NASHVILLE (BP) – The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission has released a letter urging the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) to reconsider and revise a recently proposed regulation which the ERLC believes will aid in facilitating abortions and gender transitions for unaccompanied minors.
The proposed regulation, titled “Unaccompanied Children Program Foundational Rule,” was submitted by the ORR on Wednesday, Oct. 4. Its stated purpose it to replace existing laws “relating to the key aspects of the placement, care, and services provided to unaccompanied children referred to the Office of Refugee Resettlement.”
ERLC President Brent Leatherwood said the contents of the regulation far exceed these stated purposes.
“This rule goes beyond ensuring appropriate care is provided to unaccompanied children and contains components that will harm many people serving these children, violate conscience and religious liberty rights, and ultimately hurt the minors who have already experienced deep trauma,” Leatherwood said in the ERLC’s letter released Monday (Dec. 4).
“The use of federal funding to facilitate abortion-related travel and ensure access to abortion for unaccompanied children is in contradiction to existing appropriations provisions, undermines the intent of Congress when passing spending bills, and violates the consciences of ORR staffers and American taxpayers.”
Leatherwood said the ORR incorrectly claims that offering funded travel for abortions as part of care services provided to unaccompanied minors does not violate the ERLC-backed Hyde amendment.
“ORR incorrectly bases their ability to fund abortion-related travel for these unaccompanied children by arguing that funding travel to obtain abortions is a separate issue from directly funding abortions. As the ERLC has advocated time and again, abortion-related travel is inherently included as a prohibited measure under the Hyde Amendment since doing so subsidizes the abortion industry with federal funding. There is no meaningful argument the ORR can make to separate abortion from abortion-related travel.”
Leatherwood also addressed the inclusion of gender transition services as being beyond the scope of self-described “care” the regulation is meant to provide and raised concerns about the religious liberty implications of such an inclusion.
“The proposed regulation discriminates against religious ORR staff members, faith-based foster care providers and parents by forcing them to choose between their deeply held convictions and their desire to live out their faith by caring for some of the most vulnerable children in our society. The proposed rule does not offer sufficient guidance for how this proposed rule will intersect with religious liberty protections under current law.”
He said the religious liberty concerns with this regulation are similar to those the ERLC raised in a previously submitted letter related to a recently proposed regulation regarding foster care and children who identify as LGBTQ+.
An appeal was again made to the long-standing value of foster care advocacy and ministry.
“Southern Baptists have long prioritized a robust theology of support for vulnerable children outside of parental care, repeatedly stating in resolutions a desire to continue to participate in our nation’s foster care system,” Leatherwood said.
“Our deeply held religious conviction to serve and protect vulnerable children has led thousands of Southern Baptists to foster children, launch foster care organizations, and create ministries in their congregations to support the physical and financial needs of foster families.
“The ERLC appreciates the work of the ORR in ensuring there are legal, safe pathways to help vulnerable children who arrive in our nation and are deserving of protection and care. However, the concerns we have raised indicate a failure of the ORR to properly care for unaccompanied children and protect the religious liberty and conscience protections of those serving them. As a result, we strongly encourage the ORR to reconsider and revise this proposed rule.”
The ERLC’s full letter can be read here.