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ERLC to push protection for unborn, marriage, human rights

WASHINGTON (BP)–The Southern Baptist Convention’s public policy entity intends to seek protections for unborn children, marriage and international human rights during this congressional year.

The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission has outlined its legislative agenda for what it calls a “very promising year” as a result of the November elections that increased the number of conservatives in Congress and returned a conservative president to the White House. President Richard Land and Barrett Duke, vice president for public policy, issued a statement saying the ERLC would promote the following measures:

— The Child Custody Protection Act, which would outlaw the transportation of a minor by a non-parental adult to another state for an abortion when the girl’s home state requires parental notification or consent.

— The Unborn Child Pain Awareness Act, which would require abortion doctors both to inform mothers of the pain an unborn child of 20 weeks or older experiences during an abortion and to offer anesthesia for the baby.

— A ban on human cloning for research or reproductive purposes.

— A constitutional amendment to protect marriage as the union of a man and a woman.

— A bill designed to help bring an end to dictatorships and to promote democracy in other countries without the use of the armed forces.

The ERLC also plans to work for religious freedom in the workplace and in the public square; the confirmation of conservative nominees to the federal judiciary; a restoration of morality in the entertainment media; and the end of trafficking in woman and children, Land and Duke said.

“The 109th Congress offers us a great opportunity on many fronts,” they said.

Describing this as the “most pro-life Congress since Roe v. Wade was decided in 1973,” Land and Duke said they “expect to add significantly to our gains” during this session.

The ERLC will maintain support for President Bush’s “courageous, principled stand on human embryo research,” they said, and it “will continue to fight off every effort to overturn the president’s ban on expanding federal funding of embryo-destructive research.”

“A human embryo is a human being in the earliest stages of development,” Land and Duke said. “Therapeutic cloning kills embryos in order to harvest their parts. Reproductive cloning results in the destruction of hundreds of embryos before any successful cloning procedure.”

There will be increased backing for a federal marriage amendment this year, they predicted. “While the amendment did not pass last year, there was more support for it in the House [of Representatives] and Senate than most of the critics imagined,” they said. “We will press for another vote in 2005.”

A two-thirds vote is required in both the Senate and House of Representatives for an amendment to clear Congress. Last year, the House voted 227-186 for a marriage amendment but fell far short of the two-thirds majority needed. The Senate turned back the amendment procedurally, voting 50-48 against a measure to cut off debate and bring the proposal to the floor for action. Sixty votes are needed to end a filibuster.

In promoting human rights legislation, Land and Duke said, “Too many people around the world are still dominated by dictators. We look forward to the introduction of sweeping legislation that targets the world’s last dictatorships for extinction. The bill has the teeth to rid the world of the last remaining dictators without military intervention.”

Land and Duke cited the passage of the following measures as victories in the 108th Congress: The Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act, which barred a late-term procedure on a nearly totally delivered baby; the Unborn Victims of Violence Act, which criminalized harmful acts against unborn children during federal crimes against their mothers; the Prison Rape Elimination Act, which is designed to prevent the rape of inmates; and the North Korean Human Rights Act, which is targeted toward promoting human rights and democracy in the communist dictatorship.

The entire statement by Land and Duke may be accessed at the ERLC’s website, www.faithandfamily.com. It also will be distributed in eSalt, the entity’s public policy newsletter from Washington.