By / Mar 12

NASHVILLE (BP) – The latest series on the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) podcast covers a variety of topics related to life including abortion, adoption, foster care and the ministry of pregnancy resource centers.

The series discusses the changing landscape of pro-life ministry since the overturning of Roe v. Wade, but also speaks on other important topics relevant to creating a “culture of life” throughout the nation.

“The 50-year mission of the prolife movement was realized when the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in 2022, but there’s still much work to be done for our country to truly embrace a culture of life,” said Lindsay Nicolet, ERLC editorial director and podcast host. 

“The mission of those who believe that every life has inherent dignity from the moment of conception to the day of natural death is far from over. And that’s why we wanted to highlight topics related to life on our latest podcast series. We want to assist Southern Baptists to stand firm and persuasively articulate what the Bible teaches about all human life. In so doing, we pray the Lord uses the efforts of his people to work toward a day when abortion is unthinkable, mothers, babies, and fathers are cared for, and families flourish.”

Life is one of the ERLC’s four focus areas, along with religious liberty, marriage and family and human dignity.

The podcast previously covered the highly requested topic of gender and sexuality, which falls under the focus area of Marriage and Family, when the podcast relaunched last September. 

Featured in the episode is Herbie Newell, president and executive director of Lifeline Children Services and its ministry arms. Under Newell’s leadership, Lifeline increased their international outreach to 25 countries through adoption and strategic orphan care, obtained licensure in 17 states and established a foster care arm.

He spoke about how pastors and leaders play an important role in helping create a “wrap-around” pro-life culture within their ministries.

The second episode contains the ERLC Research team conducting an interview with Scott Klusendorf, the author of the book “The Case for Life.” Klusendorf has a vast array of experience advocating for the pro-life cause. 

Klusendorf has participated in debates against abortion advocates including Planned Parenthood directors and attorneys who have argued for abortion access before the Supreme Court.

He is also known for his work with Life Training Institute, which helps prepare Christians to articulate and defend the pro-life movement with rational and theological arguments.

He spoke about how he began his life’s work in pro-life ministry after seeing a video depicting abortion at a pastor’s conference, saying “everything changed for me that day.”

The last episode in the series discusses the on-going ministry of pregnancy resource centers throughout the nation and abroad.

The episode includes an interview with Todd Unzicker, executive director-treasurer for the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina, speaking about how the convention approaches pro-life ministry.

“This issue of life is theological,” Unzicker said. “I became a Christian at the age of 28 and dove right into God’s word and immediately realized that all people are made in His image from the very first pages of the Bible. The imago Dei is why we advocate for life, and all of life. The pages of Scripture scream out that God is for life.”

“The answer to how our convention works with the pro-life movement is the same way we would work on any issue, and that is it begins with the local church. The buckets that we like to think about it at a convention level is that pro-life means that we defend, love, adopt and volunteer. 

Unzicker also said the ERLC’s Psalm 139 Project has “fit like a hand and glove with churches in North Carolina.”

The episode also features a conversation with Karen Roseberry, who served much of her life as the executive director of Care Net Women’s Resource Center in Lancaster, Calif.

Roseberry tragically died in a car accident after recording her interview for the podcast, but Care Net’s staff encouraged the ERLC to still share her words of wisdom since pro-life ministry was her life’s work.

She spoke about the changes Care Net experienced since the overturning of Roe v. Wade in 2022, and the opportunities they have to share the Gospel.

“We have seen an increase of over 20 percent across the board, and certain demographics even higher, of the number of clients who are walking through our doors,” Roseberry said.

“There’s a greater and greater need for services that we provide. Far too few people know that pregnancy centers exist … so really an opportunity and a challenge is for us to be able to be better known through our community.

“We have two parts to our center. We have our clinic and we have our material center. On the clinic side, we perform pregnancy tests and ultrasounds. We also have our advocates who meet with the moms, just providing a listening ear … and as a faith-based clinic also seeking to take each opportunity that we have to share Jesus any chance that we get. We want moms and dads to know that their greatest and most important resource is Him.”

Read the full Baptist Press article here.

By / Mar 12

Using taxpayer resources to fund actions that undermine this biblical understanding of marriage transgresses our deepest held beliefs regarding life, gender, and sexuality and violates the consciences of millions of Americans.

Miles Mullin

WASHINGTON, D.C., March 12, 2024 The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention is calling for the Biden administration to withdraw the Department of Veterans Affairs’ (VA) planned expansion of in vitro fertilization (IVF) insurance coverage and for U.S. legislators to oppose the Veteran Families Health Services Act of 2023, which seeks to permanently codify these actions into federal law.

The VA announced yesterday that it will move to expand coverage of IVF to include individuals that are single or in same-sex relationships. This is the first time fertility treatments of any form have been covered by Tricare, the federal insurance covering servicemembers and their dependents, without regard for marital status, sex, or gender identity. 

“Southern Baptists believe life begins at conception and that ‘the family is the foundational institution of our society’” said Miles Mullin, vice president of the ERLC. 

“In effect, this action by the VA undermines good governance by no longer requiring marital status to receive federal employee insurance coverage for IVF, as well as resulting in taxpayer-funded family formation that is contrary to God’s good design for human flourishing. 

“While we affirm the desire for a family as good and God-given, our faith informs how it should be accomplished. Family begins with ‘one man and one woman in covenant commitment’. Using taxpayer resources to fund actions that undermine this biblical understanding of marriage transgresses our deepest held beliefs regarding life, gender, and sexuality and violates the consciences of millions of Americans.”

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

By / Feb 8

Today, we’re talking about adoption and foster care in the U.S. Welcome to the ERLC Podcast where our goal is to help you think biblically about today’s cultural issues.

We believe it’s clear in God’s Word that his perfect design is for many people to eventually unite as one man and one woman in a lifetime of marriage. That marriage, in many cases, leads to the blessing of children and establishes a family that glorifies God and benefits society. Unfortunately, in a fallen world, reality is messy. Marriage is put off and misunderstood. Families are broken and difficult. Infertility is faced far too often. And children are vulnerable and in need. 

That’s where adoption and foster care comes in to provide care for these children and help them find the loving and safe families that they were made for. The need for these ministries, organizations, and for people to get involved has only grown since the Dobbs decision overturning a federal right to abortion. 

Joining us on this episode is Herbie Newell, someone who understands this reality more than most. He’s the president & executive director of Lifeline Children’s Services and its ministry arms. Under Herbie’s leadership, Lifeline has increased international outreach to 25 countries through adoption and strategic orphan care, obtained licensure in 17 states, and established the foster care arm at Lifeline. 

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 (BP) – A trio of pro-life bills, endorsed by the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, were either introduced, reintroduced or passed on Thursday, Jan. 18.

The Pregnancy Center Support Act was introduced to the Senate on Thursday, while the Unborn Child Support Act was reintroduced the same day. Additionally, the previously introduced Pregnant Students’ Rights Act passed the House on Thursday.

These updates took place one day before the annual March for Life, and three days before Sanctity of Life Sunday on the SBC Calendar.

Hannah Daniel, ERLC public policy director, praised the work of the lawmakers involved with the bills.

“At a time when lawmakers have been timid to voice pro-life convictions, I was encouraged to see legislative activity pushing forward the cause of life last week,” Daniel said.

At the ERLC, we are celebrating the passage of the Pregnant Students’ Rights Act along with the introduction of the Pregnancy Center Support Act and the Unborn Child Support Act. These bills recognize the dignity and personhood of the preborn and also tangibly assist new mothers and families to choose life.

Hannah Daniel

Read the full Baptist Press article here.

By / Jan 22

WASHINGTON (BP) – Thousands of Americans braved snowy conditions Friday (Jan. 19) in support of the pro-life cause during the 51st annual March for Life.

This year’s March for Life gathering marked the second time the event has been held since the historic overturning of the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision in 2022, returning abortion legislation to the states.

It was the court’s Roe decision, handed down in January 1973, which inspired the first March for Life event, held the following year in 1974.

Since that first March, pro-life Americans (including many evangelical Christians) have come together each January near the Capitol in Washington, D.C., to support the cause and re-affirm their commitment to protect unborn children and care for their mothers.

The event is understood to be the world’s largest annual human rights demonstration.

Among those marching Friday were many staff members of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC).  

ERLC policy director Hannah Daniel advocates for pro-life causes year-round through the Leland House located on Capitol Hill.

Each year, the March for Life is an opportunity for the pro-life movement to come together and refocus our efforts on the goal: saving lives. The theme of this year’s march, ‘With every woman, for every child,’ points to the road ahead. As we continue to work towards a day where abortion is illegal, we must also come alongside women who are vulnerable with care and support, empowering them to choose life.

Hannah Daniel

For Julie Masson, ERLC director of communications, marching is a family affair.

“This is my fourth time participating in the March for Life, and each year I’m amazed at how many different people come to D.C. for this event,” Masson said.

“I’m joined this year by my teenage daughter, and it’s been wonderful to see the March through her eyes. The March for Life is another opportunity for the ERLC to communicate our commitment to advocating for the most vulnerable among us. We will continue to serve mothers and save lives through our public policy priorities.”

This year’s March for Life takes place just two days before Sanctity of Life Sunday in the Southern Baptist Convention (Jan. 21), marking the 39th year of observance of the day on the SBC Calendar.

Read the full Baptist Press article here.

By / Jan 18

A year ago, anti-abortion activists from across the U.S. gathered for their annual March for Life with reason to celebrate: It was their first march since the Supreme Court, seven months earlier, had overturned the nationwide right to abortion.

At this year’s march, on Friday, the mood will be very different — reflecting formidable challenges that lie ahead in this election year.

The key consequence of Dobbs was to return decision-making on abortion policy to individual states. Some Democratic-governed states — such as California, New York and New Jersey — have strengthened protections for abortion access. Roughly 20 states with Republican-controlled legislatures have either banned abortion or sought to impose new restrictions.

After Dobbs, “I didn’t want anyone to get the false sense that we were at the end of our work,” said Brent Leatherwood, an abortion opponent who heads the Southern Baptist Convention’s public policy wing.

We’ve gone from a focal point at the federal level to 50 different focal points. It may be another 50 years before we truly establish a culture of life, where preborn lives are saved and mothers are supported.

Brent Leatherwood

Read the full Associated Press article here.

By / Jan 11

January 21, 2024 is the 40th annual Sanctity of Life Sunday.

Our call as Christians to love our neighbors and and our belief that every person is created in the image of God compels us to live pro-life. However, the more I consider how churches can foster a pro-life culture, the more I’m convinced that the steps are small and doable for almost any pastor, leader, or member to begin today.

We created a free, downloadable bulletin insert for use in your church on Sanctity of Life Sunday (January 21), the day we hope Southern Baptist churches will take time to pray for the future of the pro-life movement as we seek to be a new culture of life where lives are saved, mothers are served, and families will flourish.

Color Color Two-up Grayscale Grayscale Two-up

To see additional SBC event dates, visit sbc.net/calendar.

To learn more about the ERLC’s pro-life work, visit Psalm139Project.org. The Psalm 139 Project is an initiative designed to make people aware of the life-saving potential of ultrasound technology in unplanned pregnancy situations and to help pregnancy centers minister to abortion-vulnerable women by providing ultrasound equipment for them to use. Through this project individuals can give toward the placement of ultrasound machines in qualified pregnancy care centers. Simply put, it’s all about saving lives.

By / Jan 8

Last Friday, the Supreme Court ruled on a case involving Idaho’s abortion ban while a case involving the law is being resolved. The ruling states the near-ban on abortions will remain in effect while a case involving the law is being resolved. The court agreed to hear a challenge to the Idaho law regarding protections for emergency room physicians who might be called to perform an abortion as stabilizing care. 

The announcement by the court follows a similar ruling by the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals which determined that ER physicians in Texas were not required to perform emergency abortion care under the federal law being used to challenge the Idaho abortion ban.

What is this case related to Idaho’s abortion ban about?

Idaho’s abortion ban, known as the “Defense of Life Act,” was enacted in 2020 and makes it a felony for doctors to perform most abortions, with an exception for procedures performed when necessary to save the life of the mother. 

The law, which took effect when the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in June 2022, includes provisions that makes it a felony for anyone who performs or assists in an abortion, with penalties of imprisonment for a minimum of two year and a maximum of five years.  

The law has sparked a legal fight between the Biden administration and the state of Idaho. The Justice Department has argued that the state’s ban on abortion is preempted by federal law, specifically the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act (EMTALA), which requires hospitals that receive Medicare funds to provide emergency medical care. The Justice Department’s challenge to Idaho’s abortion ban argues that abortion is implied as a necessary component of emergency medical care. 

The Supreme Court’s decision to hear a case related to this law has put on hold a lower court ruling that had blocked the state’s law. The court is expected to hear the case in April, and a decision is expected by early Summer. 

What was the lower court ruling?

In August 2022, a U.S. District judge agreed with the U.S. Department of Justice that Idaho’s law violated EMTALA and issued a temporary injunction, partly blocking Idaho’s law from taking effect. However,  last September,  a trio of judges from the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals reversed that injunction, allowing the ban to stay in effect. 

That decision, though, only remained effective for approximately two weeks. The injunction was subsequently reinstated when the full panel of appellate judges opted to reexamine the case “en banc,” implying that a new, randomly selected group of judges would reconsider the case and deliver a fresh verdict. This rehearing was planned for Jan.23, but it has since been rendered unnecessary as the Supreme Court has decided to review the case.

What happens to Idaho’s abortion ban while the Supreme Court decides the case?

The Supreme Court has lifted the injunction that previously protected these doctors from prosecution in the state. Without the injunction, ER doctors are now subject to the full extent of Idaho’s abortion ban, which carries: 

  • penalties of jail ranging from two to five years, 
  • fines, 
  • and the temporary suspension or permanent revocation of a medical license. 

They are also subject to Idaho’s civil law, which allows immediate and extended family members to sue for up to $20,000 over an abortion procedure. 

What is the significance of this case?

The Supreme Court decision to hear the case related to Idaho’s Defense of Life Act holds significant implications for both the pro-life cause and conscience rights of medical practitioners.

ER physicians should not be forced to choose between violating their conscience by performing abortions and being excluded from federal programs, such as Medicare, by a manipulation of existing law under EMTALA. As Alliance Defending Freedom has noted, while emergency room doctors are capable of, and indeed manage, life-threatening situations like ectopic pregnancies, elective abortion is a different matter. It does not save lives; instead, it terminates the life of the preborn. The government should not have the power to mandate doctors to carry out such risky procedures. 

The Supreme Court’s decision to review this case is potentially a step toward upholding the state’s near-total ban on abortion, which helps protect preborn life. The outcome of this case could have far-reaching implications—either upholding state level restrictions or allowing the federal government to impose and implement indirect support for abortion access.

By / Dec 4

Everyone can take part in caring for vulnerable children in the foster care system, whether through prayer, donations, financial support, or serving in some way. My role as a volunteer Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) means that I advocate for the best interests of children who are in the foster care system due to abuse or neglect.

What does a CASA do?

CASAs are appointed by the juvenile court in their area to a specific case involving one or more precious children and agree to remain with that case until a safe, permanent home is achieved. A CASA’s aim is to provide the judge with the best information possible so that they may make a well-informed decision when they rule on the case. 

I have been shocked to learn the sheer number of children currently in foster care, more than 14,000 in my state of Alabama alone. Some of the common criticisms are fair. The system may be unnecessarily complex, and the wheels of justice often move very slowly, but contrary to some assumptions, the dedicated professionals I’ve worked with—social workers, lawyers, foster parents—genuinely desire what is best for the children in their care. However, they are often operating under the weight of an insurmountable case load. 

Here is where a CASA can make a difference. As the eyes and ears of the court, a CASA is not only able to speak out for the child’s well-being but is also able to be a consistent presence in that child’s life. They are true advocates: those who plead the cause of another both by their testimony and by their presence in the child’s life. A CASA advocates by lending their voice, time, and help to children who may not have a voice of their own.

The CASA process

When I go before the court as a CASA, I present a report that summarizes my interactions with the case and the recommendations I am making. I answer questions from four different attorneys representing four different interested parties, all in reference to the well-being and welfare of the child(ren) in foster care. 

In order to compile my report and make my recommendation, 

  • I visited the child in her foster home multiple times. 
  • I visited the home of her biological parent at least twice. 
  • I observed her parent’s supervised visit on several occasions. 
  • I made phone calls, researched records, and pored over legal documents and court orders. 
  • I consulted her social worker in regard to how the state views the child’s best interests.

CASAs seek to learn all they can about the child, his or her family and situation, and any other contributing factors that may have a bearing on his or her circumstances. A CASA may be called on, as I was, to testify regarding the child’s best interests when it comes to placement, services that may benefit the child, as well as any other recommendations the CASA believes will contribute to a thriving future for the child. 

Caring for the vulnerable

At my first home visit, I quickly realized that despite all my training, I still had a lot to learn about the family court process—itself complex and complicated—as well as the scary and heartbreaking situations these young children have had to navigate as part of their “normal” day-to-day existence. 

No doubt, you’ve heard horrific stories. Though not all children have experienced such extreme circumstances, in my limited time as a CASA, I’ve talked to a young girl who was beaten with a curling iron, another who hid in the closet while one parent pulled a gun on the other, and a child who didn’t attend school for two years. These aren’t stories told in the abstract; they are events—real, live experiences of real, live children. 

The Bible instructs us to care for the orphan and widow. This is true, genuine religion. In other words, one mark of authentic faith is care for the most vulnerable (James 2:27). As we extend mercy and love—and advocacy—to the helpless and the needy among us, we point to our Savior. He looked to the interests of others even as he made himself a servant (Phil. 2:4-7). Not only that, but Jesus tells his disciples that their compassionate care for those most needy, “the least of these,” was the same as if done to Jesus himself (Matt. 25:40). We serve him by serving like him. CASA is one way I hope to do just that.

If you’re interested in knowing more, check out nationalcasagal.org, where you can find out about your state and local CASA organizations and ways you can make a difference in a child’s life.

Editor’s Note: When you give, the ERLC can do more in 2024 to continue to advance the pro-life movement in ways like shaping policies that provide care and support for vulnerable mothers and families in a post-Roe America. Consider giving a year-end gift here to bring hope to the public square.

By / Nov 29

Our world is marked by war, disease, disasters, and political shortcomings. Jesus guaranteed that every one of us would have tribulations like these in this life. However, thanks be to God, he also assured us that he has overcome the world and the weight of sin which has marred all of creation. As we observe National Adoption Month in November, it gives us an opportunity to reflect on one of the ways we help push back this darkness: by obeying the important biblical command given to Christ followers from James 1:27—to care for orphans and widows in their distress.

Christians are uniquely given this command to fulfill because we have found our permanent home through the adoptive grace of Jesus and love of the Father. We care for orphans because we once were orphans. Our mandate to care for orphaned children comes from the example of our Savior, is a rich picture of the gospel, and transcends denomination, race, ethnicity, socio-economic status, and nationality.

If we call ourselves Christ followers, we must embody the compassion and love of our Savior, because he is also our Lord. He spent time with the marginalized, outcast, and distraught women and children in order to bring them everlasting hope. We join our King in this reconciling work as he dispatches us at home and to the nations. Beloved, you and I have a personal responsibility to the widow and the orphan.

Practical ways for Christians to serve

Orphans and widows are are waiting for people like you and me to advocate for them. Christians have a personal responsibility to steward our time, talent, and treasure to bring the help and the hope of the gospel to the most vulnerable. Here are a few ways you can practically serve. 

Use your voice to advocate. Even if you are unable to go and see the faces of vulnerable children, you can do something to help. I could tell you dozens of stories of sibling groups who found forever families because God used someone to share a social media post about their need and the opportunity to adopt them.

Another way to use our voice is by praying regularly for orphaned children. Just recently I was told of a pastor whose family felt called to adopt a particular child they met on a mission trip, yet they had no idea how to find the child. They only shared this with a few people, but one of those ladies had made it a practice to pray over the lists of waiting children on adoption ministry websites. One day as she was praying, she saw this young boy whom the pastor’s family felt led to adopt, and today he is their son.

Sponsor a child or start a ministry. You can sponsor a vulnerable child through Lifeline’s (un)adopted program. This program meets some of the most basic and practical physical, emotional, and spiritual needs of these precious children. You can also get your church engaged with the work of caring for the vulnerable by starting an adoption and foster care ministry.

Care for families in crisis. This is one of the best ways we can care for vulnerable families. Families all over the world are failing at an alarming rate. In order to help these families, we need to help them break the cycle of despair. Unfortunately, most orphans come from families where trauma and brokenness have become a part of their family’s generational story. The majority of children in foster care were parented by parents who also grew up in the foster care system

It’s time for godly men in the church to take on the responsibility of teaching men without fathers how to be men who follow Jesus. It’s time for families in the Church to build relationships with broken families to support them and to show them examples of biblical families. It’s time for single women and men to volunteer as mentors for at-risk youth, to serve as court appointed special advocates (CASA), or to volunteer with children aging out of the systems with ministries such as Lifeline’s Harbor Families.

Champion adoptive and foster families. Helping families includes watching children, cleaning homes, cooking meals, wrestling in prayer for the families, meeting tangible physical needs of the children, inviting the children to activities, and even reaching out to intentionally check on these moms and dads walking through the journey of foster care and adoption.

Use your vote. Let us also not neglect our civic responsibility to vote for leaders who can positively impact policy for children and families. There will always be glaring inadequacies in our local, national and international policies, but even still, we have a responsibility to vote for leaders who hold close to our conviction to protect the family at large. We must steward our vote and prayerfully consider the profound impact policies and legislation have on the lives of vulnerable children. Together, let us support candidates who pledge to use their office and platform to defend, protect, and serve vulnerable children while allowing the light of Christ to shine.

This National Adoption Month, my hope and prayer is that we see a better future for vulnerable children, women, and families. May we live in a way that shows we believe all people are made in the image of a holy, perfect, and merciful Heavenly Father who loves us and works out his purposes through us today and always.

Editor’s Note: When you give, the ERLC can do more in 2024 to continue to advance the pro-life movement in ways like shaping policies that provide care and support for vulnerable mothers and families in a post-Roe America. Consider giving a year-end gift here to bring hope to the public square.