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Pro-life policies atop ERLC ’09 agenda

WASHINGTON (BP)–The defense of pro-life policies is the most urgent of the “substantial challenges” facing Southern Baptists and other social conservatives in the new Congress, leaders of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission say.

Writing on the Southern Baptist entity’s website, ERLC President Richard Land and Vice President Barrett Duke said they expect much of their focus this year to be on preventing the overthrow of laws protecting unborn life, marriage and free speech, as well as other policies supported by Southern Baptists.

The largely defensive posture is a result of the incoming administration of President-elect Barack Obama and an increase in the number of liberals in Congress, they said.

“Our greatest concern is the likelihood that many pro-life advances under President Bush’s administration will be rolled back,” Land and Duke wrote. “President-elect Obama’s pledge to sign the Freedom of Choice Act would do that very thing. This pernicious bill would invalidate all limits on abortion.”

The measure “will have to be stopped before it gets to the president’s desk,” said Land and Duke, who is the ERLC’s vice president for public policy and research.

The ERLC and other pro-life organizations, they said, will need to resist efforts to overturn such bans as those on federal funds for destructive embryonic stem cell research, Medicaid-backed abortions and organizations that perform or promote abortions in foreign countries.

Land and Duke reiterated their support for a pro-life measure, the Pregnant Women Support Act, which would seek to reduce abortions by numerous initiatives, including requiring informed consent for all women considering abortion and establishing grants for colleges to provide services to pregnant and parenting students.

Other legislative efforts Land and Duke said they expect the ERLC to combat in 2009 include:

— The Employment Non-discrimination Act, which would elevate “sexual orientation” — a category that includes homosexuality, bisexuality and transgendered status — in the workplace to the level of protected classes such as race and religion.

— Hate crimes legislation that would expand protections to cover “sexual orientation” and threaten the free-speech rights of those who contend homosexual behavior is sinful.

— An attack on the Defense of Marriage Act, the 1996 law that gives states the option of not recognizing another state’s “gay marriages.”

— The Fairness Doctrine, which is seen as targeting the proliferation of conservative radio talk shows.

— “Card-check” legislation that would eliminate employees’ rights to a secret ballot in votes on the unionization of the workplace.

— Policies to limit carbon dioxide emissions in an effort to combat global warming.

Land and Duke said they are “not convinced, and neither are most Southern Baptists, that human activities are the primary cause of the current changes in the climate that have been documented around the world.”

They expressed concern about how some legislation intended to impact global warming would affect the poor. “Whatever one’s current view on human-induced global warming,” they said, “‘loving your neighbor as yourself’ requires one to always ask the following question of any legislation: ‘How will this law impact those of our fellow human beings who are least able to bear further economic burden?'”

The ERLC leaders also will seek to work with Congress and the new administration to implement policies to combat human trafficking, to bring about peace in Darfur, to support American troops and to aid the poor without increasing their dependence on the government.

“While we believe we will spend most of our energy this year resisting liberal advances, we will continue to look for ways to move responsible, God-honoring measures forward,” Land and Duke wrote. “We commit to bring the teachings of Scripture and the expressed convictions of Southern Baptists to bear on every issue in order to assure that we apply the salt and light of the Christian witness to as many issues as our Lord directs, Southern Baptists have concerns and our means enable.”
Tom Strode is Baptist Press Washington bureau. The website article about the Ethics & Religion Liberty Commission’s agenda for 2009 is posted at http://erlc.com/article/legislative-agenda-for-2009/.