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 23

One of the primary ways the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission fulfills its ministry assignment in the public square is through public policy advocacy, both on a federal and on a state level. While the ERLC’s advocacy work in Washington, D.C., remains a vital component of our work, the politically-divided and often lengthy federal processes mean more and more weighty decisions are being made at the state level. As a result, the ERLC recently released our 2024 State Policy Agenda, which outlines state legislation being considered around the country that the ERLC has flagged as items of support or concern in conjunction with our Southern Baptist state conventions and other partners.

These pieces of legislation are best summarized by the four overarching policy priorities determined by the mission of the ERLC: 

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

Below is a short summary of our policy priorities in these areas in the 2024 State Policy Agenda. You can also learn more about each of these items by reading the agenda itself.

Life

As Southern Baptists, we believe that each 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. As a result, the ERLC continues to advocate for life to be protected, both at the beginning and end of life.

Following the Dobbs decision in 2022, the pro-life movement has seen both monumental gains for life in many states and new and concerning challenges to pro-life advocacy begin to emerge. In response, the ERLC continues to encourage the federal government to fulfill its duty to protect human life and combat the evil of abortion in all forms, while also seeking to protect life on a state level. Though attainable pro-life victories will look different across the country, it is important that each state work toward any positive steps it can to save lives. Here are some aspects of our state pro-life legislative priorities:

  • Supporting Abortion Restrictions: Some examples of legislation we are encouraged to see filed this year include Assembly Bill 975 in Wisconsin which would ban abortion at 14 weeks, and the Born Alive Protection Act in Kansas which was filed once again despite being vetoed after passage by the governor in April of 2023. Though we hope to see these states eventually eradicate abortion, we are glad to see steps being taken to save precious preborn lives.
  • Oppose Chemical Abortions: For example, New Hampshire Senate Bill 567 directs the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services to “protect and expand access to” abortion under the deceptive label of “necessary women’s reproductive health” access including, specifically, the abortion drug mifepristone.
  • Promote Pregnancy Resource Centers: Through the ERLC’s Psalm 139 Project and advocacy efforts, we continue to emphasize the excellent help offered by pregnancy resource centers and protect their right to help women choose life by opposing legislation like the Deceptive Practices of Limited Services Pregnancy Centers Act in Illinois that seeks to undermine their work.
  • Oppose Taxpayer Funding for Abortion: Some states, such as Missouri through House Bill 1563, are taking necessary action against the misuse of taxpayer money to fund abortion by prohibiting public funds from being expended to any abortion facility or affiliate.
  • Oppose Physician-Assisted Suicide: There is a concerted effort in many states to legalize and expand the practice of physician-assisted suicide. For example, Assembly Bill 781 in Wisconsin and Tennessee House Bill 1710 would both permit a patient to seek physician-assisted suicide from their medical provider.

Religious Liberty

Southern Baptists believe “God alone is Lord of the conscience.” The Baptist Faith and Message outlines the basis for the biblical teaching on religious liberty and freedom of conscience that was passed down to us from our Baptist predecessors, many of whom were imprisoned or executed as they stood for these truths.

Currently, religious liberty protections in the United States remain strong and secure. To ensure that this fundamental freedom is safeguarded, the ERLC continues to advocate for the protection of religious liberty for all people throughout the policy arena. We expect some of the following to be key religious liberty priorities in 2024:

  • Support Religious Freedom Restoration Acts: Three additional state RFRAs that have been filed in Iowa, Nebraska, and Georgia, and we remain hopeful more will follow.
  • Support Conscience Protections for Healthcare Providers: In many states, such as Oklahoma through Senate Bill 1883, Iowa through Senate Study Bill 3006, and Vermont through Health Care Freedom of Conscience Act, states are ensuring healthcare workers are not forced to choose between paving over their consciences and their duty as medical professionals.
  • Protect Conscience Rights for Adoptive and Foster Families: Some states are strengthening vital conscience and religious liberty protections for parents participating in the foster care and adoption systems. For example, Tennessee is considering such legislation with the Tennessee Adoptive and Foster Parent Protection Act
  • Safeguard Religious Expression on Campus: States like West Virginia are protecting religious liberty in higher education through Senate Bill 503, which strengthens free expression of religion protections for student groups on the campuses.

Marriage and Family

Families are the foundational institution of our society. In contrast, 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. Our advocacy for marriage and family includes:

  • Support Biblical Marriage: Some states, such as Florida through House Joint Resolution 167, allow residents to vote on repealing part of the state constitution that defines marriage as solely between one man and one woman.
  • Oppose the Surrogacy Industry: Virginia, through House Bill 110, is considering repealing existing Virginia law prohibiting the practice of paid surrogacy within the state.
  • Safeguard Children from Harmful Gender Ideology: Many states have already taken action to ban “gender transitions” from being performed on children, including Texas through the passage of Senate Bill 14, which took effect in September 2023. Two additional pieces of legislation being considered this year are the Child Protection Act in Georgia and the Children Deserve Help Not Harm Act in South Carolina.
  • Protect Women in Sports: Virginia is pushing back against the influx of biological men infiltrating women’s sports as a result of harmful gender ideology through the Women’s Sports Bill.
  • Protect Children from Pornography: Last year, some states, including North Carolina and Utah, enacted age verification requirements to prevent minors from accessing pornography. This resulted in sites like PornHub completely removing access to this content in the state. This year, several other states are including similar legislation, such as West Virginia House Bill 4867 and Indiana Senate Bill 17.
  • Help Families Flourish: Some proposals, such as Senate Bill 171 in Illinois, help parents to care for their children by making items like diapers, baby wipes, and infant formulas tax exempt. Other states, such as Kansas through House Bill 2429, are establishing “alternatives to abortion programs” that promote childbirth, provide adoption assistance, and support pregnancy support centers and maternity homes.

Human Dignity

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 calls us to seek justice and righteousness, especially for the vulnerable. As we advocate for fair and impartial judgment and equitable treatment of the oppressed, we bear witness to a God who is ultimately the just Judge and to a gospel that saves all who believe. These realities spur on our commitment to the following priorities:

  • Oppose Expansion of Substance Abuse and Addiction: Though the federal government has been actively working to decriminalize marijuana, it remains highly addictive and increasingly accessible. Some states, such as Virginia through House Bill 698 and Kansas through Senate Bill 135, are seeking to legalize marijuana or medical cannabis sales within their state.
  • Combat the Predatory Lending Industry: Some states, such as Washington through House Bill 1918 and South Carolina through Senate Bill 67, are pushing back against predatory lending practices by capping the interest rate on a payday loan at 36%.
  • Opposition to Gambling: Through legislation like Senate Bill 1434 in Oklahoma, Senate Bill 386 in Georgia, and legislation we are anticipating being filed in Alabama, several states are considering expansions this year to gambling in their state. 
  • Supporting Criminal Justice Reform: Some states, such as Florida through the “Air Conditioning in Inmate Housing” bill, are considering legislation that would respect the dignity of those in prison and their safety by requiring air conditioning units in good working order to be available for all housing units. Other states, such as Arizona through House Bill 2047, would create a transition program through partnerships with local nonprofits to help perpetrators of nonviolent crimes assimilate into the local community after serving their sentence.
  • Ending the Epidemic of Mass Shootings and Gun Violence: Tennessee, is taking a multi-front approach to the epidemic. For example, House Bill 1640 and House Bill 2101 ensure court records noting an individual’s mental health and likelihood to cause harm are added to the background check system. Additionally, Senate Bill 2342 makes it a criminal act to threaten mass violence, and House Bill 1625 creates a “duty to warn” if an actual threat of bodily harm is detected. 
  • Stopping Sexual Abuse: Reforms such as Senate Bill 5280 in Washington and Senate Bill 87 in Kansas would expand requirements for clergy and ministers to report the abuse or neglect of children. Missouri is also considering two proposals, House Bill 1741 and House Bill 1868, that provide greater protections to nonprofits that share credible abuse allegations with other nonprofits and expand protections for victims who wish to provide testimony through video.
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 5

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

Life: Beyond Dobbs

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

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

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

Religious Liberty: A Baptist distinctive

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

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

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

Marriage and Family: Upholding biblical standards

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

Some aspects of particular interest in 2024 include the following:

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

Human Dignity: Addressing global and societal issues

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

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

The road ahead 

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

By / Dec 13

WASHINGTON, D.C., Dec. 13, 2023 Brent Leatherwood, president of The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, has appointed Hannah Daniel to serve as the next director of public policy to lead the entity’s work on Capitol Hill.

In this position, Daniel will oversee the ERLC’s Washington office, coordinating its public policy efforts in D.C. and across the nation. Daniel will advocate for legislation and policies that advance the interests of Southern Baptists in the public square.

“I am thrilled Hannah Daniel has accepted this role for our Commission,” Leatherwood said of her appointment. “She has led our legislative work as policy manager with distinction for well over a year now. The expertise, skill set and talent she brings to this role in Washington should make every Southern Baptist proud of this development. 

“When I travel to our nation’s capital for meetings, both those on Capitol Hill with elected leaders and coalition peers for our work, I am constantly grateful for the voices that sing Hannah’s praises for the work she does on behalf of our churches. She always conducts herself with integrity, and views this work not merely as a chance to articulate helpful policy proposals but also as a chance to bring the gospel to those in the highest offices in the land.”

Southern Baptist and evangelical leaders provided the following accolades for Daniel’s appointment. 

“Hannah Daniel is an excellent choice for this very important role at the ERLC! It was a joy to know her as a student at Union University, and it has been a joy to see her use her intellectual gifts, her relational ability, and her diligent work for the glory of God and the good of others through her work in our nation’s capital. As director of public policy for the ERLC, Hannah will be a strong and faithful voice for Southern Baptists and all people of good will on the important matters affecting our country and, by extension, the world.” – Samuel W. “Dub” Oliver, president, Union University

“Hannah Daniel is a stellar young woman with an exceptional work ethic. Hannah was a leader in our youth group, serving locally through tutoring inner city children as well as participating in international missions. She is fully committed to the Lord and the advancement of His Kingdom. I am so grateful that we have such a talented young woman willing to serve our SBC in this strategic position.” – Donna Gaines, Bible teacher and author, Bellevue Baptist Church

“I am always thankful when I see young leaders using their gifts and abilities for Christ’s glory. During recent transitions Hannah has demonstrated her ability to be a salt and light witness in the legislative world that is Washington, D.C.” – Kevin Smith, chair, ERLC board of trustees

“I had the privilege of hiring Hannah Daniel when I worked at the ERLC. She’s incredibly talented, intelligent, and a phenomenal advocate in Washington, D.C., for the vulnerable, for religious liberty, for the pre-born and so many other issues that Southern Baptists care about. She represents Christ well in whatever space she steps into and will continue to lead with conviction and grace.” – Chelsea Sobolik, director of government relations, World Relief

“Hannah has been an important member at our church in downtown Washington for several years. She helps lead a small group here on Capitol Hill attended by dozens of Hill staffers and serves regularly at our church. She loves the Great Commission, is passionate for policy and truth, and most of all loves Jesus in a way we all see and feel.” – Benjamin Palka, pastor, King’s Church D.C.

Hannah Daniel biography 

Daniel is from Memphis, Tenn., where she was an active member of Bellevue Baptist Church. She graduated from Union University in 2020 with a bachelor’s degree in business administration with a concentration in economics. As an intern with the ERLC in 2020, she gained experience and insight into the advocacy work for Southern Baptists on Capitol Hill. Following her internship, she worked at the National Immigration Forum to engage faith-based partners and advocates in common sense immigration reforms. In 2021, she rejoined the ERLC staff under Brent Leatherwood’s leadership as a policy associate and then in 2022 as policy manager. Daniel lives in Washington, D.C., where she is a member and small group leader at Kings Church D.C.

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] or call 202-547-0209. 

By / Oct 11

Washington, D.C., Oct. 11, 2023 The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention has joined with SBC and other Christian leaders in developing an “Evangelical Statement in Support of Israel,” in response to the horrific atrocities committed against the people of Israel by Hamas. 

The statement has garnered more than 60 signatories from SBC leaders and a broad group of evangelicals to support Israel and advocate for the vulnerable involved with this ongoing conflict. 

ERLC President Brent Leatherwood commented on the statement.

“These repugnant atrocities by Hamas should shake us to our core. Hundreds of innocent Israeli lives have been struck down by a rampaging enemy. There should be no question that the Israeli government has the right to defend its citizens and sovereignty that have been so grossly violated. Our statement today, from leaders across denominational lines in evangelicalism and from various sectors of ministry, represents a significant show of solidarity with Israel as it responds to this evil.

“In the face of such wickedness, this is not the time for false equivalency or excuses by national leaders and policymakers, but clear-eyed moral leadership. Extremists and authoritarians are threatening lives across the globe, rendering countless individuals vulnerable. As we read in the 13th chapter of the Book of Romans, governments have a responsibility to thwart such evil—and that responsibility should translate to action. 

“At the same time, we must pray without ceasing for the families who have and continue to suffer from this attack. We pray that no additional innocent life be taken as Israel rightfully defends itself from this horror.”

The evangelical statement also calls on Christians across the globe to pray for the salvation and peace of the people in Israel and Palestine.  

Excerpts from the statement are below: 

“While our theological perspectives on Israel and the Church may vary, we are unified in calling attacks against Jewish people especially troubling as they have been often targeted by their neighbors since God called them as His people in the days of Abraham (Gen. 12:1-3). . . . 

“The tragic events of October 7th further underscore the importance of democracy in our world and stand as a sober reminder that supporting Israel’s right to exist is both urgent and needed. . . . 

“Furthermore, we recognize the dignity and personhood of all persons living in the Middle East and affirm God’s love for them as well as His offer of salvation through Jesus Christ to all people. . . . 

“Finally, we call on American policymakers to use their power to take all forms of terrorism seriously and call governments and civil authorities to confront evil work to prevent future attacks so that the innocent and vulnerable will be protected.”

Daniel Darling, director of The Land Center for Cultural Engagement at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, served as a key drafter for the evangelical statement and commented on the crisis in Israel.

“These despicable acts represent a second Holocaust against the Jewish people. As in every generation, Israel needs defenders. There can be no equivocation. This is the time for the church to speak clearly and with one voice that we not only condemn these barbarous acts of terrorism but that we support Israel’s right to defend itself. I’m grateful for the moral clarity of those who added their name to this document and pray for the peace of Jerusalem.” 

Southern Baptists passed a resolution at the 2016 annual meeting titled, “On Prayer and Support For Israel” supporting the right of Israel to exist as a sovereign state. 

The full statement can be found here

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] or call 202-547-0209
 Visit our website at www.erlc.com
Follow us on Twitter at @ERLC.

By / Oct 10

In December 2022, Congress passed the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA), a pro-life bill that aimed to make the workplace more accessible to pregnant women by requiring employers to provide accommodations to pregnant workers under The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). This bill was implemented at the end of June 2023. However, a federal agency is manipulating the bill’s language to require that employers provide accommodations for abortion.

What the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act was supposed to achieve

Sponsors of the bill repeatedly stated that the PWFA was a low-impact bill that would only require “common sense” accommodations—a bottle of water, relief from carrying heavy objects, a stool—to ensure pregnant women can safely remain in the workforce. On the surface, this legislation was promising from a pro-life perspective because it removes barriers to women choosing life instead of abortion. For example, lower income women would be able to work later in their pregnancy, financially equipping them to care for their precious preborn life. 

As a result, the PWFA received broad bipartisan support in Congress and from a variety of advocacy groups. Pro-labor groups were supportive of the labor protections it provided to pregnant workers, and many pro-life groups were supportive of the opportunity to help pregnant women choose the path of life.

What happened during the implementation of the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act? 

However, the initial bipartisan support for the PWFA has not continued into the implementation of the bill. The PWFA requires employers to provide “reasonable accommodations to a worker’s known limitations related to pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions, unless the accommodation will cause the employer an undue hardship.” However, the bill does not define what is considered a “reasonable accommodation,” or what is considered a “related medical condition.”

When there is such vague language included in a bill, Congress will often delegate implementation of the bill to a federal agency. The agency will then release additional guidance, known as “rulemaking,” which dictates how the bill will be implemented. At that point, entities like the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) can submit comments on the rulemaking that share concerns regarding such guidance.

In the case of the PWFA, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) was given rulemaking authority. In July, the rules were released, and they directly contradicted the intent of Congress. Not only was “reasonable accommodation” interpreted to include additional paid leave, but the EEOC included abortion in the definition of “related medical conditions.” The PWFA would now essentially require employers to provide medical leave for women to end the life of their child through an abortion.

Such rulemaking directly contradicts the intent of Congress and the pro-life advocacy groups who hoped the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act would help mothers choose life. 

The bill’s primary Democratic sponsor, Sen. Casey, assured pro-life organizations that the bill was “straightforward … [and would] allow pregnant workers to request reasonable accommodations so that they can continue working safely during pregnancy and upon returning to work after childbirth.” 

The bill’s primary Republican sponsor, Sen. Cassidy, echoed those assurances and strongly opposed the EEOC’s actions saying, “These regulations completely disregard legislative intent and attempt to rewrite the law by regulation…The decision to disregard the legislative process to inject a political abortion agenda is illegal and deeply concerning.” 

These statements alone should unequivocally eliminate abortion from being considered a pregnancy related medical condition.

How the ERLC responded 

Every life matters because every life is created in the image of God. Therefore, the ERLC responded to this rule by submitting public comments, pushing back on the EEOC’s attempt to insert abortion into a life-affirming law. In these comments, the ERLC shared the longstanding history of Southern Baptists in advocating for pro-life legislation, supporting pregnant mothers, and opposing overreach by the federal government to subsidize the abortion industry. 

God has spoken clearly throughout Scripture to the value and dignity of every human being as created in the image of God and to the goodness of his design for every aspect of human life in accordance with his will (Gen. 1:26-30; Matt. 19:4; Luke 12:22–31; 2 Cor. 5:17-21; 1 Pet. 1:13-16). 

It is clear that the intent of Congress in passing the PWFA was to help pregnant mothers have healthy pregnancies and babies, not to expand access to abortion. The ERLC will continue to advocate for healthy mothers and preborn babies and urges Southern Baptists to join us in praying for abortion to be removed from the list of pregnancy related medical conditions. 

Additionally, we urge the sponsors of the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act to exhibit leadership and boldness by safeguarding the responsibility of Congress to legislate fairly and honestly and resist the urge to cave to the EEOC’s deceptive approach to rulemaking through filing public comments of their own. In doing so, the ERLC believes both the lives of preborn children and the consciences of employers will be protected.