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Immigration reform, care for children highlight ERLC policy agenda, Leatherwood says


NASHVILLE (BP) – Congress is facing serious issues in a turbulent season as concerns at the border and aggression in the Middle East are front and center. Meanwhile, presidential election years are known to be less than productive as both major parties proceed carefully as voters take notice.

Still, the SBC’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission is representing Southern Baptists on Capitol Hill.

ERLC President Brent Leatherwood says the entity focuses on public policy but looks to a greater purpose in Washington. The ERLC tends to “look at the public square as a mission field,” he said in an interview on Baptist Press This Week.

“I continually remind the staff our most important thing that we do is leaving the door open to make sure that we are sharing the Gospel and living out the Gospel as we have these conversations with policymakers,” said Leatherwood.

The ERLC issued its 2024 Public Policy Agenda Jan. 24, focusing on issues connected to life, religious liberty, marriage and family and human dignity.

Leatherwood said the ERLC is focused on immigration as it is being hotly debated in the Senate.

“The SBC has been very clear. Reform needs to happen to ensure that they (the borders) are open and (there are) viable pathways for individuals who are seeking asylum who are refugees fleeing persecution. They should have pathways that are accessible for them to come to this country,” he said, “At the same time, we need to have strong border security.”

He pointed to legislation co-written by Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.) who is a Southern Baptist. “My understanding is that Sen. Lankford is pushing for that exact combination,” he said.

Leatherwood said resources on the Senate bill will be forthcoming at the ERLC website as the legislation continues to move through Congress.

The ERLC is also watching the Child Welfare Provider Act to make sure the religious liberties of foster and adoptive parents and children-focused ministries are protected.

“That would be a federal protection that ensures that our state Baptist children’s homes, for example, will be able to participate in the foster and adoption care process without having to forego our deepest held beliefs – particularly that children thrive best when they’re in a one man, one woman married household,” Leatherwood told Baptist Press.

He says the majority of families who adopt or foster are known to be evangelical, adding that ERLC is always looking for “any policies or proposals out there that make adoption and the ability to foster easier and more accessible for families.”

The ERLC is set to release its state policy agenda in mid-February, according to Leatherwood.

    About the Author

  • Brandon Porter

    Brandon Porter serves as Associate Vice President for Convention News at the SBC Executive Committee

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