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ERLC to seek gains for life, marriage, human rights

WASHINGTON (BP)–Efforts to advance the sanctity of human life, human rights and protection for marriage top this year’s legislative agenda of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission.

In a statement released March 14, ERLC President Richard Land and Barrett Duke, the commission’s vice president for public policy, said the following measures will be promoted by the entity in the second half of the 109th Congress:

— The Unborn Child Pain Awareness Act, S. 51/H.R. 356, 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.

— The Child Custody Protection Act, S. 8, 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.

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

— The Marriage Protection Amendment, S.J.Res. 1, a constitutional amendment to protect marriage as the union of a man and a woman.

— The ADVANCE Democracy Act, a bill designed to help bring an end to dictatorships and to promote democracy in other countries without military intervention.

— The Workplace Religious Freedom Act, S. 677/H.R. 1445, which would restore some protections to people of faith at work.

The ERLC, Land and Duke said, also intends to:

— Work for the nomination and confirmation of “conservative, strict-constructionist judges at every level” of the federal judiciary.

— Oppose legislative attempts to circumvent President Bush’s prohibition on federal funds for stem cell research that destroys human embryos.

— Try to correct the Bush administration’s failure to fund the North Korean Human Rights Act, which seeks to promote human rights and democracy under what some consider the world’s most repressive regime.

— Back expected legislation to penalize China for returning North Korean refugees to their home country, where they can expect “certain inhumane imprisonment, torture and even murder.”

— Seek free-speech protection for religious organizations and people of faith.

— Promote limitations on gambling.

— Support legislation to give the Food and Drug Administration regulation of tobacco products.

ERLC-backed measures that became law last year in the first half of the 109th Congress, Land and Duke said, included the provision of federal funds for the collection, testing and storage of stem cells from umbilical cord blood and the End Demand for Sex Trafficking Act, which targets the demand side of domestic sex trafficking.

Progress last year “has set the stage for more legislative gains in 2006,” Land and Duke wrote. “May God grant us the power, the resources and the wisdom to give voice to Southern Baptist convictions and interests in our nation’s capital effectively and in the Spirit of Christ.”

Regarding the proposal to ban all human cloning, Land and Duke said efforts to prohibit only reproductive cloning are flawed. “So-called therapeutic cloning still involves the killing of a human being in the earliest stages of development,” they said. “It must be banned along with reproductive cloning.”

Passage of the ADVANCE Democracy Act “will make peaceful promotion of democracy around the world a major focus of U.S. foreign policy,” Land and Duke said. “The bill has the potential to help rid the world of its last dictatorships in the next 20 years through peaceful means.”

The House of Representatives approved the ADVANCE bill last year as part of the Foreign Relations Authorization Act, but the Senate has not acted on it.

Regarding the Marriage Protection Amendment, Land and Duke noted that “mounting pressure from special-interest groups around the country to legalize same-sex marriage makes it imperative that we secure passage of this amendment and then take it to the states for ratification.”

A two-thirds vote is required in both the Senate and House for an amendment to clear Congress. Three-fourths of the states then must ratify the proposed amendment for it to become part of the Constitution.

The House fell far short of approving the marriage amendment in 2004, and the Senate killed it on a procedural vote. There was no action on the amendment last year.