more positively. However, these occurrences have traditionally been known as “contested” or “brokered” conventions, which more accurately reflect the adverse nature of these events. That is why, for decades, both parties have worked to ensure their conventions function as celebratory demonstrations of party unity.

How does the convention select a nominee?

Depending on the state, most delegates are bound to a candidate on the first ballot and often the second or third ballot as well. This is why a candidate can secure the nomination on the first ballot by winning a majority of delegates through the state nominating contests. The convention will continue rounds of voting until a candidate wins the votes of 1,237 delegates on a single ballot.

The delegates casting votes at the convention are actual people who may not personally support the candidate to whom they are bound. Should the voting move beyond the first ballot, delegates are “released” to support another candidate on later ballots once they have fulfilled their obligation to vote according to their respective state’s rules.  

Who will be on the ballot?

Based on the current rules established in 2012, it is possible that only candidates who have won at least eight states will appear on the first ballot. This is due to Rule 40(b), (a rule only recently enacted by the GOP), which stipulates that a candidate must win a majority of delegates in eight states in order to be placed into nomination. However, the Convention Rules Committee will gather the week before the convention to consider these rules and recommend any changes. Changes to the rules will then be brought before the full number of convention delegates for ratification. Because the actual rules that will govern this year’s convention are yet unknown, it is impossible to know which names will appear on the first or successive ballots.

When will we know?

Unfortunately, the delegate math indicates that even if Trump or Cruz win the nomination before the convention, it is unlikely to occur before June 7—the last day of voting. With 754 delegates, Donald Trump continues to lead Ted Cruz who now has 514. While delegate-rich states such as New York, Pennsylvania and Indiana hold contests in April and early May, if this contest is decided before the convention it will probably happen on June 7, when over 300 delegates are up for grabs, including 172 in California.

How often does this happen?

Open conventions are rare, but they do happen. The last time the GOP had something similiar happen was in 1976 when insurgent candidate Ronald Reagan mounted a serious challenge to incumbent Gerald Ford. Ford emerged as the Republican nominee and lost in the general election to Jimmy Carter.

The GOP has actually endured ten open conventions throughout its history, six of which resulted in a general election victory. In 1860, the “distant second-place contender, who had only 22 percent of the delegates” ultimately secured the Republican Party’s nomination and went on to win the White House. That candidate was Abraham Lincoln.  

Why aren’t we talking about an open Democratic Convention?

The Democratic Party does not utilize the same nominating process as the Republican Party. Though their nominating seasons look fairly similar (states vote in largely the same order and both require a certain delegate threshold to secure their party’s nomination) the processes have important differences.

Democrats allocate a greater number of delegates to states and territories than Republicans. This requires Democratic candidates to garner a larger share of delegates, 2,383, to reach a majority and win the nomination. But the largest difference is that Democrats also allow a significant number of “unbound” delegates—the often referenced “superdelegates”—to cast votes in favor of their preferred candidate. The Democrats have 714 unbound delegates in this election cycle, most of whom are party leaders and elected officials.

Like Republicans, Democrats have a long history with open conventions. At the first Democratic convention in 1832, delegates nominated Martin Van Buren to join Andrew Jackson’s ticket as Vice President. More recently, the party braced for an open convention in 1984 as Gary Hart challenged frontrunner Walter Mondale. But with the help of superdelegates, Mondale successfully avoided a multi-ballot scenario by securing a majority in the first round of voting. The last time a Democratic nominee was decided by an open convention was in 1952 when the party nominated Adlai Stevenson.

While Bernie Sanders continues to trail Hillary Clinton 1,090 to 1,300 in pledged (bound) delegates, Clinton has so far maintained a substantial lead among the party’s superdelegates. While the Democratic contest is far from over, for now, the outsize role of superdelegates has kept any talks of an open Democratic convention at bay.