By / Mar 1

Nearly one-third of Generation Z (the youngest generation for which we have statistics) identify on the LGBT spectrum. It may have (arguably) taken longer for the sexual revolution to reach our churches, but the time is long gone when we could assume it would pass us by completely. That is why the ERLC gathered together a group of experts in theology, ethics, public policy, and law to think through how best to respond to this moment. Working together, they created a framework grounded in Scripture and shaped by theological categories faithful to the Baptist Faith & Message 2000 and outlined practical scenarios many churches are facing.

It is our hope that “God’s Good Design: A Practical Guide for Answering Gender Confusion” will start (or continue) the conversation in your churches about how to serve those broken by the sexual revolution with the hope of the gospel.

Below, is a sample of the resource, outlining the theological framework for gender and sexuality and providing samples of the practical scenarios. 

A Theological Framework for Gender and Sexuality

  1. God created humanity.
  2. God intentionally created humanity with physical bodies.
  3. God’s good design for bodies is sexed: male and female.
  4. God created men and women to complement one another.
  5. The Fall affects how we see our body and sexuality.
  6. God meets the refugees of transgender ideology.
  7. The Church compassionately proclaims God’s design for gender and the body.

Practical Scenarios 

How would your pastoral team counsel a teen visiting the youth group that is considering undergoing a social transition to a different gender?

  • The pastoral team should be clear that they love the teen and want them to continue attending.
  • They should also acknowledge that they are grateful that the child feels comfortable telling them this information and is willing to talk to them about their decision. And just like every other teen who comes to the youth group, their desire is that this teenager would know who God is and enter a relationship with Jesus.
  • Because of this, they will be unable to support and participate in the social transition. They should point back to the church’s policies and encourage the teenager to participate as much as they can.
  • Also, as they would in any counseling situation, they should ask what it is that is leading the teenager to think a social transition is necessary. It might be that the child is dealing with cultural assumptions about masculinity/femininity that are tied more to cultural stereotypes than reality (i.e., A guy who wants to be a gymnast or a girl who enjoys sports does not need to deny their biological sex because of that personal interest).
  • In addition, they should default to not using pronouns or a new name because they do not want to tacitly endorse the notion that pronouns correspond to self-identity rather than biological realities.

If you had a MtF (male-to-female) transgender teen visiting your youth group insistent on being called by their preferred gender, name, and pronoun—how should the youth minister respond to this request?

  • Like the case above, the youth group should make clear that the individual is welcome and that they desire to see them know God and have a relationship with Christ.
  • To the question of pronouns and names, the youth minister should clarify that as Christians we are to be truth tellers, and as such he would be unable to use their preferred pronouns.
  • In most instances, it is possible to avoid using pronouns at all, defaulting to names, but there may be instances where the youth minister would have to use their biological pronouns. He should make clear that it is not just about the student’s self-identification, but that what he is requesting of the minister is for him to affirm that identity which is fundamentally untrue by using pronouns and this new name.
  • Additionally, the youth minister needs to think about how he will help his students think through this topic.
  • For students who worry that not agreeing to the request would pose actual relationship consequences, he should encourage them to be faithful to Christ. At the same time, he should help them to ask, “Am I doing this to avoid social friction or to build a bridge for the gospel?” Given the reality that there will be people who transition and detransition (to varying degrees), students can be present in their lives and be a witness to their peers even as they don’t compromise truth.

Download your free copy of God’s Good Design: A Practical Guide for Answering Gender Confusion.

By / Feb 26

“God’s Good Design: A Practical Guide for Answering Gender Confusion” is a resource for pastors and church leaders that includes a theological framework and practical scenarios that will start (or continue) the conversation in your churches about how to serve those broken by the sexual revolution with the hope of the gospel.

Send me the guide

Gender confusion among the next generation

The rate of teenagers who identify as transgender has doubled in the United States according to one estimate. Nearly one-third of Generation Z (the youngest generation for which we have statistics) identify on the LGBT spectrum.

It may have (arguably) taken longer for the sexual revolution to reach our churches, but the time is long gone when we could assume it would pass us by completely.

Theological framework and practical scenarios to address gender confusion

That is why the ERLC gathered together a group of experts in theology, ethics, public policy, and law to think through how best to respond to this moment. Working together, they created a framework grounded in Scripture and shaped by theological categories faithful to the Baptist Faith & Message 2000.

We know that this is not just a thought experiment, so the ERLC also gathered pastors and ministry leaders who helped apply the framework to situations on the ground.

  • Most of us will not face a question about our theological anthropology and how it defines our understanding of the categories of male and female.
  • But, we may meet an individual who has adopted a new identity and has preferred pronouns.
  • So these pastors, ministry leaders, and subject-matter experts considered what to do in a number of scenarios drawn directly from questions posed to actual churches and pastors.

There will inevitably be questions you face that are not contained here, but this will give you a place to begin a conversation with your staff; not out of fear or a need to protect ourselves, but rather to ensure that we are ready to offer others an answer for the hope that is within us (1 Pet. 3:15), pointing them to the one who promises that there is a day when the brokenness of our body, our sense of self, and our own failed attempts to be God will be made right.

Send me the guide

By / Jan 11

COLUMBUS, Ohio (BP) – The Ohio House of Representatives Jan. 10th overrode Republican Gov. Mike DeWine’s veto of a bill protecting youth under age 18 from gender transitions and limiting women’s sports teams to biological females.

The Ohio Senate is expected to concur Jan. 24 in overriding DeWine’s veto, Senate President Matt Huffman told Columbus NBC affiliate WCMH, allowing the Saving Ohio Adolescents from Experimentation (SAFE) Act and the Save Women’s Sports Act to take effect. Both measures were included in House Bill 68, passed in December. DeWine vetoed it Dec. 29.

The Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) welcomed the override.

The Ohio House of Representatives’ vote to override Gov. DeWine’s veto is a step in the right direction to protect the most vulnerable among us. This vital legislation will protect children from life-changing medical and surgical interventions and protect the integrity of women’s and girls’ sports.

ERLC Vice President and Chief of Staff Miles Mullin

“The ERLC has long maintained the position that children must not be pawns in the sexual revolution, and we will continue to advocate against harmful gender-transition practices,” Mullin said. “And while we affirm the rights of parents in decision-making regarding their children, those rights cannot extend to decisions that harm children’s bodies.”

Read the full Baptist Press article here.

By / Sep 15

Abortion and gender ideology have once again become a topic of discussion on Capitol Hill, this time in relation to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2024. 

The NDAA is an annual piece of federal legislation that authorizes the budget and expenditures for the Department of Defense (DOD) and other affiliated agencies. The NDAA serves as the principal mechanism through which Congress exercises its constitutional authority to “raise and support Armies” and “provide and maintain a Navy,” as stipulated in Article I, Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution.

Some of the key components of the legislation in which abortion and gender ideology play a factor are the budget authorization, policy guidelines, and personnel matters. The NDAA specifies how much money can be spent in various categories. Beyond budgetary matters, the NDAA often includes policy provisions that guide the military’s conduct and regulations. The act also frequently addresses issues related to military personnel, such as payment or reimbursement for specific medical procedures.

National Defense Authorization Act Amendments related to abortion and gender ideology

In July, the House of Representatives passed a bill that included amendments related to abortion and transgender surgeries. The amendments include the following:

  • Prohibits the secretary of Defense from paying for or reimbursing expenses relating to abortion services.
  • Undoes the Pentagon’s policy of allowing service members to have access to abortion services.
  • Bans the Pentagon from paying for or reimbursing service members for abortion-related expenses.
  • Additional restrictions on abortion. 
  • Prohibits TRICARE from covering and the DOD from furnishing sex-reassignment surgeries and gender hormone treatments for transgender individuals.
  • Prohibits provision of gender-transition procedures, including surgery or medication, through the Exceptional Family Member Program.
  • Recinds the Pentagon’s policy of allowing service members to have access to gender-transition procedures. 

The Senate also passed a version of the bill in July that avoided making any changes to current abortion and gender-identity funding or policies. The two versions of the bill await a formal conference in the fall to reconcile these differences. The amendments on abortion and gender identity aren’t expected to survive the reconciliation process. No Democrat in the Senate supports those amendments, which means they cannot pass in the Senate. Even if they made it into the final bill, though, President Biden would likely veto the bill.

Other cultural issues addressed by House amendments are: 

  • a prohibition on drag shows and drag queen story hour, 
  • a prohibition on the display of unapproved flags (such as the LGBTQ+ Pride flag), 
  • and a requirement that DOD Education Activity schools are prohibited from purchasing and having pornographic and radical gender ideology books in their libraries.

Congress will begin negotiations this month and must complete the final version of the NDAA before the end of the year. In the meantime, the ERLC will continue advocating on behalf of Southern Baptists at every opportunity. 

We invite our fellow Southern Baptists to join us in praying for godly wisdom to permeate these negotiations, for lives to be saved through maintaining the current restrictions on abortion, and for opportunities to clearly articulate God’s design for gender and sexuality.

By / Sep 8

Do parents have a right to know if their child is socially transitioning to a transgender identity in school? The issue of gender identity policies in schools has become increasingly contentious, with parents correctly feeling they have a right to know when their child socially transitions at school, and many public schools arguing that schools have a responsibility to “protect” students by keeping that information from parents.

Social transition describes the process by which children or adolescents adopt the name, pronouns, and gender expression, such as clothing and haircuts, that aligns with a transgender identity. 

Social transition in school districts

Increasingly, school districts across the country are attempting to keep parents from discovering when such social transitioning is occurring at school—and they’re being supported by the federal courts. 

Maryland: In August 2023, the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals panel ruled 2-1 that three parents in Montgomery County, Maryland, lacked standing to challenge the school’s gender identity policy because they had not alleged their children were transgender in the first place.

The policy, which the Montgomery County Board of Education adopted for the 2020-2021 school year: 

  • permitted schools to develop gender support plans for students to ensure they “feel comfortable expressing their gender identity”; 
  • directs school personnel to help transgender and gender nonconforming students create a plan that addresses their preferred pronouns, names, and bathrooms; 
  • and bars staff from informing parents of those plans without a student’s consent. 

Lawsuits are pending challenging similar policies in other states. 

California: In July, a federal court dismissed a similar case brought against a California school district by a parent who alleged the district had violated her constitutional rights by failing to tell her that her child had asked to use a different gender pronoun. U.S. District Court Judge John Mendez said in his ruling: 

“The issue before this court is not whether it is a good idea for school districts to notify parents of a minor’s gender identity and receive consent before using alternative names and pronouns, but whether the United States Constitution mandates such parental authority. This Court holds that it does not.”

The states that do—and do not—require parental notification

School gender identity policies on informing parents about students who are transgender or social transitioning vary widely among school districts and states. Here are some states that have issued guidance on this issue:

  • Alabama: State law requires that no school staff shall “withhold from a minor’s parent or legal guardian information related to a minor’s perception that his or her gender or sex is inconsistent with his or her sex.” 
  • Arizona: State law promotes parental involvement, though does not require school staff to notify parents. 
  • California:  While policies vary by school district, the state issued legal guidance issued by the California Department of Education, which expressly states schools may not disclose a student’s gender identity without the student’s permission. The California legislature also passed a law which makes the state of California a “safe haven” for minors to receive irreversible, sterilizing surgeries and treatments. The bill allows minors to act against their parents’ wishes and travel out of state for these procedures without parental consent.
  • Florida: State law promotes parental involvement, though does not require school staff to notify parents. 
  • Idaho: State law promotes parental involvement, though does not require school staff to notify parents. 
  • Indiana: State law requires schools to notify parents if the child changes their gender identity. 
  • Iowa: State law requires schools to notify parents if the child changes their gender identity. 
  • Kentucky: State law promotes parental involvement, though does not require school staff to notify parents. 
  • Montana: State law promotes parental involvement, though does not require school staff to notify parents.
  • North Carolina: State law requires schools to notify parents if the child changes their gender identity. 
  • Utah: State law promotes parental involvement, though does not require school staff to notify parents.

In states not listed, there is no state-level requirement to notify parents. 

What every concerned parent can do

Even in states that require notification, concerned parents should make a direct effort to determine whether their child secretly identifies as transgender at school. A simple way to do this is to access the student’s records and see if the child is using a different name or pronoun. Two federal regulations—the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act and the Protection of Pupil Rights Amendment—require schools to provide parents with access to student records and federally funded instructional material until a child turns 18. 

Unfortunately, this is one of the few options available to all parents in the U.S. As Ryan Womack of Alliance Defending Freedom observes, “Parental rights are not always protected in every state or federal court as carefully as are other fundamental rights.” 

Eventually, the Supreme Court will have to determine whether public schools will be required to respect parental rights. 

Christian parents, in particular, ought to be vigilant and take the initiative to directly protect their children from the confusing and harmful gender ideology touted by the prevailing culture. The Bible is clear that parents should be the ones primarily responsible for instructing their children in the Word of God (Deut. 6), and this includes what Scripture teaches about sexuality. As Christian parents help their children walk in the way of wisdom, they point to the goodness of God’s design and encourage the flourishing of their families and communities. 

By / Aug 25

In recent years, there has been a growing debate surrounding the participation of transgender athletes in girls’ and women’s sports. After a wave of initial support for making such accommodations, the tide is turning. A Gallup poll finds that a larger majority of Americans now (69%) than in 2021 (62%) say transgender athletes should only be allowed to compete on sports teams that conform with their birth gender. Likewise, fewer endorse transgender athletes being able to play on teams that match their current gender identity—26%, down from 34%.

During this same time period, an increasing number of sports associations and states have recognized that bans on transgender athletes are necessary to protect the integrity and fairness of women’s sports. Here is what you should know about the issue.

What are bans on transgender athletes in sports?

Bans on transgender athletes in sports refer to policies that prevent people who identify as transgender from participating in sports that are consistent with their gender identity. The bans are most commonly applied to biological males who identify as transgender (transgender women). Few biological women who identify as transgender (transgender men) have sought access to competitions against male athletes. 

Why are such bans on transgender athletes necessary?

There are four primary reasons such bans are needed. 

To uphold biological reality.

God created male and female as distinct and complementary sexes. Biological differences between males and females are to be honored and cherished rather than used to gain an unfair advantage. By upholding biological reality, we can ensure that women’s sports remain a space for female athletes to compete on equal footing.

To ensure fair competition.

A key reason why such bans are needed is because biological differences between males and females can provide an unfair advantage in certain sports. Male puberty can result in physiological advantages such as increased muscle mass, bone density, and lung capacity, which can impact athletic performance. By allowing biological males to compete in women’s sports, it is argued that the level playing field for women is compromised. Maureen Collins, writing for Alliance Defending Freedom, has highlighted about a dozen examples of how women have been disadvantaged by competing against men.

To protect women’s opportunities.

Girls and women should have equal opportunities to excel in sports without facing unfair competition. Title IX, a federal law in the United States, was designed to ensure equal athletic opportunities for women. Allowing biological males to compete in women’s sports limits the opportunities available to women, as scholarships, records, and other achievements may be dominated by transgender athletes.

To preserve the integrity of women’s sports.

Maintaining separate categories for males and females is essential to preserve the integrity and essence of women’s sports. Women’s sports have historically provided a platform for female athletes to showcase their skills and achievements, and allowing transgender women to compete undermines this tradition.

Bans on transgender athletes in girls and women’s sports are necessary measures to protect the sanctity, fairness, and opportunities of women’s sports. Christians should uphold biological reality, protect women’s opportunities, and preserve the sanctity of women’s sports by supporting such bans.  

Where are such bans on transgender athletes currently in place?

As of August 2023, 23 states in the United States have enacted laws to ban transgender athletes from participating in sports aligned with their gender identity

These bans apply to both K-12 and collegiate level sports teams. The states with bans on transgender athlete participation in college sports include:

Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, Florida, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Missouri, Mississippi, Montana, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, West Virginia, and Wyoming.

The Supreme Court has declined to intervene in enforcing bans on transgender athletes in West Virginia, affirming the constitutionality of such restrictions.

In April, the U.S. House of Representatives approved legislation that would bar transgender women and girls from participating in athletic programs designated for women. The bill has no chance of passing the Democratic-controlled Senate or being signed into law by President Biden. 

However, Biden’s Department of Education proposed a rule change that—while not allowing a blanket ban—would give universities and K-12 schools the discretion to limit the participation of transgender students if they conclude that including transgender athletes could undermine competitive fairness or potentially lead to sports-related injuries.

Which sports organizations ban biological males from competing against girls and women?

In 2022, the Union Cycliste Internationale, the governing body for cycling, announced a testosterone limit of 2.5 nmol/L for biologically male cyclists who want to compete with women.

Around that same time, FINA, the governing body for swimming, barred biological males from competing in women’s events.

World Rugby also has a complete ban on biological males competing in international women’s rugby “because of the size, force- and power-producing advantages conferred by testosterone during puberty and adolescence, and the resultant player welfare risks this creates.”

Earlier this year, World Athletics (WA), the governing body for track and field and other running competitions, implemented a policy that biological males who went through male puberty can no longer compete in women’s events at international competitions. WA also ruled that to compete as a woman, athletes with differences of sexual development (DSD), who have congenital conditions that cause atypical sex development, must have a testosterone level below 2.5 nanomoles per liter (nmol/L) for at least 24 months before an international competition.

By / Jun 27

Last week, the Equality Act was once again introduced into the House of Representatives and the Senate for consideration. This legislation intends to expand the definition of “sex” to include “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” (SOGI) and would revise every title of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to add these categories as new protected classes in the federal code. Last Congress, the Equality Act passed in the House, but the bill died in the Senate. 

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.” But the Equality Act does not advance the cause of human dignity. 

If passed, the Equality Act would punish faith-based charities for their core religious beliefs about human dignity and marriage and would undermine decades of civil rights protections for women and girls. The alarmingly detrimental consequences of the bill pose a significant threat to the deeply held religious beliefs of millions of Americans who honor God’s design for sexuality.

What does this bill mean for religious liberty?

This bill would substantially undermine religious liberty protections in the United States. America has long been a place where people with different views and beliefs have lived at peace alongside each other. Though America has not perfectly lived up to this ideal of a shared nation, it was central to our founding as persecuted religious minorities sought safe harbor in this land. Though cleverly named, the Equality Act is out of step with that American ideal. Equality cannot be achieved while eliminating other basic, fundamental freedoms. Of particular note, the bill would essentially gut the 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), a bill which passed with broad bipartisan support and was signed by President Clinton.

By undermining RFRA, the Equality Act would force faith-based child welfare organizations to abandon their deeply held religious beliefs or be shut down by the state. The state-forced closures of such agencies is especially detrimental at a time when multiple crises—including the post-pandemic effects and the ongoing opioid epidemic—have led to increases in the number of children in need of services.

What does the bill mean for women and girls?

Most strikingly, the Equality Act undermines decades of hard fought civil rights protections for women and girls. Single gender spaces, such as locker rooms or shelters, would no longer be protected by law. This departure from a legal understanding of gender as male and female makes women and girls vulnerable to biological males being in their private spaces. For example, shelters for those women and girls escaping domestic abuse or homelessness would be forced to house biological men who identify as female. This legislation disregards the privacy and safety concerns women rightly have about sharing sleeping quarters and intimate facilities with the biological opposite sex.

Another example of the harm this legislation poses to women and girls is in athletics and academics. Since 1972, Title IX has advanced women’s sports and scholarship in remarkable ways. If enacted, the Equality Act would threaten female competition as both areas would then be open to biological males as well.

Are there pro-life concerns in the Equality Act?

Yes. The Equality Act would be the most pro-abortion bill ever passed by Congress. It would redefine the term “sex” to also include “pregnancy, childbirth, or a related medical condition.” This language would roll back federal law that protects the consciences of pro-life nurses and physicians who object to participating in abortions because of their deeply held religious or moral beliefs. These conscience protections carry decades of bipartisan consensus—a consensus that no person should be compelled to participate in an act they believe to be gravely immoral. The Equality Act would also jeopardize the longstanding Hyde Amendment that protects federal taxpayer dollars from funding abortion. There is nothing equalizing about forcing Americans to fund abortion through taxpayer dollars.

How has the ERLC been involved?

The ERLC has worked tirelessly to defeat this bill. We have partnered with a broad coalition of more than 85 faith-based nonprofits, religious entities, and institutions of higher education to highlight the dangers of the Equality Act. We have raised these concerns with members of Congress and the administration through coalition letters and countless meetings with members, administration officials, and their staff. We have also engaged in public advocacy against the bill by producing a suite of resources to inform Christians and the broader public about the pernicious threat of the so-called “Equality” Act.

What’s next?

In the prior Democrat-led House, the Equality Act passed 224-206, with three Republicans joining all 221 Democrats. In the 118th Congress, Republicans narrowly hold the majority seats, but the bill is unlikely to make it to the floor for a vote. Two of the three Republicans who voted in favor of the bill are no longer in Congress, which makes it even more difficult for Democrats to force a vote on the bill. Another obstacle is Speaker McCarthy’s commitment to unifying the Republican majority’s voice in the House to present a strong front before the American people. 

While it is unlikely the bill will be passed in this Congress, its continued appearance presents a larger, on-going threat to human dignity and religious liberty. The ERLC will continue to highlight how the Equality Act erodes fundamental freedoms and undermines the ability of Americans of diverse beliefs to work together for the common good.

By / Jun 26

On June 21, the Biden administration passed on its final opportunity to appeal the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeal’s ruling that struck down the “transgender mandate” in Sisters of Mercy v. Becerra. Counsel in the case, Luke Goodrich, said, “after multiple defeats in court, the federal government has thrown in the towel on its controversial, medically unsupported transgender mandate.”

The case was brought by the Sisters of Mercy, the University of Mary, and the SMP Health System in 2016 challenging the mandate that would require them to provide gender transition care against their religious convictions and medical expertise. The court struck down the mandate in December.

A similar case named Franciscan Alliance v. Becerra also succeeded in challenging the transgender mandate in August after the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that it violated religious freedom. The group represented an association of over 19,000 healthcare professionals, eight states, and two religious hospitals. The Biden administration declined to appeal this decision, as well. 

In response to the decision, ERLC President Brent Leatherwood said,

The Biden administration’s decision to back down from the transgender mandate marks a significant victory in safeguarding the rights of medical professionals to operate in a manner consistent with their deepest held beliefs. This is an important development we should take note of because it not only represents a win for conscience rights but also furthers efforts to shield vulnerable individuals who should never become pawns in the sexual revolution.

What is the transgender mandate?

In 2016, as a part of the implementation of Section 1557 of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA), the Obama Administration’s Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) promulgated a rule requiring medical providers to perform and insure abortions and gender-transition procedures or face penalties. Section 1557 of the ACA is the nondiscrimination provision of the ACA, and the scope was broadened by redefining “sex” to include sexual orientation and gender identity.

The regulations came to be called the transgender mandate because they would require physicians to provide gender reassignment surgeries and administer hormones to facilitate gender reassignment, including to children, even if the doctor believed the procedure would be harmful.

In 2021, upon taking office, Biden reversed the Trump administration’s conscience protections by continuing to amend the language in the ACA to force doctors to perform gender-transition surgeries. The litigation was still in the courts pending a final decision, both of which came in 2022. The expiration of the appeal deadline terminates the Biden administration’s attempts to force the transgender mandate through the ACA. 

How has the ERLC been involved?

From the beginning, the ERLC has been an outspoken opponent of the transgender mandate because of its harmful implications for those undergoing these procedures as well as its flagrant violations of religious liberty and conscience protections for healthcare professionals.

Opposing the transgender mandate has been a top public policy priority for the ERLC, and in 2022, the ERLC filed public comments opposing the Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) most recent attempt to steamroll the consciences of these medical professionals. Today’s failure to appeal is a final victory after many years of dedicated advocacy from the ERLC and religious liberty allies.

Why does this matter to Southern Baptists?

As Southern Baptists, we believe that God, in his good design, has created us to be male and female to promote our flourishing. Despite how culture’s views of sexuality and gender may change over time, our commitment to this truth remains steadfast. 

Similarly, religious liberty and the protection of conscience is a bedrock principle for Baptists. As the Baptist Faith and Message describes, “God alone is Lord of the conscience.” Mandates from the government that force individuals to choose between their deeply held beliefs and their duties in the workplace must be opposed. The ERLC will always work to promote the dignity of all people and protect the religious liberty of all people of faith.

Following the decision, ERLC President Brent Leatherwood said, “Whether it is championing the preservation of individual consciences rooted in faith or defending the well-being of all image-bearers, the ERLC stands resolute, advocating tirelessly on behalf of our SBC churches. In doing so, we will not yield in our mission to protect and defend those who need it most.”

By / Jun 2

Who should decide whether a child should be allowed to identify as transgender? 

In numerous locations across the country, school administrators are saying that they should be the ones to decide—and that they can keep such information from parents. That’s why over the past year, the ERLC has signed onto three different amicus briefs relating to issues of parental rights, transgenderism, and radical gender ideology in schools. 

Two of the cases are currently in federal appeals courts while one is being heard by the Wisconsin Supreme Court. In all three cases—

the school districts violated parental rights by allowing students to use names and pronouns at school different from those they were assigned at birth, without providing parental notification absent a student’s consent.

Amicus briefs

The ERLC is joining with other groups in contending that such policies violate the rights of parents in two principal ways.

  1. First, their fundamental right to direct the care and education of their children includes the right to decide where the child will attend school, but the school policy improperly denied them critical information to inform that decision.  
  2. Second, by withholding such sensitive information when school officials, in their judgment, suspect parents might be insufficiently supportive, the school effectively labels those parents as abusive of their children, without affording them any due process protections as provided by both statutory and constitutional law.   

The amicus brief is a way to introduce concerns ensuring that the possibly broad legal effects of a court decision will not depend solely on the parties directly involved in the case. An amicus brief is a learned treatise submitted by an amicus curiae (Latin for “friend of the court”), that is, someone who is not a party to a case who offers information that bears on the case but that has not been solicited by any of the parties to assist a court. 

While it’s impossible to know how any particular amicus brief influences a justice or their decisions, such briefs are frequently cited in court rulings, showing that they can have an effect on legal outcomes. 

Joining with state conventions

In two of the cases, the ERLC is joining the amicus with, among other groups, the Minnesota-Wisconsin Baptist Convention.

In the third case, we are joining with the Baptist Convention of Iowa.

When appropriate, the ERLC wants to come alongside our state conventions and bolster their work promoting sound public policy and pushing back on policies that are harmful to our communities. What happens in these three cases can have national implications, so we want to advocate on an issue—transgenderism—where the SBC has clearly spoken.

How the SBC has spoken

In 2014, messengers of the SBC passed a resolution on transgenderism. That resolution

  • noted that “Some public schools are encouraging parents and teachers to affirm the feelings of children whose self-perception of their own gender is at variance with their biological sex”;
  • expressed the SBC’s opposition to efforts to alter one’s bodily identity (e.g., cross-sex hormone therapy, gender reassignment surgery) to refashion it to conform with one’s perceived gender identity;
  • and stated the SBC’s opposition to “all efforts by any governing official or body to validate transgender identity as morally praiseworthy (Isaiah 5:20).” 

The position was taken out of love of neighbor and a concern for human dignity. As the resolution states, “we love our transgender neighbors, seek their good always, welcome them to our churches and, as they repent and believe in Christ, receive them into church membership (2 Corinthians 5:18-20; Galatians 5:14)” and “we regard our transgender neighbors as image-bearers of Almighty God and therefore condemn acts of abuse or bullying committed against them.”

While all children, including those struggling with gender dysmorphia, should be treated compassionately, parents should be providing that counsel and care—not school administrators. Unfortunately, radical gender ideology is often being furthered in schools without the consent or in conflict with the wishes of parents. We believe that parents should have the right to know what is being taught to their children and any decisions that their child is making in regards to gender and sexuality.

By / May 19

Recently, the U.S. Department of Education (ED) proposed a rule change concerning education programs and school activities that receive federal financial assistance.

On April 6, the ED released a proposed rule under Title IX anti-discrimination laws to “clarify” the participation of transgender students in school sports. The proposed rule focuses on sex-related eligibility criteria for male and female athletic teams, specifically advocating for the recognition of gender identity rather than biological sex in determining team eligibility.

ERLC has joined several organizations and scholars in voicing opposition to the proposed rule change, arguing that it undermines the original intent of Title IX, a federal civil rights law that prohibits sex discrimination in education.

Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 states: “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.” 

The intention of Title IX was to provide equal opportunities for both men and women seeking to participate in educational institutions and extracurricular activities that receive federal funding.

The law has been instrumental in advancing athletic opportunities for girls and women. As  Hannah Daniel, ERLC’s policy manager, said, “Since the passage of Title IX over 50 years ago, women and girls have been afforded new opportunities for advancement in education and athletics.”

However, this new rule establishes that federally-funded schools may violate Title IX if they categorically ban transgender students from participating on sports teams consistent with their claimed gender identity, but it also offers some vague and narrow circumstances where banning transgender athletes could be acceptable.

The ERLC’s letter

In response to the rule change, ERLC President Brent Leatherwood submitted a letter to the U.S. Department of Education expressing concerns about the proposed rule. Leatherwood argues that the rule violates the original intent of Title IX, which was enacted to provide equal opportunities for women and girls. ERLC believes that the proposed rule, which would require schools and universities to adopt gender identity as the student’s sex for purposes of athletic competition, will undermine the purpose of Title IX. This change will also force women to compete against and share bathroom and changing facilities with biological males.

In the letter, Leatherwood raises concerns the ERLC has about the proposed rule’s impact on the biblical truth of binary sexes and biological realities. He argues that the rule would expand beyond these truths and conflate “sex” with “gender,” a shift that hinders the good and flourishing of our neighbors and discounts the human dignity of their fellow citizens. Leatherwood notes,

A refusal to account for biological, sex-dependent differences will legally enshrine inequality in sports by changing the very law that sought to achieve equality in the first place. If the proposed change is accepted, the law created to protect women from discrimination and provide them equality would discriminate against them and make them more unequal than ever before, as they would now be forced to compete and share facilities with biological males, who have distinct physical differences than females.

ERLC is urging the ED to retract the proposed rule so that the original intent of Title IX—to protect women and girls in athletic endeavors—may be realized. The ED is obligated by federal law to respond to each comment before finalizing the rule.

The proposed rule change has sparked a significant concern about the Biden administration’s efforts to undermine the original intent of Title IX. As the discussion continues, it will be crucial for Christians to pray that such efforts will be thwarted and to lobby ​​the federal government to consider the potential effects on all students and the future of athletics in educational institutions.