By / Nov 25

Like clockwork, lobbyists and interest groups annually release their policy agendas ahead of each new congressional term. These documents outline the goals an organization will seek to accomplish either through legislation or through administrative action in the coming years. The ERLC releases our own policy agenda each year to indicate the objectives we will pursue in Washington on behalf of Southern Baptists. While these documents are important, they are not guaranteed to secure any particular outcomes and are not typically met with much fanfare upon their release.

Even so, these documents serve a greater purpose than simply signaling an organization’s priorities. In most cases, such policy agendas give some level of insight into the future imagined by the organization. This is important because the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), a far-left organization within the LGBT lobby, recently released an audacious policy agenda, which it intends to pursue in the 117th Congress upon Joe Biden’s inauguration. 

HRC’s “Blueprint for Positive Change

The document was unironically titled Blueprint for Positive Change 2020 and outlines significant steps to advance the aims of the sexual revolution at the expense of both religious freedom and the common good. As the HRC commented in a press release, the agenda “includes 85 individual policy recommendations, reaching across the federal government” and aspires to implement change in the United States and across the globe. Of the 85 policy recommendations, the HRC specifically highlighted the following aspirations in their press release:

  • Full-scale administrative implementation of Bostock v. Clayton County across all agencies enforcing civil rights statutes and provisions;
  • Establish an interagency working group to address anti-transgender violence;
  • Establish uniform data collection standards that fully incorporate the categories of sexual orientation and gender identity into federal surveys;
  • Establish an interagency working group to protect and support LGBTQ rights globally;
  • End discrimination against gay and bisexual blood donors;
  • Prohibit the practice of conversion therapy as a fraudulent business practice;
  • Rescind and replace regulations restricting coverage of Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act; and
  • Eliminate discrimination against beneficiaries in charitable choice and faith-based initiatives.

These are merely highlights. But it is no exaggeration to say that from top to bottom, the proposals outlined by HRC pose serious challenges to religious liberty, a biblical understanding of human sexuality, and ultimately the common good of our society. One example not mentioned among the items bulleted above: HRC calls for the termination of the Mexico City Policy, which prohibits the distribution of federal foreign aid dollars to entities that support abortion. The fact that abortion is right now protected within the United States is shameful enough, but HRC calls for the incoming Biden administration to continue the practice observed by Bill Clinton and Barack Obama before him of rescinding this policy and allowing funds from U.S. taxpayers to promote abortion in other countries.

Christian education

Particularly egregious is the HRC’s proposal to ensure “non-discrimination policies and science-based curriculum are not undermined by religious exemption to accreditation standards.” This is nothing but a thinly veiled attack on religious colleges and universities that refuse to bow the knee to the sexual revolution.

The document specifically targets the accreditation of such institutions. As HRC proposes, “The Department of Education should issue a regulation clarifying … [the] provision, which requires accreditation agencies to ‘respect the stated mission’ of religious institutions, does not require the accreditation of religious institutions that do not meet neutral accreditation standards including nondiscrimination policies and scientific curriculum requirements.” 

Commenting on the absolutely outrageous nature of this proposal, Albert Mohler stated, “the Human Rights Campaign summons the Biden administration to deny accreditation—or, at the very least, to facilitate the denial of accreditation—to Christian institutions, Christian colleges and universities, and, for that matter, any other religious institution or school that does not meet the demands of the LGBTQ orthodoxy. This would mean abandoning biblical standards for teaching, hiring, admissions, housing, and student life. It would mean that Christian schools are no longer Christian.”

Bostock v. Clayton County

As the ERLC noted this summer, “In a 6-3 ruling of a consolidated group of cases styled Bostock v. Clayton County, the Supreme Court expanded the definition of ‘sex’ to include ‘sexual orientation’ and ‘gender identity’ under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.” With the legal expansion of Title VII, which applies to employment nondiscrimination law, HRC aims to press the implications of that ruling throughout all government entities. 

The exact implications of this are presently unclear, but as Justice Alito remarked in his dissenting opinion to Bostock, “the position that the Court now adopts will threaten freedom of religion, freedom of speech, and personal privacy and safety.” HRC’s call to expand the scope of Bostock could require any organization that partners with the government in some form in order to provide services to their community to fully accept the demands of the sexual revolution. Such a decision would be disastrous not only for faith-based initiatives but also for the communities that these religious nonprofits serve. 

Contrary to the HRC’s contention, faith-based initiatives must be allowed to maintain the integrity of their religious identity, even when they partner with the government to serve their communities. 

Human sexuality

Another assault on religious liberty is found in the “prohibiting of conversion therapy as a fraudulent business practice.” Certain forms of conversion therapy, which are rarely if ever practiced anymore, are admittedly problematic. But the issues with such a ban are not about these troubling practices associated with specific forms of conversion therapy, but rather about the definition of “conversion therapy” itself. 

Every day numerous men and women seek the help of professional faith-based counselors due to confusion about or difficulty with their own sexual identities. The sweeping ban on conversion therapy endorsed by HRC would prohibit Christian counselors, who rightfully believe in the power of gospel to change a person’s life, from offering their services to those who seek their assistance. 

Obviously, the government cannot ban Christian conversion. The Spirit blows where he wishes (John 3:8). But HRC objects to practices it labels “conversion therapy” not because of any means but because of its end. The LGBT lobby rejects the validity of any approach that assumes that the gospel can lead to change and that sexual brokenness can be healed.

A better answer for human flourishing

It is difficult to imagine a presentation of gender and sexuality that is more at odds with the biblical understanding of these issues than that within the HRC’s blueprint. From its defense of a non-binary gender to the aim of normalizing all things LGBT, it is impossible to reconcile a Christian worldview with many of these policy initiatives.

Of course, Christians should always object to discrimination and to the mistreatment of any person. Where there has been genuine mistreatment of LGBT people, Christians should be the first to demonstrate love for them. However, love for LGBT people cannot include the affirmation of a lifestyle that is contrary to God’s will for His creation. Love does not ignore the truth, no matter who that truth may offend. 

Ultimately, the policies in the HRC document that promote the LGBTQ lifestyle will not result in more flourishing—neither for individuals nor society. Instead, they will result in restrictions on religious liberty and the promotion of sexual identities that are both contrary to God’s will and harmful to those who adopt them. 

For these reasons, Christians should reject many of the proposed policies in the HRC’s blueprint. And for the same reasons, the ERLC is committed to promoting better policies, which accord with the teachings of Scripture and the beliefs of Southern Baptists, to promote human flourishing and a better future for American citizens.

By / Nov 12

Every person is created in the image of God. The ERLC affirms the biological differences between male and female reflected in God’s creation. God’s design was intended for human good and flourishing (Gen. 1:27). The ERLC upholds the Southern Baptist Convention’s position on gender identity stated in its summary of faith, the Baptist Faith and Message which says “Man is the special creation of God, made in His own image. He created them male and female as the crowning work of His creation. The gift of gender is thus part of the goodness of God’s creation.”

Allowing biological males to participate in female sports is unfair to women and girls. Athletic competition clearly demonstrates the physiological differences between male and female. Biological males possess distinct physical advantages over biological females, which give them an unfair athletic advantage. These biological differences are the purpose of sports, separated by sex. Opening up sports to males hinders females the opportunity to compete and thrive in athletics.

Title IX prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex. Allowing biological men to compete against women and girls disrupts the intent of  Title IX civil rights law. Schools that allow biological males to participate in female sports programs are discriminating against biological females. In order to protect the integrity of women’s sports, only biological females should be allowed to compete.

The ERLC calls on Congress to pass the Protection of Women and Girls in Sports Act of 2021. The Act would clarify that it is a Title IX violation for schools that receive federal education funds to permit biological males to participate in female sports. Congress should protect women and girls by ensuring they are given a fair opportunity to compete in athletics. 

By / Jul 12

Over the past few years there has been a concerted effort to normalize polygamous relationships. For example, as Brandon Showalter recently noted, last year the American Psychological Association quietly launched the “Non-Monogamy Task Force.”

This new group is tasked with promoting “awareness and inclusivity about consensual non-monogamy and diverse expressions of intimate relationships. These include but are not limited to: people who practice polyamory, open relationships, swinging, relationship anarchy and other types of ethical, non-monogamous relationships.”

The stated goal of the task force is to “generate research, create resources and advocate for the inclusion of consensual non-monogamous relationships in the following four areas: Basic and applied research; Education and training; Psychological practice; Public interest.”

Here are five facts you should know about polyamory and consensual non-monogamy:

1. Polyamory is a form of non-monogamy, an umbrella term for intimate romantic or sexual relationships that involve more than two people. Because this term includes relationships in which one partner is unaware the other is not monogamous (i.e., relationships in which one person is cheating or committing adultery), advocates of this form of non-dyadic structure often refer to their relationships as consensual non-monogamy (CNM) or ethical non-monogamy (ENM).

2. The range of consensual non-monogamous relationships includes: polyamory (multiple romantic/sexual partners), polygamy (one person married to multiple partners), group marriage (each person in the relationship is married to the others), open relationship/marriage (a committed or married couple that is not committed to sexual fidelity), polyfidelity (a relationship with multiple partners but that restricts sexual activity to within a certain group), monogamish (couples that are sexually polyamorous but remain “emotionally monogamous”), swinging (similar to open relationships, but conducted as an organized social activity, often involving some form of group sex; sometimes referred to as wife/husband swapping), triad (a polyamorous relationship of three people), and relationship anarchy (participants in the relationship are not bound by set rules or norms).

3. Nearly 1/5 of under-30s have engaged in sexual activity with someone else with the knowledge of their partner, according to a 2016 poll. Overall, 11% of Americans said they have had sexual contact with other people with the consent of their partner, while 19% have had sexual contact without their consent. Younger Americans are much more likely to report having had sexual contact with other people with the consent of their partners: 17% of under-45s say that they have, compared to only 3% of over-65s. However, the vast majority of Americans (68%) said they would “not be OK” with their romantic partner engaging in sexual activities with someone else.

4. Non-monogamy has long been a common practice in the LGBT community. A significant percentage of persons in same-sex sexual partnerships, including those who are in same-sex marriages, do not view monogamy or sexual exclusivity as part of the meaning of marriage. A study by the Center for HIV Educational Studies and Training, found that of gay and bisexual men that were partnered, 42% were in in non-monogamous relationships. Of those that were non-monogamous, 53% were in open relationships, and 47% were in “monogamish” relationships (i.e., couples that are sexually polyamorous but remain “emotionally monogamous”).

5. Attitudes toward polyamory depend significantly on religion. Of those who claim that religion is “very important” in their lives, 80% say that polyamory is morally wrong. But among people for whom religion is “not at all important,” a clear majority (58%) say that polyamory is morally acceptable. In this video, ERLC President Russell Moore discusses how a Christian should view this topic, why not to look toward human nature for the answer, and how the gospel points to fidelity.

By / Apr 6

The ERLC affirms the full dignity of every human being. At the 2018 Annual Meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention, the Messengers passed a resolution to “reaffirm the sacredness and full dignity and worthiness of respect and Christian love for every single human being, without any reservation.” The SBC’s commitment to love of neighbor is grounded in the truth that “God created man in His own image; He created Him in the image of God; He created them male and female.” (Gen. 1:26-27)

The Equality Act fails to uphold human dignity in its attempt to codify the demands of the Sexual Revolution. While the proposed intention of H.R. 5 is to protect individuals who identify as LGBT, the bill would instead steamroll the consciences of millions of people. As Russell Moore, president of the ERLC often notes, “A government that can pave over the consciences of some can steamroll over dissent everywhere.” H.R. 5 undermines foundational Constitutional freedoms in its pursuit of what may be momentary cultural affirmations.

H.R. 5 threatens the efforts of faith-based adoption and foster care agencies. The legislation would explicitly curtail the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 which would force faith-based child welfare organizations to either abandon their deeply held religious beliefs or be shut down. The state forced closures of such agencies is especially detrimental at a time when the opioid crisis increases the number of children in need of forever families.

H.R. 5 hinders the work of healthcare professionals and faith-based hospitals. While religiously affiliated hospitals routinely serve patients of any background, including those who identify as LGBT, providers who hold moral or religious beliefs cannot perform every procedure a patient requests.

H.R. 5 undermines decades of civil rights protections for women and girls. Women’s shelters for those escaping domestic abuse or the trappings of homelessness would be forced to house biological men who identify as female. The Equality Act disregards the privacy and safety concerns women rightly have about sharing sleeping quarters and intimate facilities with the opposite sex. This legislation would also halt the advances achieved in women’s sports and scholarship since the passage of Title IX in 1972.

These proposed changes to the Civil Rights Act of 1964 would bring a dramatic shift in civil rights law, religious liberty, and the foundations of civic pluralism. The redefinition of “sex” in the list of protected classes as “sex (including sexual orientation and gender identity)” is as logically inconsistent as it is devastating to the generations of American effort to ensure the equality of all men and women. This legislation would make the situation worse for Americans who disagree to work together for the common good. Due to these concerns, among many others, the ERLC opposes H.R. 5, the Equality Act.

By / Sep 26

Ellen Dykas explains how we can reach out to those who are caught in the sexual norms of our day.

By / Sep 2

Perhaps there are times and places in the history of the world in which it is possible to go through life as just an ordinary, good person—a faithful spouse, a loving parent, a concerned citizen, a regular church-goer, an honest and industrious professional—leading a normal, quiet life, not making waves or standing out in any way. Perhaps. But the United States of America in the year 2014 is not one of those times and places. Rather, in our contemporary society, the only way to be good is to be heroic. Failing to act with heroism inevitably makes us complicit in grave evils.

Human life has been seriously devalued in our society. Millions of innocents are cruelly killed before they ever see the light of day. Other children are conceived in ways that reduce them to commodities, in which only the strongest and fittest are given a chance while those passed over are stored in freezers or used for research and killed in the process. There has been a denigration of the great gift of human sexuality into an instrument for hedonistic self-satisfaction.

These trends have brought devastation and tragedy in their wake: deep psychological wounds and physical illness wrought by the hook-up culture; a drastic rise in poverty among single mothers and their children caused by permissive divorce laws and the attitude that sex and babies are completely unrelated; and finally, profound and pervasive harms to children who are the voiceless victims of family breakdown.

In the face of such carnage, too often it is tempting to think that the solution is to retreat from the broader culture, which is sick and dying from a highly contagious moral confusion. For some, the instinct is to try to isolate and save oneself and one’s family from the contagion in a kind of self-imposed quarantine. But, aside from the fact that we have an obligation to help those suffering from this epidemic, retreat simply will not work. The new orthodoxy regarding same-sex marriage will brook no opposition and has already infiltrated public schools and child protection services agencies.

Unless we stay engaged in the broader culture and keep up the fight for the truth about marriage, our future generations may not be allowed to teach their children the truth about marriage—they may find their children taken away from them if they refuse to teach them that there is nothing wrong with a homosexual or otherwise sexually permissive lifestyle. It may sound far-fetched, but it has already happened in states like Massachusetts. Even 10 years ago, the prospect of legal recognition of same-sex marriage throughout the country sounded far-fetched as well.

In these circumstances, just being “good” is impossible. We inevitably will be faced with situations in which we must either give in or stand up for our convictions even at great personal cost. There is no “middle way.” Our times call for heroism, and we must be prepared to respond to that call. Many people have done so already.

Modern-day heroes

Think, for instance, of Julea Ward. Julea, a devout Christian, was studying at Eastern Michigan University to be a high school counselor. All students in the program are required to do a practicum in which they counsel real clients. Preparing for an upcoming appointment with a new client, Julea reviewed his file and saw that the client had previously been counseled regarding his homosexual relationship. Because she knew that she could not, in good conscience, affirm this client’s homosexual behavior, Julea—perhaps with some trepidation—asked her supervisor what to do. The client was referred to another counselor.

Then came the university’s response: Julea was accused of “unprofessional conduct,” “an inability to tolerate different points of view,” “imposing values that are inconsistent with counseling goals,” and “discrimination based on sexual orientation.” Julea was told that she had three options: Go through a remediation program to change her “intolerant” views, leave the program or request a formal hearing. Unwilling to cave in under pressure and compromise her beliefs, she chose to request a formal hearing. At the hearing, she was questioned relentlessly as the faculty members tried to convince her of the “error of her ways.” While steadfast about her inability to affirm homosexual conduct, she also made clear she harbored no prejudice against those with same-sex attraction. She stated, “I’m not opposed to any person…I believe that…God loves us all.”

Apparently loving the sinner—and recognizing that we are all sinners—was not enough for Eastern Michigan University. To call homosexual behavior sinful was itself considered beyond the pale. The result of the hearing was that Julea, who had been a straight-A student, found herself expelled from the program. Julea tried to appeal the decision to the Dean, but to no avail. Thankfully, Julea was ultimately vindicated in 2012 after a three-year-long court battle. Others—like the wedding photographer who refused to photograph a same-sex commitment ceremony in New Mexico—have not been so fortunate. But in refusing to compromise her beliefs for the sake of professional success, Julea made a courageous choice, a heroic choice—the kind of choice that any one of us could foreseeably be called to make in the near future.

Consider another example, this time a married couple, Chris and Mary Anne Yep. Chris and Mary Anne have been heroic on many fronts. First, as the parents of 10 children, they were extraordinarily generous in their openness to life, even though this sometimes meant that Chris had to work three jobs, including a nighttime paper route, in order to support his young family in the early years of their marriage. As any parents of a large family can tell you, undoubtedly their generosity meant putting up with the judgmental stares and condescending comments of neighbors, friends, colleagues and medical practitioners. In a society where conventional wisdom holds that parents should give their children more things rather than more siblings, the Yeps have provided a heroic witness to the priceless treasure of human life, a witness for which their children—one of whom was a top student in one of my classes at Catholic University of America last year—are very grateful.

The Yeps' heroism does not stop there. Frustrated by the lack of family-friendly and person-centered policies in the medical field, the Yeps decided to take a big risk. They liquidated their savings and started a business of their own, a business in which persons really came first. Their company, now called Triune Health Group, has flourished, and has recently been named one of the best places to work in Chicago. From flexible hours and work-from-home options that allow and encourage their employees to put family first, to keeping employees on the payroll when serious illness prevents them from being able to work, to going the extra mile to help their clients—for instance, helping a depressed and discouraged paraplegic find a suitable job and get his life going again—the Yeps have offered powerful and heroic witness to how a commitment to human dignity can and should take pride of place even in the world of business.

Another aspect of the Yeps’ heroism was forced upon them with the passage of unjust laws by the state of Illinois and then the federal government, laws that required them to provide coverage for contraception, sterilization and abortion-inducing drugs in their employee health plan. In the face of this new challenge to their commitment to the dignity of the human person, the Yeps once again stepped up to the plate to take a courageous stand, suing both the state of Illinois and the Obama administration for violating their First Amendment right to operate their business in accordance with their deeply held beliefs. They are like David, fighting not just one, but two, Goliaths simultaneously. As we await the outcome, we pray that they, like Julea Ward, will be vindicated in the courts. One hopes the respect for religion that the Supreme Court exhibited in its Hobby Lobby decision will decide the fate of the Yeps’ cases as well.

Heroism on campus

A final example of heroism that I would like to highlight is that of a young woman named Cassy Hough. When Cassy began her freshman year at Princeton in 2003, she was appalled at the crass and permissive approach to human sexuality that was promoted on campus in everything from the quasi-pornographic freshman orientation programming to dorm meetings, course readings and extracurricular events. Speaking out courageously among peers and professors about her own commitment to sexual integrity, she was met with a lack of understanding and outright disrespect. She eventually found a supportive group of friends, but she soon realized that she could not be content with just preserving herself from the dangers of the hook-up culture.

Seeing the tremendous pressure on her peers to conform to the reigning sexual orthodoxy, and witnessing the hurt, anger and emptiness that they suffered as a result, Cassy realized that she needed to do something to help spread the message of sexual integrity on campus and offer more students the necessary support to resist the hook-up culture. So she founded a group called the Anscombe Society, named for the philosopher Elizabeth Anscombe, who was a great defender of the true meaning of human sexuality. Princeton’s Anscombe Society succeeded in helping many students understand, defend and live sexual integrity in many ways, including convincing the university administration to change the content of the freshman orientation program.

Cassy did not stop there. Friends from other universities began to ask her for advice about how to form similar groups on their own campuses, and she realized that a broader organization was needed to support and train student leaders across the country so that they, too, could promote sexual integrity on their campuses. After she graduated, she got a grant to start the Love and Fidelity Network, which has successfully pursued this important mission to the present day. Now the Love and Fidelity Network has groups and student fellows making the case for marriage and family and providing support for sexual integrity at more than 25 universities.

Like Julea, Chris and Mary Anne Yep, Cassy, and so many other heroes of our times, we must be prepared to live not just good, but heroic lives. We must be prepared to risk popularity, reputation, professional success, economic well-being, and—it may yet come to this—perhaps even our lives, in order to defend the dignity of human life in all its stages, the value of sexual integrity, the truth about marriage and family, and the right to live in accordance with one’s beliefs in all spheres of life. If, and only if, we are willing to make these sacrifices, we will resist the forces of the culture of death in our own lives, and, with God’s help, transform that culture into a culture of life. May we all heroically rise to this great challenge of our time.

This article originally appeared in Public Discourse: Ethics, Law, and the Common Good, the online journal of the Witherspoon Institute of Princeton, NJ. Reprinted with permission.