NASHVILLE (BP) – As public policy debates swirl around the issues of life, religious liberty and sexual orientation and gender identity, the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission’s (ERLC) president says there’s room for Southern Baptists to be heard on the local and national level.
Brent Leatherwood, president of the ERLC, says the group is preparing for several late summer and fall events to help resource advocates.
“I want us to lean in heavily so that we can cooperate with our state conventions and really be a force multiplier with state policy makers and in state legislatures about the issues that are important to our pastors, our churches, and obviously Southern Baptists,” Leatherwood said on a recent episode of “Baptist Press This Week.”
The ERLC is planning to be active in state Baptist convention meetings and is planning a gathering of state ethics leaders to think through policy issues, he said.
Leatherwood is encouraged by recent rulings by the U.S. Supreme Court related to religious liberty and free speech.
Speaking about the cases involving Colorado-based web designer 303 Creative and Pennsylvania U.S. Postal Service employee Gerald Groff, Leatherwood said the decision by the high court “show(s) how strong religious liberty is because both of them (the decisions) have elements for religious freedom and free expression.”
The web design firm was sued by a human rights commission in Colorado because it declined to build websites promoting same-sex weddings.
Groff was penalized by his employers at the USPS when he told them he could not work on the Sabbath due to religious conviction.
Leatherwood also discussed the importance of state legislatures pushing back against so called “gender transition” surgeries.
He said at the most basic level it is “trying to protect children in vulnerable situations.”
Regarding a legal battle surrounding a bill passed in Tennessee to block “gender transition” surgeries on minors, Leatherwood commended policy leaders for protecting children from “these sorts of experimental surgeries,” saying “children should not be pawns for these sorts of activities.”
Leatherwood said work on the state and national level related to pro-life initiatives will be key as the debate has been decentralized from the national level following last summer’s Supreme Court ruling that overturned Roe v. Wade.