By / Dec 20

In this episode, Lindsay and Brent discuss their end of year focus on the Psalm 139 Project. They also talk about the status of immigration reform in the United States, and an update on the Respect for Marriage Act. 

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  • Dobbs Resource Page | The release of the Dobbs decision marks a true turning point in the pro-life movement, a moment that Christians, advocates and many others have worked toward tirelessly for 50 years. Let us rejoice that we live in a nation where past injustices can still be corrected, as we also roll our sleeves up to save preborn lives, serve vulnerable mothers, and support families in our communities. To get more resources on this case, visit ERLC.com/Dobbs.
  • Sexual Ethics Resource Page | Do you ever feel overwhelmed by the constant stream of entertainment and messages that challenge the Bible’s teachings on sexual ethics? It often feels like we’re walking through uncharted territory. But no matter what we face in our ever-shifting culture, God’s design for human sexuality has never changed. The ERLC’s new sexual ethics resource page is full of helpful articles, videos, and explainers that will equip you to navigate these important issues with truth and grace. Get these free resources at ERLC.com/sexualethics.
By / Dec 2

In this episode, Lindsay talks with Hannah Daniel about the Senate’s affirmative vote on the Respect for Marriage Act, the upcoming oral arguments for 303 Creative, and her trip to the border next week. They also discuss pro-life issues and the life-saving work of ultrasound machines. 

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  • Dobbs Resource Page Prayer Guide | Right now, the Supreme Court is considering a major Mississippi abortion case called Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. The ERLC and other pro-life organizations filed an amicus brief in this case urging the Supreme Court to overturn the disatrous Roe v. Wade decision. Members of our team also joined pro-life advocates on the steps of the Supreme Court when oral arguments were heard last December. As we approach the Supreme Court’s final decision in June of this year, it’s important for Christians to pray for this landmark case and begin preparing our churches to serve vulnerable women and children in a potential post-Roe world. Download our free prayer guide at ERLC.com/Dobbs.
  • Dobbs Resource Page | Many Christians are aware that an important case about abortion is being decided at the Supreme Court this June. But for many, this case is confusing and wrapped in a lot of legal jargon. The ERLC wants to help with that, so we’ve created a resource page that will help you and your church understand what this case means, what could happen if Roe v. Wade is overturned, and how your church can prepare to serve vulnerable women and children in the aftermath. To learn more about the Dobbs case and how you can pray, visit ERLC.com/Dobbs.
By / Nov 29

Today, the Senate will once again take up the Respect for Marriage Act. Though the bill overcame the legislative filibuster with 62 members, 50 Democrats and 12 Republicans, voting in favor of moving forward with the bill before Thanksgiving, today’s vote will consider three potential amendments to the bill and then final passage. Once the bill is passed, it will return to the House for a vote on the amended legislation then proceed to President Biden.

The Senate had originally planned to take up the bill in July following its passage in the House of Representatives, but when concerns about the bill’s effects on religious liberty were raised, it was delayed until after the August recess and again until after last week’s midterm elections. In an effort to gain additional Republican support and overcome that 60-vote threshold, a bipartisan group of Senators amended the bill fixing the error that would have allowed for future recognition of polygamous relationships and attempting to assuage some religious liberty concerns. Though it could be argued that this amendment marginally improved the bill, the vast majority of religious liberty concerns remain insufficiently addressed. 

In light of that, three additional amendments have been proposed and will be voted on today. Though the ERLC will continue to oppose the Respect for Marriage Act because we fundamentally believe that God’s design for marriage is for our flourishing, these three amendments offer helpful solutions to many of our concerns in the bill, and we are advocating for their adoption. While we hope that this bill will ultimately fail, we want to see its harms mitigated if it does.

What is the Respect for Marriage Act?

The Respect for Marriage Act was introduced earlier this year with the purpose of repealing the Defense of Marriage Act and codifying protections for same-sex marriage into law. That law gave a federal definition to “marriage” as being between one man and one woman, and “spouse”defined as “only a person of the opposite sex who is a husband or wife.” After the overturning of Roe v. Wade, Justice Clarence Thomas suggested in his concurring opinion that the “Supreme Court should reconsider opinions protecting same-sex relationships, marriage equality and access to contraceptives.” 

Though that view was explicitly rejected in the Dobbs majority opinion, in response, the Respect for Marriage Act was introduced and passed in the House of Representatives in July of this year. The bill passed, with all Democrats and 47 Republicans voting in support of the measure.

According to the bill summary, “the bill repeals and replaces provisions that define, for purposes of federal law, marriage as between a man and a woman and spouse as a person of the opposite sex with provisions that recognize any marriage that is valid under state law.” The bill goes even further as to “repeal and replace provisions that do not require states to recognize same-sex marriages from other states with provisions that prohibit the denial of full faith and credit or any right or claim relating to out-of-state marriages on the basis of sex, race, ethnicity, or national origin.” In the event that a state should choose to neglect these new provisions, the bill authorizes “the Department of Justice to bring a civil action and establishes a private right of action for violations.”

How does this impact religious liberty?

In a letter sent to the U.S. Senate on July 26, ERLC President Brent Leatherwood conveyed why the Respect for Marriage Act presents such grave religious liberty concerns for people of faith. He said, “Given the significant role marriage plays in faith, the ‘Respect for Marriage Act’ raises serious religious liberty concerns for individuals and organizations who maintain this view of marriage (the view that marriage is an institution created by God between one man and one woman for life) and are in contract with, funded by, or working jointly with the government.” 

Since Obergefell, rights of conscience and religious freedom have found themselves in the crosshairs of a number of notable cases including Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission (2018) and Fulton v. City of Philadelphia (2021), each of which was ruled in favor of religious liberty. Should the Respect for Marriage Act find passage, however, we may rightly assume that rights of conscience and religious freedom will find themselves under threat yet again. 

What amendment was made?

In response to these concerns, Sens. Baldwin (D-WI), Collins (R-ME), Tillis (R-NC), Portmand (R-OH), and Synema (D-AZ) released a bipartisan amendment that fixed a previous issue around polygamous relationships and attempted to address concerns raised about the religious liberty of those who hold to a traditional view of marriage. 

Supporters claim the amendment, “Protects all religious liberty and conscience protections available under the Constitution or Federal law, including but not limited to the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, and prevents this bill from being used to diminish or repeal any such protection.” It also protects churches or “non-profit religious organizations” from being forced to provide goods and services for the “solemnization or celebration of marriage.” 

The amendment additionally tries to guarantee “that this bill may not be used to deny or alter any benefit, right, or status of an otherwise eligible person or entity – including tax-exempt status, tax treatment, grants, contracts, agreements, guarantees, educational funding, loans, scholarships, licenses, certifications, accreditations, claims, or defenses – provided that the benefit, right, or status does not arise from a marriage.”

Why is the amendment insufficient?

Though the ERLC is grateful for these marginal improvements to the original version of the bill, the bipartisan amendment does not provide adequate protections for religious liberty. This bill, even as amended, does not provide meaningful protection for those that maintain a traditional view of marriage. This amendment invites further confusion and litigation without offering sufficient security for the many faith-based organizations serving their communities outside of “solemnizing or celebrating marriages.” Through reiterating the protections that already exist in the law and using unhelpfully vague language, the amendment appears to offer people and institutions of faith more additional protection than it actually does.

What other amendments have been proposed?

In response to the adopted amendment’s shortcomings, three additional amendments have been proposed from Senators Lee (R-UT), Lankford (R-OK), and Rubio (R-FL) to try and address these problems. Senator Lee’s amendment would “prohibit the federal government from retaliating against any person or group for adhering to sincerely held religious beliefs and moral convictions about marriage.” Because this amendment was ruled as not germane, it will require 60 votes to be adopted, making its inclusion unlikely.

Senator Lankford and Senator Rubio’s amendments are more narrowly tailored to the bill and, thus, only require 50 votes for inclusion. Senator Lankford’s proposed amendment would significantly narrow the scope of the bill and would address the gaps in religious liberty protections included in the previously adopted Baldwin amendment. Senator Rubio’s amendment is even more narrowly focused, striking the private right of action that is included in the bill. 

The Lee, Lankford, and Rubio amendments all significantly improve this flawed bill. Though ERLC will continue to work against the bill’s ultimate passage, it is our desire that these helpful changes will be adopted.

At a fundamental level, this issue transcends electoral politics. For the ERLC, this is about human flourishing, love for our neighbors, and faithfulness to God’s Word. Underlying the SBC’s commitment to biblical marriage is a verse from the first book in Scripture: “God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them” (Gen. 1:27). Aside from the multitude of religious liberty challenges this bill poses, we ultimately oppose it because we hold fast to this understanding of God’s design of marriage as being between one man and one woman for life, and we know that this biblical framework undergirds a healthy society and promotes human flourishing.

By / Nov 18

In this episode, Lindsay and Brent talk about Brent’s trip to Washington, D.C., and his productive meetings with lawmakers. They also discuss the Senate’s vote to move forward with the Respect for Marriage Act, the Republicans’ narrow victory to win the House, and Nancy Pelosi’s future. 

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  • Dobbs Resource Page | The release of the Dobbs decision marks a true turning point in the pro-life movement, a moment that Christians, advocates and many others have worked toward tirelessly for 50 years. Let us rejoice that we live in a nation where past injustices can still be corrected, as we also roll our sleeves up to save preborn lives, serve vulnerable mothers, and support families in our communities. To get more resources on this case, visit ERLC.com/Dobbs.
  • Sexual Ethics Resource Page | Do you ever feel overwhelmed by the constant stream of entertainment and messages that challenge the Bible’s teachings on sexual ethics? It often feels like we’re walking through uncharted territory. But no matter what we face in our ever-shifting culture, God’s design for human sexuality has never changed. The ERLC’s new sexual ethics resource page is full of helpful articles, videos, and explainers that will equip you to navigate these important issues with truth and grace. Get these free resources at ERLC.com/sexualethics.
By / Nov 14

Though results are still coming in from Tuesday’s midterm elections that will determine which party controls the House of Representatives, Congress is coming back in session today with a long list of legislative items to do before the end of the year. This session between the election and the swearing in of the new Congress in January is called the Lame Duck session.

This year, Congress must pass either an omnibus appropriations bill (a budget for this 2023 fiscal year) or another continuing resolution by December 16 to avoid a government shutdown and fund the government, as well as the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), before the end of the year. Additionally, Congressional leaders have indicated that they may use this time to pass the Respect for Marriage Act in the Senate, reform the Electoral Count Act, take up permitting reforms, or raise the debt ceiling. As uncertainty lingers and fallout grows from Republicans’ disappointing electoral results, it remains to be seen exactly what will be done before the end of the year.

The Lame Duck also presents a unique opportunity for smaller, bipartisan bills to be passed into law. Oftentimes, these bills will be added on to the omnibus or NDAA packages. Other times, retiring lawmakers or those who were not reelected will be more willing to take votes that go against their party because they will not have to face voters following this session. These dynamics come together to occasionally allow bills to find passage that have been stuck in Congressional gridlock.

As we enter into this important legislative session, the ERLC will be advocating on behalf of Southern Baptists to uphold life and religious liberty and pursue biblical justice for the vulnerable. In this session, the ERLC’s top priorities will be protecting life and religious liberty in appropriations, opposing the Respect for Marriage Act, and advocating for permanent protections for Dreamers and Afghans in the US.

Protecting life and religious liberty in appropriations

Congress must either complete its appropriations work or pass another continuing resolution (CR) by the end of December 16. Congress previously passed a short-term CR in September to fund the government through December 16. 

On July 20, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a six-bill minibus, which included Transportation, and Housing and Urban Development; Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration; Energy and Water Development; Financial Services and General Government; Interior, Environment; and Military Construction, Veterans Affairs. Though all bills have been passed out of committee, the House has not yet taken action on Commerce, Justice, and Science; Defense; Homeland Security; Labor, Health and Human Services, Education; Legislative Branch, or State, Foreign Operations. The Senate has also released but not yet taken up its own version of these bills. If passed, these bills will have to be reconciled with the House versions. 

The FY2023 appropriations bills are troubling because they remove several longstanding pro-life riders from the budget. Just as last year, the Hyde Amendment has not been included in the Labor-HHS appropriations bill. The Hyde Amendment prevents Medicaid from covering the cost of abortion. At the 2021 Annual Meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention, messengers unanimously approved a resolution condemning efforts to strip Hyde from any federal appropriations bills and called upon Congress to uphold all pro-life riders.

Additionally, the appropriations bills removed the Weldon Amendment for only the second time since 2005. Weldon protects the rights of conscience for healthcare professionals and institutions by preventing HHS from denying funding to recipients that refuse to provide, pay for, or refer for abortion. The budget would also prohibit any president from reinstituting the Mexico City Policy, reestablished and expanded by President Trump, as the Protecting Life in Global Health Assistance policy.

Though excluded from the initially released bills last year, these pro-life and conscience protection riders were ultimately included in the final FY2022 appropriations package. It is our hope that the same will happen this year. The ERLC is urging Congress to support protections against federal funds being used for abortion and to ensure that pro-life spending riders are approved in all spending legislation passed in the 117th Congress. We also are urging Congress to remove harmful provisions that would exclude people of faith from serving the most vulnerable. 

Opposing the Respect for Marriage Act

The Respect for Marriage Act is a bill that seeks to “repeal the Defense of Marriage Act and codify federal recognition for marriage equality.” As stated in the bill summary, “the bill repeals and replaces provisions that define, for purposes of federal law, marriage as between a man and a woman and spouse as a person of the opposite sex with provisions that recognize any marriage that is valid under state law.” The Respect for Marriage Act would also permit the Department of Justice “to bring a civil action” and would establish “a private right of action for violations.”

The Respect for Marriage Act is a federal legislative attempt to entrench, nationwide, the precedent set by the Supreme Court’s 2015 Obergefell v. Hodges decision, which ruled that “state laws barring same-sex marriages were unconstitutional.” At its core, this bill is a further attempt by Congress to redefine marriage, a union that need not be redefined and which government has no authority to redefine.

On July 19, the House of Representatives voted to pass the Respect for Marriage Act with broad bipartisan support. The final vote was 267-157, with 47 Republicans joining with all Democrats in support of the bill. Before it can become law, the bill must be passed in the Senate and be signed by the president. For the bill to pass, 10 GOP senators will have to join all Democrats to overcome the filibuster’s 60-vote threshold. Senate Majority Leader Schumer has indicated that he plans to bring the bill to the floor for a vote, and sponsors indicate that they believe they will have enough votes 

In addition to going against the biblical definition of marriage, the bill poses serious problems for religious liberty. In a letter sent to the Senate on July 26, ERLC President Brent Leatherwood conveyed why the Respect for Marriage Act presents such grave religious liberty concerns for people of faith. He said, “Given the significant role marriage plays in faith, the ‘Respect for Marriage Act’ raises serious religious liberty concerns for individuals and organizations who maintain this view of marriage (the view that marriage is an institution created by God between one man and one woman for life) and are in contract with, funded by, or working jointly with the government.” 

Since Obergefell, rights of conscience and religious freedom have found themselves in the crosshairs of a number of notable cases including Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission (2018) and Fulton v. City of Philadelphia (2021), each of which was ruled in favor of religious liberty. Should the Respect for Marriage Act find passage, however, we may rightly assume that rights of conscience and religious freedom will find themselves under threat yet again. The ERLC strongly opposes the Respect for Marriage Act and will continue to work against its passage in the Senate. 

Advocating for Dreamers and Afghans

Two populations of vulnerable people in need of Congressional action before a new Congress is sworn in are Dreamers, young immigrants who were brought here by their undocumented parents, and Afghan evacuees, who were brought to the United States through humanitarian parole after the fall of Afghanistan last year.

A recent decision from the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals found the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Program (DACA) to be unlawful but temporarily allowed Dreamers, who currently hold DACA status, to temporarily maintain their status. The decision is likely to be appealed to the Supreme Court, where it is expected that the high court will uphold the decision, terminating the program. This recent decision means that Congressional action for Dreamers is needed more urgently than ever before.

Dreamers, through DACA, only have temporary protection with no path to legal permanent residency or citizenship, and only Congress is able to pass legislation that creates such a pathway to permanency. For now, these young immigrants, who were brought here at no fault of their own and have known no other home than the U.S., remain in severe uncertainty, facing potential future deportation if the DACA program were to be terminated.

Similarly, last year during the fall of Afghanistan, tens of thousands of Afghans who had served with the U.S. military or were especially vulnerable to persecution from the Taliban were evacuated to the U.S. through a tool known as humanitarian parole. Though this tool allows individuals to reach safety much faster than through the refugee resettlement program, it only provides two years of legal status and work authorization, whereas the refugee program includes a route to legal permanent residency or citizenship.

As these individuals approach two years in the U.S. this upcoming summer, they will be forced to either enter our backlogged asylum system, become undocumented and lose their ability to work legally, or face deportation back to Afghanistan, where they will almost assuredly face intense persecution. To remedy this problem, Congress must act to provide these individuals with a pathway to permanent status in the United States. The Afghan Adjustment Act would provide this protection for Afghans while also increasing national security through additional vetting procedures.

Both of these groups of people have an urgent need for Congressional action. Additionally, Kevin McCarthy, who is likely to be the future Speaker of the House of Representatives if Republicans win the majority, as expected, has indicated that he will oppose any immigration legalization legislation and block it from coming to the House floor for a vote. This reality makes it essential for Congress to take up protections for both Dreamers and Afghans before the new Congress begins. The ERLC is urging Congress to act quickly and provide a pathway to permanency for these vulnerable groups that have already become integral parts of our churches and communities. 

By / Sep 9

In this episode, Lindsay talks with Jason Thacker about his new book, Following Jesus in a Digital Age, and how Christians can approach technology. They also discuss the biblical definition of marriage and how that is being undermined by the Respect for Marriage Act. 

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  • Dobbs Resource Page | The release of the Dobbs decision marks a true turning point in the pro-life movement, a moment that Christians, advocates and many others have worked toward tirelessly for 50 years. Let us rejoice that we live in a nation where past injustices can still be corrected, as we also roll our sleeves up to save preborn lives, serve vulnerable mothers, and support families in our communities. To get more resources on this case, visit ERLC.com/Dobbs.
  • Sexual Ethics Resource Page | Do you ever feel overwhelmed by the constant stream of entertainment and messages that challenge the Bible’s teachings on sexual ethics? It often feels like we’re walking through uncharted terrority. But no matter what we face in our ever-shifting culture, God’s design for human sexuality has never changed. The ERLC’s new sexual ethics resource page is full of helpful articles, videos, and explainers that will equip you to navigate these important issues with truth and grace. Get these free resources at ERLC.com/sexualethics.
By / Sep 7

In his concurring opinion on the Supreme Court’s recent Dobbs decision—a decision which overturned the “precedent set in both Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey“—Justice Clarence Thomas wrote that the court “should reconsider opinions protecting same-sex relationships, marriage equality, and access to contraceptives.” Though this view was not shared by the majority, who stated “unequivocally that ‘[n]othing in this opinion should be understood to cast doubt on precedents that do not concern abortion,’” Congress has been stirred to seek pre-emptive measures that secure and expand same-sex marriage protections by proposing the Respect for Marriage Act.

Here is what you should know about the Respect for Marriage Act and its implications.

What is the Respect for Marriage Act?

The Respect for Marriage Act—introduced by Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY-10) in the House of Representatives and Sens. Feinstein (D-CA), Baldwin (D-WI), and Collins (R-ME) in the Senate—is a bill that seeks to “repeal the Defense of Marriage Act and codify federal recognition for marriage equality.” As stated in the bill summary, “the bill repeals and replaces provisions that define, for purposes of federal law, marriage as between a man and a woman and spouse as a person of the opposite sex with provisions that recognize any marriage that is valid under state law.” 

The summary goes on to outline the bill’s aim to “repeal and replace provisions that do not require states to recognize same-sex marriages from other states with provisions that prohibit the denial of full faith and credit or any right or claim relating to out-of-state marriages on the basis of sex, race, ethnicity, or national origin.” Finally, the Respect for Marriage Act would permit the Department of Justice “to bring a civil action” and would establish “a private right of action for violations.”

The Respect for Marriage Act is a federal legislative attempt to finally entrench, nationwide, the precedent set by the Supreme Court’s 2015 Obergefell v. Hodges decision, which ruled that “state laws barring same-sex marriages were unconstitutional.” At its core, this bill is a further attempt by Congress to redefine marriage, a union that need not be redefined and which government has no authority to redefine.

What are the religious liberty implications?

In a letter sent to the U.S. Senate on July 26, ERLC Acting President Brent Leatherwood conveyed why the Respect for Marriage Act presents such grave religious liberty concerns for people of faith. He said, “Given the significant role marriage plays in faith, the ‘Respect for Marriage Act’ raises serious religious liberty concerns for individuals and organizations who maintain this view of marriage (the view that marriage is an institution created by God between one man and one woman for life) and are in contract with, funded by, or working jointly with the government.” 

Since Obergefell, rights of conscience and religious freedom have found themselves in the crosshairs of a number of notable cases, including Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission (2018) and Fulton v. City of Philadelphia (2021), each of which was ruled in favor of religious liberty. Should the Respect for Marriage Act find passage, however, we may rightly assume that rights of conscience and religious freedom will find themselves under threat yet again. 

One additional concern is the absence of a “limiting principle in this bill.” Given this omission, it is “unclear whether the Respect for Marriage Act would codify federal recognition to civil marriages that go beyond the scope of two individuals in states that allow it.” That the bill seeks to “recognize any marriage” (emphasis added) considered valid under state law undoubtedly opens the door for federal recognition of such things as polygamous relationships—now legally recognized in several Massachusetts cities—and a presumably long list of other iterations as they strike our culture’s fancy. 

For these reasons and more, this bill is an affront to the rights of conscience and religious liberty so fundamental to American society.

What happens next?

On July 19, the House of Representatives voted to pass the Respect for Marriage Act with broad bipartisan support. The final vote was 267-157 with 47 Republicans joining with all Democrats in support of the bill. Before it can become law, the bill must be passed in the Senate and be signed by the president. 

While it’s unclear whether the Respect for Marriage Act will pass the Senate, Andrew Solender and Shawna Chen of Axios suggest that “support among Republican senators is gradually building.” Several GOP senators have voiced support for the bill, including Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), and Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) among others. In an article published on Aug. 2, Solender wrote that “Senators are working behind the scenes on changes to” the bill. Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.), for instance, said “We want to make sure that there’s no infringement on your individual right or any entity’s individual right to express their own beliefs from a religion standpoint.” Likewise, Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah), who is considered “a key undecided vote,” said he’s “looking at protections for religion” as he considers his position on the bill. It’s possible that Senate discussions will lead to the proposal of “new language on the bill” or push “for a vote on an amendment.” 

For the bill to pass, 10 GOP senators will have to join all Democrats to overcome the filibuster’s 60-vote threshold. Senate Majority Leader Schumer has signaled that he plans to bring the bill forward for consideration and a vote after the August recess.

Why we stand for God’s design for marriage

The institution of marriage was created and initiated by God, as our sacred text conveys: “God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them” (Gen. 1:27). It is not subject to redefinition, no matter what the whims of culture may say. As Christians, “we hold fast to this understanding of God’s design of marriage as being between one man and one woman for life” not only because it’s right and faithful to the Word God has spoken to us, but also “because this biblical framework undergirds a healthy society.” And when the sanctity of marriage is not recognized, society suffers.

The ERLC stands firmly opposed to this legislation. Please join us in praying that, should it be scheduled for a vote, the Senate will vote against the passage of the Respect for Marriage Act.