By / Jun 30

Washington, D.C., June 30, 2023—Brent Leatherwood, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, affirmed today’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling on the 303 Creative v. Elenis case, stating that “individual rights may not be paved over by a zealous government.”

In response to the court’s ruling in the 303 Creative free speech case, Leatherwood said: 

“If the government can compel an individual to speak a certain way or create certain things, that’s not freedom—it’s subjugation. And that is precisely what the state of  Colorado wanted.

Thankfully, the court has stepped in to say that individual rights may not be paved over by a zealous government. Colorado’s scheme of compulsion and coercion against creators has failed once more.

But the implications of this ruling extend throughout the nation: People are free to speak, create, and operate in ways that are consistent with their deepest-held beliefs—even when those beliefs are deemed culturally unpopular.

What did the court decide in the 303 Creative free speech case?

The Supreme Court has delivered a landmark ruling in favor of free speech. Quoting previous cases, the court highlighted that the framers designed the First Amendment to protect the freedom to think and speak according to one’s deeply held convictions. The government cannot suppress speech simply because it deems it “misinformed or offensive.” The court emphasized that technological advancements, such as the internet, do not diminish the protections afforded by the First Amendment. 

As Justice Gorsuch noted in the opinion, “No public accommodations law is immune from the demands of the Constitution” (14). The First Amendment was designed to establish the United States as “a rich and complex place where all persons are free to think and speak as they wish, not as the government demands” (26). Justice Gorsuch clarified, “Of course, abiding the Constitution’s commitment to the freedom of speech means all of us will encounter ideas we consider ‘unattractive, misguided, or even hurtful,’ but tolerance, not coercion, is our Nation’s answer” (25-26).

What was the 303 Creative free speech case about?

Since 2016, Lorie Smith, founder of the web design firm 303 Creative, has been in the process of challenging a Colorado law that violates her First Amendment rights. 

This same law was used to target Jack Phillips and led to the 2018 Supreme Court Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission case, Colorado’s Anti-Discrimination Act. In that case, the court ruled favorably for Phillips on narrow grounds but failed to address the underlying conflict between anti-discrimination laws and free speech rights.

Smith has created various custom websites for people of all backgrounds, but she refuses to use her “design skills and creativity to express messages that violate her deeply held religious convictions,” including the creation of a wedding website for a same-sex couple. 

Why does this case matter to Southern Baptists?

“Southern Baptists have long subscribed to the belief that people of faith should not only be able to hold biblical convictions about marriage and gender, but also to live them out in the public square,” said Hannah Daniel, ERLC policy manager. “No one should be forced to sacrifice their most deeply held beliefs to participate in the marketplace and contribute to our society.” 

More information about this case and ERLC advocacy is available online at the SCOTUS Resource Page.

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 with Brent Leatherwood,
contact Elizabeth Bristow by email at [email protected] or call 202-547-0209
Visit our website at www.erlc.com
Follow us on Twitter at @ERLC.

By / Jun 29

Washington. D.C., June 29, 2023 —Brent Leatherwood, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, applauded today’s unanimous U.S. Supreme Court ruling in the Groff v Dejoy case, stating that it “is a victory for every American.”

In response to the ruling, Leatherwood said: 

“Despite some voices saying that Mr. Groff sought exceptional treatment, the court saw through that to the truth of the matter. He simply asked for a reasonable accommodation to live out the tenets of his faith. By siding with him, the court has again affirmed the importance of living in accordance with one’s deepest-held beliefs.

This is a victory for every American. Your profession of faith should not be a barrier to your professional vocation.”

What’s the takeaway from the ruling for religious liberty?

The court has clarified the interpretation of a previous ruling that was so often used to deny religious accommodation, was inaccurate. This ruling reflects a central argument from the ERLC brief. In today’s ruling, the justices clarified that the real standard requires employers to show a “substantial” burden before they can deny an employee the freedom to live according to their beliefs.

What did the ERLC brief say?

The ERLC filed an amicus brief in this case in support of United States Postal Service (USPS) employee Gerald Groff, alongside the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, the National Association of Evangelicals, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints and the Anti-Defamation League. The brief argues that a previous ruling, Trans World Airlines, Inc. v. Hardison, should be overturned.

The 1977 Hardison decision limited and distorted the requirements of employers to reasonably accommodate employees’ religious beliefs and practices by allowing employers to prove only a “minimal burden” to deny accommodations, known as the “de minimis” standard.

The Groff v Dejoy case ruling stated “…diverse religious groups tell the Court that the ‘de minimis’ standard has been used to deny even minor accommodations.” This was a point made in the ERLC brief. 

What was the Groff v Dejoy case about?

Gerald Groff began working as a USPS carrier in 2012, and as a Christian, was compelled by his religious beliefs to observe the Sunday Sabbath. After USPS began delivering packages on Sunday for Amazon, Groff offered to take extra shifts on weekdays and holidays to avoid working on his Sabbath. USPS initially granted him an accommodation but then changed its mind and began scheduling Groff for Sunday work. Groff refused to violate his faith, and faced termination until he ultimately resigned in 2019. 

Why does the Groff v Dejoy case matter to Southern Baptists?

Southern Baptists have long subscribed to the belief that people of faith should not have to separate their vocation from their deeply held beliefs. More background information about the Groff v Dejoy case and the ERLC’s advocacy is available online.

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 with Brent Leatherwood,
contact Elizabeth Bristow by email at [email protected] or call 202-547-0209 
Visit our website at www.erlc.com
Follow us on Twitter at @ERLC.

By / Jun 23

Washington. D.C., June 23, 2023 —The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention celebrates the one-year anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark Dobbs v. Jackson’s Womens Health Organization decision and provides support for pro-life ministries through the gift of 27 ultrasound machines in the last year.

In addition to this practical ministry of the Psalm 139 Project, the organization remains focused on advocating for life-affirming policies on a state and national level to better serve mothers and children in a post-Roe era.

‘A New and Vibrant Culture of Life’’

Brent Leatherwood, president of the ERLC, commented on this historic moment:

“One year ago, we witnessed a true turning point for the pro-life movement. More lives were in danger, more mothers were at risk, and more families were targeted. But with the Dobbs decision, that changed. So many pro-life individuals, ministries, and organizations have grown and expanded to serve women and families in need of support. A new and vibrant culture of life is being established in our nation after decades of death caused by Roe v. Wade. That is worth celebrating.

“However, important work remains as abortion providers and the drug manufacturing industry prey upon vulnerable mothers and families in abortion destinations. We believe that every life, from the moment of conception to natural death, is sacred and worthy of our protection––and our strongest advocacy. Far too many lives remain vulnerable and the pro-life movement must continue to rise and meet that challenge.”

Resourcing the Church for this Moment

The Dobbs victory was long awaited and advocated for by the ERLC, significantly through an amicus brief in the case. In addition to the policy and judicial engagement, the ERLC serves churches by providing resources to equip them to minister in a post-Roe environment. Recent resources include:

What is the Psalm 139 Project?

Over the last 12 months, the ERLC has placed or committed to place 27 ultrasound machines to pregnancy resource centers across the country through the life-saving work of the Psalm 139 Project.

Machines have been placed in: California, New York, Texas, Alabama, North Carolina, Virginia, Tennessee, Louisiana, and Illinois.

The Psalm 139 Project, a pro-life ministry of the ERLC, is focused on aiding pregnancy resource centers in securing ultrasound machines. One hundred percent of financial contributions designated to the Psalm 139 Project go toward purchasing ultrasound machines and providing training for workers. 

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.

By / Sep 13

Brent Leatherwood has been elected to fill the role as the next president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission by the organization’s trustees. 

The ERLC board of trustees voted unanimously to appoint Leatherwood during its first session on Sept. 13. Leatherwood, 41, has served as the organization’s acting president since September 2021, following the departure of Russell Moore. The vote occurred during the trustee’s annual meeting, Sept. 12-14, in Nashville, Tenn. 

“It has been both my joy and privilege as the current chair of the ERLC board of trustees to work directly with Brent Leatherwood in his interim capacity as acting president,” said Lori Bova, of Hobbs, N.M. “Under his leadership, the staff has not missed a beat in producing timely, quality resources for our churches. He is a tireless servant with a passion to serve Southern Baptists and to steward well the ministry assignment of the ERLC.”

Prior to serving as acting president, Leatherwood held the role of chief of staff at the ERLC, as well as the entity’s director of strategic partnerships. Leatherwood has an extensive background in public service and electoral politics, serving as the executive director of the Tennessee Republican Party and as director of communications and policy strategy in the Tennessee General Assembly. He also previously served on Capitol Hill as a senior staffer for a member of Congress.

The ERLC trustee presidential search committee, chaired by Todd Howard of Pine Bluff, Ark., recommended Leatherwood to the full board after a 14-month search process.

Howard likened the ERLC search committee process to 1 Samuel 16. “Initially, the committee had a great pool of candidates and thought the next president of the ERLC could be among them. However, as the committee began the process of interviews, doors started closing. We found ourselves asking, ‘Are these all your sons?’ 

“Leatherwood was recommended to us from a variety of sources and became the top candidate by virtue of his leading well through the various challenges facing the commission during the interim season. He has intangible leadership qualities that we could not ignore. After a final round of interviews with Leatherwood, the committee, for the first time in this process, voted unanimously in favor of recommending him to the full board of trustees as the next president of the ERLC.” 

Leatherwood is a dedicated member of The Church of Avenue South in Nashville, Tenn., where he has served as a deacon since 2014. He is married to Meredith, and they have three children. 

“True leadership begins as service,” said Leatherwood. “That has been the heart I have brought each day to the ERLC these past 12 months. And it is that same heart I will continue to bring as this new chapter begins. I am honored and humbled to be given the opportunity to serve this historic institution as its next president. 

“Rooted in Scripture and guided by the Baptist Faith and Message, this team will remain fervently committed to carrying out our ministry assignment—faithfully serving our churches and growing our convictional presence in the public square on behalf of our convention. That means speaking with biblical clarity about the issues that matter to Baptists: the inherent value of life, religious liberty at home and abroad, human dignity and the flourishing of families. 

“We have made it a priority to come alongside and equip our churches, partner with our state conventions, and support our sister SBC entities. This Commission will continue to do so in this new season because we know the Southern Baptist Convention is stronger when we are cooperating on mission together.”

Prior to Leatherwood’s appointment as ERLC president, Russell Moore served as president from 2013-2021 and Richard Land served from 1988-2013. All three men were appointed to the presidency at age 41.

__________

Brent Leatherwood was endorsed by a variety of SBC and state leaders. Their statements are below. 

“I believe Brent Leatherwood will serve Southern Baptists well in this strategic position. He is a gifted and godly man with firm biblical and baptistic convictions.” 

Daniel Akin 
President 
Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary

“It is my privilege to recommend Brent Leatherwood to you as the next president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC). Brent has the spiritual grounding, experience, and skill set necessary to lead the ERLC at this unique time in our Convention’s and nation’s history. As I have observed, Brent has a strong faith, knowledge of Scripture, and an unbounding love for Jesus. These are critical tenets for anyone who leads one of our Southern Baptist entities.” 

Kevin Ezell 
President 
North American Mission Board 

“Brent Leatherwood strikes me as the sort of man who loves Southern Baptists—who we have been, are, and hope to become. Such a man as that can rise as a statesman to speak for Southern Baptists. Such a man can also come alongside Southern Baptists and gently speak to us as a brother.” 

Bart Barber 
Pastor, FBC Farmersville, TX 
President, Southern Baptist Convention

“I consider it a privilege and an honor to endorse Brent Leatherwood’s nomination as president of the ERLC. Brent has led wisely and courageously as the interim president during what can only be described as a tumultuous and strident period in our nation and our convention. Southern Baptists and America both desperately need the information, inspiration, and guidance the ERLC can provide under Brent Leatherwood’s leadership.” 

Richard Land 
President Emeritus 
ERLC

“The National African American Fellowship of the Southern Baptist Convention (NAAF) wishes to express our strong support of Mr. Brent Leatherwood’s candidacy for President of the ERLC. Brent is a proven leader and trusted partner. His commitment to Gospel-centered public policy is seasoned by his sensitivity to the nuanced lived experiences of our diverse Southern Baptist (SBC) family.” 

Rev. Frank Williams
President
National African American Fellowship, SBC 
and
Rev. Dennis Mitchell
Executive Director,
National African American Fellowship, SBC

“Tennessee has a long history of faithful men and women who love their neighbors through service in the political arena. Believers must view engagement in government as the opportunity that it is. I can think of no one better than Brent Leatherwood to be the next President of the ERLC, leading Southern Baptists as they strive to represent Jesus through faithful and humble engagement in the public square.” 

Bill Lee
50th Governor of Tennessee

__________

To request an interview with Brent Leatherwood, contact Elizabeth Bristow by email at [email protected] or call 202-547-0209.

By / Sep 13

NASHVILLE, Tenn., Sept. 13, 2022—Brent Leatherwood has been elected to fill the role as the next president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission by the organization’s trustees. 

The ERLC board of trustees voted unanimously to appoint Leatherwood during its first session on Sept. 13. Leatherwood, 41, has served as the organization’s acting president since September 2021, following the departure of Russell Moore. The vote occurred during the trustee’s annual meeting, Sept. 12-14, in Nashville, Tenn. 

“It has been both my joy and privilege as the current chair of the ERLC board of trustees to work directly with Brent Leatherwood in his interim capacity as acting president,” said Lori Bova, of Hobbs, N.M. “Under his leadership, the staff has not missed a beat in producing timely, quality resources for our churches. He is a tireless servant with a passion to serve Southern Baptists and to steward well the ministry assignment of the ERLC.”

Prior to serving as acting president, Leatherwood held the role of chief of staff at the ERLC, as well as the entity’s director of strategic partnerships. Leatherwood has an extensive background in public service and electoral politics, serving as the executive director of the Tennessee Republican Party and as director of communications and policy strategy in the Tennessee General Assembly. He also previously served on Capitol Hill as a senior staffer for a member of Congress.

The ERLC trustee presidential search committee, chaired by Todd Howard of Pine Bluff, Ark., recommended Leatherwood to the full board after a 14-month search process.

Howard likened the ERLC search committee process to 1 Samuel 16. “Initially, the committee had a great pool of candidates and thought the next president of the ERLC could be among them. However, as the committee began the process of interviews, doors started closing. We found ourselves asking, ‘Are these all your sons?’ 

“Leatherwood was recommended to us from a variety of sources and became the top candidate by virtue of his leading well through the various challenges facing the commission during the interim season. He has intangible leadership qualities that we could not ignore. After a final round of interviews with Leatherwood, the committee, for the first time in this process, voted unanimously in favor of recommending him to the full board of trustees as the next president of the ERLC.” 

Leatherwood is a dedicated member of The Church of Avenue South in Nashville, Tenn., where he has served as a deacon since 2014. He is married to Meredith, and they have three children. 

“True leadership begins as service,” said Leatherwood. “That has been the heart I have brought each day to the ERLC these past 12 months. And it is that same heart I will continue to bring as this new chapter begins. I am honored and humbled to be given the opportunity to serve this historic institution as its next president. 

“Rooted in Scripture and guided by the Baptist Faith and Message, this team will remain fervently committed to carrying out our ministry assignment—faithfully serving our churches and growing our convictional presence in the public square on behalf of our convention. That means speaking with biblical clarity about the issues that matter to Baptists: the inherent value of life, religious liberty at home and abroad, human dignity and the flourishing of families. 

“We have made it a priority to come alongside and equip our churches, partner with our state conventions, and support our sister SBC entities. This Commission will continue to do so in this new season because we know the Southern Baptist Convention is stronger when we are cooperating on mission together.”

Prior to Leatherwood’s appointment as ERLC president, Russell Moore served as president from 2013-2021 and Richard Land served from 1988-2013. All three men were appointed to the presidency at age 41.

__________

Brent Leatherwood was endorsed by a variety of SBC and state leaders. Their statements are below. 

“I believe Brent Leatherwood will serve Southern Baptists well in this strategic position. He is a gifted and godly man with firm biblical and baptistic convictions.” 

Daniel Akin 
President 
Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary

“It is my privilege to recommend Brent Leatherwood to you as the next president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC). Brent has the spiritual grounding, experience, and skill set necessary to lead the ERLC at this unique time in our Convention’s and nation’s history. As I have observed, Brent has a strong faith, knowledge of Scripture, and an unbounding love for Jesus. These are critical tenets for anyone who leads one of our Southern Baptist entities.” 

Kevin Ezell 
President 
North American Mission Board 

“Brent Leatherwood strikes me as the sort of man who loves Southern Baptists—who we have been, are, and hope to become. Such a man as that can rise as a statesman to speak for Southern Baptists. Such a man can also come alongside Southern Baptists and gently speak to us as a brother.” 

Bart Barber 
Pastor, FBC Farmersville, TX 
President, Southern Baptist Convention

“I consider it a privilege and an honor to endorse Brent Leatherwood’s nomination as president of the ERLC. Brent has led wisely and courageously as the interim president during what can only be described as a tumultuous and strident period in our nation and our convention. Southern Baptists and America both desperately need the information, inspiration, and guidance the ERLC can provide under Brent Leatherwood’s leadership.” 

Richard Land 
President Emeritus 
ERLC

“The National African American Fellowship of the Southern Baptist Convention (NAAF) wishes to express our strong support of Mr. Brent Leatherwood’s candidacy for President of the ERLC. Brent is a proven leader and trusted partner. His commitment to Gospel-centered public policy is seasoned by his sensitivity to the nuanced lived experiences of our diverse Southern Baptist (SBC) family.” 

Rev. Frank Williams
President
National African American Fellowship, SBC 
and
Rev. Dennis Mitchell
Executive Director,
National African American Fellowship, SBC

“Tennessee has a long history of faithful men and women who love their neighbors through service in the political arena. Believers must view engagement in government as the opportunity that it is. I can think of no one better than Brent Leatherwood to be the next President of the ERLC, leading Southern Baptists as they strive to represent Jesus through faithful and humble engagement in the public square.” 

Bill Lee
50th Governor of Tennessee

__________

To request an interview with Brent Leatherwood, contact Elizabeth Bristow by email at [email protected] or call 202-547-0209.