By / Jun 14

“Life is precious.” 

We repeat this phrase frequently. As believers, we know this statement pronounces a timeless truth rooted in Scripture. In Jeremiah 1:5, the Lord said, “Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you; before you were born, I sanctified you.” This gift of life, given to each of us by God from the moment of conception, is sacred and worthy of fervent prayers, our strongest advocacy, and our sincerest acts of service.

That is why this Commission has sought to help culture understand not just the meaning of, but the responsibilities that spring forth from the phrase, “life is precious.”

In 2023, we helped explain the historic Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision of the Supreme Court that struck down the hideous Roe v. Wade precedent. As the justices did so, they opened up a new chapter for the pro-life movement that we have long prayed for.

While we have continued our urgent work to protect life on Capitol Hill and before our nation’s highest court, I want to briefly draw your attention to the cooperative ways this Commission has been active, not just in areas of policy, but also practical ministry.

In the last year, we have locked arms with conventions in North Carolina, Tennessee, Alabama, the Southern Baptists of Texas, and the SBC of Virginia, who have all given generously to the life-saving work of our Psalm 139 Project.

And it is fitting that the annual meeting is in Louisiana, as our next ultrasound placement will be in partnership with the Louisiana Baptist Convention, the Louisiana Baptist Children’s Home, and the Northshore Baptist Association. These entities have come together, not only as an outstanding example of Baptist cooperation, but also to send a strong signal that we are willing to put our money where our heart is in order to save lives and serve mothers.

The commitment we have to protect life has guided our work at the state and national levels. In partnership with our state conventions, we brought a distinctively Baptist voice to matters important to our churches in our first ever state-level public policy review. We did this through:

  • requesting new safeguards be put in place to protect children from harmful transgender surgeries and destructive interventions in Tennessee;
  • pushing back against school administrators’ attempts to insert themselves in the relationship between a parent and child, both in Iowa and Wisconsin;
  • and standing with Nevada Baptists to successfully urge the governor to reject a bill to make that state a destination for assisted suicide.

At the federal level, we have been a leading voice in opposition to the Biden administration’s efforts to curtail religious liberty and conscience protections through the consequential federal rule-making process.

And overseas, we worked to strengthen this nation’s resolve to oppose authoritarian regimes that assault human dignity, destroy religious freedom, and help those fleeing persecution.

In all these matters, the ERLC is rooted in Scripture, guided by the Baptist Faith & Message, and informed by our convention’s resolutions. And everything we do is grounded in the simple phrase: Life is precious.

That truth has taken on new meaning for me, because the worst day of my life occurred on March 27, when a deranged individual entered the school of my children and opened fire. It would end as the deadliest school shooting in Tennessee history and be added to a horrific list of similar events that continue to plague our society.

Six precious lives were lost.  Seven families were fractured. And each and every child was rendered vulnerable by a person in deep emotional and psychological distress who was in desperate need of help and intervention.

In the following weeks and months, the Lord, who has graciously sustained our family throughout this nightmare, has worked on my heart and opened my eyes to the ways our culture of anger and animosity can so quickly become one of annihilation. Think about all the ways this occurs:

  • The mother who is convinced by a culture of death that the only way to truly thrive is by taking the life of her unplanned child. 
  • The young boy who has his mind preyed upon by social media and unhinged activists to become a pawn in the sexual revolution’s ever-changing definition of gender to the point he thinks he is a girl. 
  • The out-of-work father who, lacking community and neighborly love, chooses to escape into a drug culture rather than support his family. 
  • Or a survivor of abuse who seeks refuge in the church only to become vilified because of some flimsy Pharisaical or political excuse. 

There are many more examples of the ways our lives are rendered vulnerable on a daily basis. Too many. And the Lord is revealing to me all the ways he wants this Commission—and our SBC churches—to be a voice for the voiceless, to speak up for the marginalized, and to be a servant for the widow, the orphan, and the vulnerable.

When I see the three little survivors of the Covenant School shooting in my own home every day, I know that I cannot be quiet and cannot stand idly by while our culture tears itself apart, because life is precious. Far too precious.

By / Jun 9

The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) exists to assist churches by helping them understand the moral demands of the gospel, apply Christian principles to moral and social problems and questions of public policy, and to promote religious liberty in cooperation with churches and other Southern Baptist entities. As part of that role, we are committed to representing Southern Baptists on issues that hold immense importance for our churches and the gospel. 

One of the ways we fulfill this mission is by actively engaging in the judicial process, particularly at the United States Supreme Court. In this article, we want to update you on the current cases before the Supreme Court, why they matter for Southern Baptists, and how the ERLC is involved.

(For more in-depth analysis, please visit our website at ERLC.com/SCOTUS.)

The Religious Postal Work Case | Groff v. Dejoy

One of the cases we are closely monitoring is Groff v. Dejoy, which revolves around Gerald Groff, a USPS carrier and devout Christian who was denied religious accommodations to observe the Sunday Sabbath. This case has the potential to challenge or limit the 1977 Supreme Court decision in Trans World Airlines v. Hardison, which restricted employers’ obligations to accommodate religious beliefs.

To support Groff and advocate for enhanced religious liberty protections in the workplace, the ERLC has come alongside other religious organizations in filing an amicus brief.

The 303 Creative Free Speech Case | 303 Creative v. Elenis

Another critical case we are following is 303 Creative v. Elenis. It involves Lorie Smith, a creative professional who refused to create a wedding website for a same-sex couple due to her religious convictions. This case raises significant questions about the boundaries of free speech and when the government can compel individuals to express themselves, even if it contradicts their beliefs.

We are actively urging the court to rule in favor of Smith, as it has implications for free speech and the ability of people of faith to live out their convictions in the public square.

The Abortion Pill Case | Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine v. FDA (5th Circuit Decision)

Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine v. FDA is a case brought by pro-life medical groups challenging the FDA’s approval of the chemical abortion drug, mifepristone, and the removal of safety precautions surrounding its usage.

The ERLC has been closely monitoring this case and has advocated for the protection of preborn lives and the well-being of women affected by this harmful drug. We will continue to urge the court to prioritize these critical concerns and will actively seek further engagement if the case is appealed to the Supreme Court.

Stay informed

The ERLC is deeply committed to equipping Southern Baptists with the necessary knowledge to understand court rulings and navigate these vital issues effectively. Recognizing the significance of staying informed and engaging thoughtfully in the public square, we have established a dedicated landing page, ERLC.com/SCOTUS, to equip our churches and fellow Baptists. This platform serves as a comprehensive resource for all the cases we are monitoring, focusing on religious liberty, free speech, and the sanctity of life. Our goal is to empower Southern Baptists to comprehend and respond to these crucial matters.

In our role representing Southern Baptist churches and advocating for our deeply held convictions, the ERLC plays a vital role in addressing key legal cases before the Supreme Court. Through our engagement in cases like Groff v. Dejoy, 303 Creative v. Elenis, and Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine v. FDA, we seek to protect religious accommodations, defend free speech, and uphold the sanctity of life.

As Southern Baptists stand alongside us, we have the opportunity to bring light to a chaotic public square with the transformative message of Jesus Christ. Together, we can make a significant impact on crucial societal issues and ensure that our voices are heard and respected.

By / Apr 28

On this episode, Lindsay Nicolets talks with Palmer Williams about her work at the ERLC, the realities of politics, and future Supreme Court rulings. They also discuss Palmer’s hopes for the SBC. 

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  • Racial unity | If we, as Southern Baptists, can be willing to listen and have good conversations about race, we will see fruit that will draw us closer together. That’s why we believe that A Conversation with Pastor Jon Nelson will be a helpful resource for you and your congregation. Watch this NEW video at ERLC.com/racialunity and listen as Jon candidly shares his thoughts on how we can meaningfully partner together on this work within our churches and communities. Again that link is ERLC.com/racialunity
  • Email updates | Now that 2023 is fully underway, we want to make sure you are kept up to date about the important work we are doing on behalf of Southern Baptists. Whether it’s our 2023 Public Policy Agenda or another ultrasound machine placement, we want to make sure you know how we are serving our churches and acting as missionaries to the public square. As we move forward in 2023, know that first in our hearts and at the top of our minds are our churches. And we are taking those next steps with a Mark 10:44 mindset: to be a servant of all. The best way to learn more is by joining us at ERLC.com/updates. Signing up for email updates allows you to hear directly from us about our work and ways we are serving you on the issues that matter most to Southern Baptists. You’ll learn about our work on your behalf in our nation’s capital, about exciting new partnerships with our state conventions and the ways we are working across the convention with our sister entities. Become an email subscriber at ERLC.com/updates
By / Apr 21

The Supreme Court heard oral arguments on April 18 in Groff v. Dejoy, a case dealing with religious accommodations in the workplace. This case, which centers around a Christian postal worker who wishes to observe the Sabbath, puts before the court a question of what burden employers must meet before denying religious accommodations to their employees. (See also: Explainer: Supreme Court hears arguments in religious postal worker case.)

The court is expected to issue a ruling sometime before the end of June 2023. Here is what you should know about the arguments made in that case.

What are oral arguments?

During oral arguments, an attorney for each side of a case is given the opportunity to make a presentation to the court and answer questions posed by the justices. 

  • Before this process begins, each side in the case submitted a written legal argument outlining each party’s points of law. 
  • The justices will have read these briefs prior to argument and are thoroughly familiar with the case, its facts, and the legal positions that each party is advocating. 

As the Supreme Court website notes, “The arguments are an opportunity for the Justices to ask questions directly of the attorneys representing the parties to the case, and for the attorneys to highlight arguments that they view as particularly important.” 

Oral arguments are not a requirement for a Supreme Court case. In fact, only about 53–70% of cases accepted by the court each year include oral arguments. But oral arguments provide the public ​​​their first glimpse into what issues or concerns the justices consider most relevant. Observers of the court must be cautious, though, because it’s difficult to impossible to tell how a case will be decided based only on this process. 

What was the argument presented by the attorney for Groff?

Aaron Steett, the counsel arguing for Groff, said: 

  • Title VII requires religious accommodations unless causing undue hardship to employers and criticized the ruling in Trans World Airlines, Inc. v. Hardison (1977) for introducing the de minimis test, which violates Title VII wording of “undue hardship.” 
  • The court should reinterpret “undue hardship” as significant difficulty or expense since the government’s new test still allows unfair denial of accommodations. Adopting a significant-difficulty-or-expense test—such as the ones used in states like New York and California—would be preferable. 

What was the argument of the solicitor general?

Elizabeth B. Prelogar, solicitor general of the United States, argued the case on behalf of the government. Among the claims she made, Prelogar: 

  • Argued against overruling Hardison, a 50-year-old case that provides guidance on analyzing undue hardship under Title VII, and highlights the strong stare decisis weight given to statutory holdings. She asserted that the argument for overruling Hardison is a policy argument that should be directed to Congress. 
  • Emphasized that lower courts and the EEOC have applied the “more than de minimis cost” language, and employers are not required to regularly pay overtime or operate shorthanded. The burden is thus on the employer to demonstrate undue hardship with concrete evidence. The speaker states that lower courts frequently deny undue hardship defenses, so there is no justification to dispense with Hardison
  • Discussed the facts of the case, pointing out that the petitioner’s job required Sunday work, and exempting him would have violated coworkers’ contractual rights. His absences created burdens on other carriers, causing issues with timely mail delivery and employee retention problems, which is an undue hardship under any reasonable standard.

What did the justices say?

In questioning the attorneys, the justices raised some concerns about expanding religious accommodations:

  • Justice Sotomayor raised concerns about congressional acquiescence and noted that Congress has acted to overrule decisions it didn’t like in the past but hasn’t chosen to do so in this citation. 
  • Justice Kagan discussed the concept of statutory stare decisis with the attorney, emphasizing its importance in maintaining predictability and reliability in the judicial system. 
  • Justice Kavanaugh raised concerns about potential religious discrimination when employees of different faiths request time off for religious reasons. He questioned whether it was fair for an employee to be denied time off when another employee with different religious beliefs was granted time off
  • Justice Barrett expressed concerns about the impact of multiple accommodation requests on workplace morale and how it might be difficult to quantify the effects on the business. Streett clarified that they do not advocate for a dollar amount test, but rather concrete evidence that the employer cannot carry out its operations. He noted that morale alone is not enough, but if a coworker quits due to the situation, that would be a concrete effect. 

Justice Kavanaugh also discussed the interpretation of Hardison and Footnote 14, which refers to “substantial expenditures” or “substantial additional costs.” The attorney for Groff agreed that the substantial costs standard might be suitable but emphasized the importance of how it is applied in specific situations. Kavanaugh acknowledged that the real challenge lies in determining how to apply the standard to situations involving factors such as paying new workers, short-shifts, or violating collective bargaining agreements. The attorney suggested a “significant-difficulty-or-expense” test could provide more guidance, as it has been used in other states for religious accommodations. Both agree that undue hardship is a context-specific standard, and the attorney argued that the proposed test would help address the fact-specific nature of such cases.

Other arguments raised by some of the justices included:

  • In response to Justice Sotomayor’s concerns about congressional acquiescence, Justice Alito asked about the legitimacy of considering congressional inaction in the context of potential constitutional problems. The attorney for Groff agreed that it would have been appropriate to discount an argument based on congressional inaction when witnesses had warned Congress about potential constitutional issues
  • Justice Thomas questioned Prelogar about the Hardison decision and its relation to the amended Title VII and asked whether the term “more than de minimis” might seem imprecise.
  • Justice Alito questioned Prelogar about her statement that the EEOC and lower courts have properly respected the rights of minority religions despite the Hardison decision. Alito pointed to amicus briefs from representatives of various minority religions—including a brief by the ERLC—that claim that Hardison has violated their religious liberty. 

One hypothetical situation that was raised asked whether a $1 increase in hourly wage for an employee to accommodate a religious worker would constitute an undue hardship for a company like Amazon. Prelogar explained that the answer would depend on the nature of the accommodation and referred back to the court’s decision in Hardison, where it focused on the payment of overtime wages. She emphasized that reasonable accommodation should allow an employee to complete their work requirements without conflict with their religious beliefs, and that regularly paying overtime wages may cross the line.

What was the rebuttal to the solicitor general’s argument?

At the end of oral arguments, the petitioner is allowed to offer a rebuttal. 

  • Streett argued that the court should not apply the doctrine of statutory stare decisis in the Hardison case. 
  • He expressed disagreement with the government’s view of how lower courts have applied Hardison and noted that the EEOC has not joined the brief. 
  • He also contends that the government’s test for undue hardship will provide inadequate protection for religious liberty in the workplace and argued against some of the propositions defended by the government. 
  • He highlighted the lack of textual analysis from the government and asserted that the plain meaning of the statute should be followed.
  • Streett also pointed out that employers in the United States are already applying a variety of accommodations under different statutes, such as the ADA, Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, and USERRA. Employers are familiar with the significant-difficulty-and-expense standard and can apply it to religious employees without issue. 
  • He concluded by questioning why religious employees should have less accommodation than individuals protected under other statutes with the same reasonable accommodation and undue hardship framework.
By / Apr 21

On this episode, Lindsay Nicolet talks with Hannah Daniel about the Tennessee governor’s Order of Protection proposal. They also discuss several important Supreme Court developments including the religious postal worker case and the abortion pill 

Content

Tennessean: SBC public policy president, a Covenant parent, backs Lee’s gun law proposal

Groff v. DeJoy: Religious postal worker case

  • Rundown of oral arguments

Abortion pill at the Supreme Court 

Connect with us on Twitter

Sponsors

  • Racial unity | If we, as Southern Baptists, can be willing to listen and have good conversations about race, we will see fruit that will draw us closer together. That’s why we believe that A Conversation with Pastor Jon Nelson will be a helpful resource for you and your congregation. Watch this NEW video at ERLC.com/racialunity and listen as Jon candidly shares his thoughts on how we can meaningfully partner together on this work within our churches and communities. Again that link is ERLC.com/racialunity
  • Email updates | Now that 2023 is fully underway, we want to make sure you are kept up to date about the important work we are doing on behalf of Southern Baptists. Whether it’s our 2023 Public Policy Agenda or another ultrasound machine placement, we want to make sure you know how we are serving our churches and acting as missionaries to the public square. As we move forward in 2023, know that first in our hearts and at the top of our minds are our churches. And we are taking those next steps with a Mark 10:44 mindset: to be a servant of all. The best way to learn more is by joining us at ERLC.com/updates. Signing up for email updates allows you to hear directly from us about our work and ways we are serving you on the issues that matter most to Southern Baptists. You’ll learn about our work on your behalf in our nation’s capital, about exciting new partnerships with our state conventions and the ways we are working across the convention with our sister entities. Become an email subscriber at ERLC.com/updates
By / Apr 18

On April 18, the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Groff v. Dejoy, a case dealing with religious accommodations in the workplace. This case, which centers around a Christian postal worker who wishes to observe the Sabbath, puts before the court a question of what burden employers must meet before denying religious accommodations to their employees.

This case has significant implications for the religious liberty of Southern Baptists and people of all faiths. The ERLC filed an amicus brief in the case urging the court to raise the burden currently placed on employers to allow for greater religious accommodations in the workplace. A decision in this case is expected in June.

The quick background

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

Why does this case matter?

Southern Baptists believe that we cannot separate our vocation from our deeply held beliefs. Our whole lives, including our work, is done as service to the Lord. Employers must be required to do more in accommodating the needs of religious employees to allow them to continue serving in their vocation without compromising their beliefs. Religious liberty protects not only our freedom to believe but also our freedom to live out those beliefs in the public square.

As Southern Baptists, we also believe that religious liberty applies to all people of all faiths. Religious accommodations are especially vital for members of minority religious. During today’s arguments, Justice Alito noted the unity from all religious groups in their amicus briefs arguing that the current status quo is not working in protecting religious liberty. Any Howe, a Supreme Court analyst, summarizes this argument made by several amicus briefs filed by various minority religions:

Members of minority religions . . . are more likely to require accommodations in the workplace – for example, because businesses and the government may not be closed to observe religious holidays in the same way that they do for Sundays or Christian holidays like Christmas and Easter. But at the same time . . . religious minorities are also less likely to receive those accommodations, because employers can meet the “de minimis” standard so easily. As a result, the groups say, the current interpretation of the “undue hardship” provision requires many religious minorities to choose between their faith and their jobs.

The harmful Hardison decision

Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act requires that employers “reasonably” accommodate their employees’ religious observance unless doing so would cause “undue hardship” on the employer’s business. However, a 1977 Supreme Court decision in Trans World Airlines v. Hardison limited and distorted the requirements of employers to reasonably accommodate employees’ religious beliefs and practices by allowing employers to prove only a minimal burden to deny accommodations

This harmful decision in Hardison was, in part, built on the Lemon test, a three-part test from a 1971 ruling that determined when a law was in violation of the Establishment Clause. This test often disfavored religious liberty and was overturned last year in the Coach Kennedy case.

Groff’s case before the Supreme Court has the opportunity to revisit Hardison in light of new court precedent. Overturning the “more-than-de-minimis-cost” test in Hardison would be a major victory for religious employees nationwide and restore important protections for people of faith in the workplace. 

It is important to note that no one is asking the court to establish a standard where religious employees can use their faith to evade work responsibilities whenever convenient. Whatever test that is established by the court will have to be contextualized and will still take into account the needs of the business. Groff, and our brief in support of him, advocates for simply raising the bar for what employers must do in trying to accommodate the needs of their religious employees.

How has the ERLC been involved?

The ERLC filed an amicus brief alongside other religious organizations arguing that Hardison should be overturned and that employers must meet a higher burden before denying accommodations to their employees. As our brief argues:

Correctly interpreted, Title VII’s mandate to accommodate employees’ religion affirms this Nation’s fundamental commitment to religious freedom. That mandate embodies a careful balance between the right of workers to practice their religion without sacrificing their jobs and the ability of employers to maintain an effective workplace. Hardison destroyed that balance by creating a legal standard at war with the statutory text and so undemanding in practice that employers nearly always win . . . A right that exists only when it bothers no one else is no right at all.

The ERLC will continue to follow and cover future developments in this case. And, as we have been assigned by Southern Baptists, we will always protect religious liberty before Congress, the courts, and in the public square. 

By / Apr 14

On this episode, Lindsay Nicolet talks with Hannah Daniel about the importance of the Supreme Court in today’s society. They also discuss what’s new with the rapidly moving abortion pill case. 

Content

The abortion pill case

Explainer: How a case makes it the Supreme Court

Explainer: What you should know about Supreme Court decisions

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Sponsors

  • Racial unity | If we, as Southern Baptists, can be willing to listen and have good conversations about race, we will see fruit that will draw us closer together. That’s why we believe that A Conversation with Pastor Jon Nelson will be a helpful resource for you and your congregation. Watch this NEW video at ERLC.com/racialunity and listen as Jon candidly shares his thoughts on how we can meaningfully partner together on this work within our churches and communities. Again that link is ERLC.com/racialunity
  • Email updates | Now that 2023 is fully underway, we want to make sure you are kept up to date about the important work we are doing on behalf of Southern Baptists. Whether it’s our 2023 Public Policy Agenda or another ultrasound machine placement, we want to make sure you know how we are serving our churches and acting as missionaries to the public square. As we move forward in 2023, know that first in our hearts and at the top of our minds are our churches. And we are taking those next steps with a Mark 10:44 mindset: to be a servant of all. The best way to learn more is by joining us at ERLC.com/updates. Signing up for email updates allows you to hear directly from us about our work and ways we are serving you on the issues that matter most to Southern Baptists. You’ll learn about our work on your behalf in our nation’s capital, about exciting new partnerships with our state conventions and the ways we are working across the convention with our sister entities. Become an email subscriber at ERLC.com/updates
By / Apr 12

Note: This case is quickly evolving, and this article will be updated as new developments emerge.

On April 21, the Supreme Court, in a 7-2 decision, paused a lower court ruling from the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals that had restricted the availability of the chemical abortion drug, mifepristone, while litigation around its approval is ongoing. Justices Alito and Thomas dissented from the Court’s action. This means that mifepristone remains available without vital safety precautions in place while the case continues. The case now returns to the Fifth Circuit for oral arguments on the merits of the case.

Previously, a three-judge panel at the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled on April 12 that mifepristone, part of the two-drug regimen given for chemical abortions, would remain available while litigation regarding its initial approval by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration continues, but also ordered the FDA to reinstate safety precautions such as:

  • limiting the use of the drug to the first 7 weeks of pregnancy,
  • cease sending abortion drugs through the mail,
  • and require in-person medical visits prior to the drugs being prescribed.

That ruling followed an April 7 ruling from a federal judge in Texas which ordered that the FDA’s 2000 approval of the abortion pill, mifepristone, should be halted nationwide. Within an hour, another federal judge in Washington ruled in a separate case that the FDA must continue providing the drug in several states. 

Chemical abortions account for a majority of all abortions in the U.S., particularly in states where abortion has been restricted or banned following the Dobbs decision.

What is this case about?

In November 2022, Alliance Defending Freedom filed suit against the FDA on behalf of four pro-life medical groups. The suit claims that the FDA “failed America’s women and girls when it chose politics over science and approved chemical abortion drugs for use in the United States. And it has continued to fail them by repeatedly removing even the most basic precautionary requirements associated with their use.”

These pro-life groups argue that the FDA was wrong to grant the drug mifepristone fast-tracked approval back in 2000. The complaint continues:

The only way the FDA could have approved chemical abortion drugs was to use its accelerated drug approval authority, necessitating the FDA to call pregnancy an “illness” and argue that these dangerous drugs provide a “meaningful therapeutic benefit” over existing treatments.

But pregnancy is not an illness, nor do chemical abortion drugs provide a therapeutic benefit over surgical abortion. In asserting these transparently false conclusions, the FDA exceeded its regulatory authority to approve the drugs.

Currently, 1 in 5 women who take the drug will experience complications that require further medical attention. The case argues that the disposal of original safety precautions that accompanied the drug’s initial approval have led to increased danger to the women and girls who take mifepristone.

In 2016, the FDA:

  • expanded the availability of chemical abortion drugs from 7 weeks of pregnancy up to 10 weeks of pregnancy,
  • changed the dosing regimen,
  • reduced the number of in-person doctor visits from three to one,
  • expanded who could prescribe and administer chemical abortion drugs beyond medical doctors,
  • and eliminated the requirement for prescribers to report non-fatal complications from chemical abortion drugs.  

Then, in 2021, the FDA removed the requirement of in-person dispensing, allowing for abortion drugs to be accessed through the mail and telemedicine without a woman ever seeing a doctor in-person.

Why now?

Though it is unusual that this case is only now being argued over a drug approved 23 years ago, it comes after more than two decades of continued work by the petitioners against the approval of mifepristone.

  • In 2002, the petitioners submitted a citizen petition to challenge the FDA’s approval.
  • It was not until 2016 that the FDA denied the petition.
  • In 2019, the petitioners filed a new citizen petition to challenge the FDA’s 2016 changes.
  • In 2021, on the same day the FDA changed the in-person dispensing requirement, it denied the citizen petition.
  • Following the denial, the petitioners were finally able to file suit against the FDA in November 2022.

What happens next?

This case now heads back to the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeal where oral arguments on the merits of the case will be heard on May 17. Some abortion advocates have already begun to stockpile the drug in anticipation of its removal from the market. Others have suggested that the medication abortion protocol could be changed to just include misoprostol, the other drug in the current two-step protocol, even though this practice is known to cause increased cramping, bleeding, and potential complications for women.

Southern Baptists care about the sanctity of life and dignity of all people, including the preborn. We also care about the health, safety, and welfare of women who have experienced harmful and serious medical complications from these drugs at the hands of the predatory abortion industry. Though the Supreme Court’s ruling is a disappointing setback, the fight against medication abortion—and the harms that it brings to women and the preborn—is far from over. We will continue to urge the courts and the FDA to take action that protects women and the preborn.

By / Apr 11

The First Amendment is a fundamental protection granted in the U.S. Constitution. It secures the right to the free exercise of religion, and “it protects the freedom of speech, freedom of the press, the freedom of assembly, and the right to petition the government for a redress of grievances.” 

In a recent court case called Faith Bible Chapel v. Tucker, the First Amendment is being challenged yet again.

Faith Bible Chapel is a case involving a private Christian school in Arvada, Colorado, and Gregory Tucker, its former employee. Its implications are significant:

  • a favorable ruling could bring needed clarity to the “ministerial exception,”
  • and an unfavorable ruling could lead to religious coercion and government intrusion into religious institutions, among other negative consequences.

This is a case to which Christians in America should pay close attention. 

Why is it important?

  • First Amendment: At its core, Faith Bible Chapel is a case concerning the First Amendment—which ensures the free and unimpeded exercise of religion for all American citizens. Pertaining to this case, as argued in an amicus brief submitted by the ERLC and other religious organizations, “the First Amendment protects the right of religious groups to choose, without governmental interference, who will teach their faith.” 
  • Ministerial exception: Additionally, one of the more consequential aspects of this case is its conflict with the ministerial exception and the effect an unfavorable ruling would have on religious institutions like Faith Christian Academy. 

What is this case about?

Faith Christian Academy is a private Christian school in Colorado, and a ministry of Faith Bible Chapel. In June 2019, Tucker, who was employed by the school for 14 years, filed a federal lawsuit against Faith Bible Chapel, alleging that “the school violated his civil rights” by firing him “unjustly.”

The controversy began in 2018 when Tucker, then the chaplain and Bible teacher, “led a chapel service on race that became too political and handled an ensuing conflict in a way that contributed to division in the school and undermined the trust that school leadership and parents had in him.” The conflict resulted in Tucker’s departure. 

Faith Christian Academy reported that Tucker left voluntarily, and he claimed that he was fired by the school. Tucker believed his civil rights were violated, so he filed suit against the school. Faith Christian Academy is responding to the lawsuit by defending its “right to freely choose its religious leaders without government interference.”

On behalf of Faith Bible Chapel, Becket asked the U.S. Supreme Court to review the case on Feb. 3, 2023. We are still awaiting a decision from the court as to whether they will hear this case in the upcoming term. 

How is the ERLC involved?

The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission joined other religious organizations in submitting an amicus brief in support of the appeal.

We believe, as the brief states, that the “Court should grant the petition for a writ of certiorari and reverse the decision” of the 10th Circuit court. The free exercise of religion is a fundamental right of the American people, outlined in the First Amendment, and should in no way be infringed upon by the government, nor should the related ministerial exception. 

The ERLC will continue to uphold and advocate for the Baptist conviction that “[t]he state owes to every church protection and full freedom in the pursuit of its spiritual ends . . . has no right to impose penalties for religious opinions of any kind,” and that religious groups have “the right to form and propagate opinions in the sphere of religion without interference by the civil power.” 

As we wait, we pray that justice would prevail in this case for the sake of Faith Christian Academy, the First Amendment, and the future of religious liberty for all in this country. 

How was the case originally decided?

  • The school then petitioned the 10th Circuit to rehear the case, but their petition was denied in November 2022.
  • In early February 2023, the school filed a petition with the Supreme Court asking it to review the case.

What is the ministerial exception? 

The ministerial exception: A “principle [that] says a ministry’s employees who teach religion, such as rabbis, imams, pastors, and principals or teachers at religious schools, can’t sue their ministry over their job.”

In Faith Bible Chapel, that’s precisely what happened, and, shockingly, the 10th Circuit court “concluded . . . that the ministerial exception offers no protection from the litigation process.”

Beyond the core question of the ministerial exception’s protections, this case also centers around how far into litigation a plaintiff may get when suing a church or religious organization that would be protected by the ministerial exception. In ERLC’s amicus brief, we argued that the decision of the 10th Circuit “poses grave risks to religious communities in this country, most of which are small and ill-equipped to withstand expensive and intrusive employment litigation.” 

The ministerial exception is a threshold question that prevents the case from going forward. The brief points to the ways in which the litigation process, including discovery, is burdensome to churches and religious schools and itself creates an avenue for impermissible church-state entanglement.

By / Apr 6

On this episode, Lindsay Nicolets talks with Hannah Daniel about Supreme Court opinions she’s anticipating this summer and what implications they will have for free speech and religious liberty. 

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