ERLC chief: State conventions can be ‘pivotal’ in pro-life policies | Baptist life
NASHVILLE (BP) — The work of Southern Baptist state conventions may be vital in passing pro-life laws after Roe v. Wade, the acting head of the SBC’s ethics entity said in a BP live webcast on Wednesday.
The online event, hosted by Baptist Press, focused on rulings regarding abortion and religious freedom handed down by the United States Supreme Court during its recently completed term. Much of the conversation focused on Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, a June 24 notice that upheld the Mississippi abortion ban after 15 weeks’ gestation. More importantly, the decision overturned Roe v. Wade of 1973 which legalized abortion nationwide and the opinion Planned Parenthood v. Casey from 1992 who affirmed it.
The landmark High Court judgment returned abortion regulation to the states, where it had rested before Roe.
“I think in this new post-Roe moment where we find ourselves in our state conventions, we play a pivotal role in ensuring that prenatal life protection policies are advanced,” said Brent Leatherwood, Acting President of the Ethics and Religious Freedom Commission (ERLC).
“[O]“One of the best channels” of Southern Baptists is through their state conventions, said Leatherwood, who has encouraged communication between pastors and their Baptist state leaders.
The ERLC wants to partner with Baptist state conventions to ensure “they have the resources and equipment they need to be effective advocates before state lawmakers,” Leatherwood told moderator Jonathan Howe, vice chair of the SBC executive committee for communications.
Nearly half of the 50 states already have laws prohibiting abortion during pregnancy or at some stage of pregnancy, but some state legislatures will continue to debate policies.
“[F]First and foremost, [Southern Baptists] we must continue to pray, and we must continue to be a voice for the sanctity of life in every state, because as more states take these steps and put in place policies to protect life, d “Other states will see and feel this pressure to do the same and recognize the inherent dignity of unborn lives,” Leatherwood said.
The Dobbs ruling “in effect sets things right on the abortion issue”, but the ERLC “isn’t content with where we are”, he told viewers. “We want to continue to advocate for life in each of the states, as well as at the federal level, because we believe that there is in fact an inherent right to life and it is contained” in the US Constitution.
“We obviously celebrate this milestone, but our work is far from done,” Leatherwood said. “The Dobbs decision essentially opens a new chapter in the pro-life movement, and we are committed to doing so alongside our Southern Baptist churches.”
The ERLC’s pro-life work will increasingly focus on the state level, but the entity will also maintain advocacy with the federal government in Washington, DC, he said.
In addition to seeking pro-life protections in state laws, Southern Baptists and their churches can continue to care for women who want abortions, Leatherwood told Howe. Churches are partnering with Project Psalm 139, the ERLC ministry to place ultrasound machines in Pregnancy Resource Centers (PRCs) and provide for pregnant women, he said. Some churches are now adopting or starting CRPs, and some small groups are essentially adopting pregnant women to meet their physical, spiritual and community needs, he added.
“Our churches have done a lot of work already,” Leatherwood said. “Now is the time to redouble our efforts.”
Leatherwood affirmed the role of Southern Baptist ministers in advancing pro-life ministry.
“Our pastors, honestly, they laid the groundwork for this at a very fundamental level by communicating the reality of the ‘imago dei’ [the biblical teaching that God has created every human being in His image],” he said. “We wouldn’t be here without our pastors proudly proclaiming this truth.”
The pro-life cause reached this moment with the overthrow of Roe through a commitment to the pro-life principle, perseverance, patience and prayer, Leatherwood told Howe.
“We would not have come to this place without the prayers of thousands of pro-life Christians and pro-life activists who have pledged to continually uphold the sanctity of unborn life for these 50 years,” he said. -he declares.
Howe cited President Trump’s appointment of three justices – Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett – as “a major factor” in overthrowing Roe. All three were in a 5-4 majority in the Dobbs decision.
“Absolutely. We have to recognize that reality,” Leatherwood said of Trump’s nominations. He also pointed to the role of Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, “who argued that these overtures to the United States Supreme United [represent a] a unique opportunity to overthrow the court, to be a more conservative court, and these three justices played a pivotal role in overthrowing Roe.
Howe asked Leatherwood about three decisions made during the term that most religious liberty advocates consider victories:
- Kennedy vs. Bremerton (Wash.) School District, a 6-3 opinion in which the High Court ruled that a high school football coach’s post-game and midfield prayer did not violate the ban on the first amendment to establish a religion by the government.
- Carson v. Makinanother 6-3 decision in which the judges ruled that the state of Maine violated the First Amendment’s guarantee of the free exercise of religion by prohibiting faith-based schools from participating in a tuition assistance program.
- Ramirez v. Collieran 8-1 decision in which the court found that the State of Texas should grant a sentenced inmate’s request that his Southern Baptist pastor lay hands on him and pray aloud for him when he receives a lethal injection.
Leatherwood praised each of the decisions, saying of Kennedy’s opinion, “It reaffirms the fact that you can be a teacher or a student and be a Christian in the public square, and that’s a good thing. This is a very good decision, which I think Southern Baptists should be very pleased with.
The ERLC has signed amicus curiae briefs in support of the parties that have prevailed in all Church-State cases, as well as Dobbs. In the Dobbs case brief, the Southern Baptist Entity urged judges not just to uphold Mississippi law, but to overturn Roe.
Resources for the Dobbs decision, including a prayer guide, can be found at erlc.com/dobbs, Leatherwood said. Information about the Supreme Court’s tenure is available at erlc.com/scotus.