WASHINGTON (BP) – Religious freedom and human dignity again lead the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission’s public policy priorities in 2022, the Southern Baptist entity announced Thursday (Jan. 13).
The new agenda “focuses on the ways the ERLC represents and advocates for the policy interests of Southern Baptists before Congress, the courts and the administration,” said Chelsea Sobolik, the ERLC’s director of public policy.
“The second session of the 117th Congress opens as we’re still grappling with a global pandemic, supply chain issues and economic uncertainty,” she said in an ERLC news release. “But we will continue to defend the vulnerable, protect religious liberty, advance the cause of justice and work towards a day when abortion is unthinkable and unnecessary.”
The new agenda “is not an exhaustive blueprint, but a sketch of the core public policy priorities for the next year,” Sobolik and Brent Leatherwood, the ERLC’s acting president, wrote in the 16-page document.
On some of its priorities, “broad bipartisan consensus already” may exist, they wrote. These issues include criminal justice reform, payday lending regulation and a just solution for undocumented immigrants brought into the country as children, they said.
Other issues the ERLC has prioritized likely will be marked by far less agreement, they said. gAmong these divisive issues are the protection of unborn children and their mothers, heightened safeguards for conscience rights and support for at-risk religious minorities overseas, Leatherwood and Sobolik said.
The ERLC has “the opportunity to bear witness, to seek to persuade, and to build the consensus needed to make change” regardless of the popularity of an issue, they wrote.
As in the last session of Congress, the ERLC will face difficult challenges in reaching some of its policy goals. The Democratic Party – which supports abortion rights, as well as lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights – controls both houses of Congress and the White House.
Based on history, however, the mid-term election in November likely will produce a change in the makeup of Congress, Leatherwood and Sobolik said.
The ERLC “has been through a season of transition …, but we have continued carrying out our ministry directive to serve the public policy interests of Southern Baptists,” they wrote. Russell Moore departed in June for a new role with Christianity Today magazine after eight years as the commission’s president.