As the state and national legislative branches of government move forward into their 2016 sessions, evangelical public policy organizations are preparing to represent and inform Christians about the issues that matter most.
The Christian Action League (CAL) has focused its attention on opposing the sexual orientation and gender identity ordinance recently passed in Charlotte, N.C. The law potentially allows sexual predators to visit the bathrooms or locker rooms of their choice, endangering women and children.
It would also place Christian business owners and others who oppose the practice in danger of legal consequences for not opening gendered bathrooms to self-identifying, transgender individuals.
The controversial non-discrimination policy is expected to meet swift resistance in the North Carolina General Assembly, said Gov. Pat McCrory in an email to The Charlotte Observer. CAL is currently asking lawmakers to call a special session to address the ordinance before it goes into effect April 1, according to executive director Mark Creech. The North Carolina Values Coalition is also focusing on the Charlotte ordinance, but that’s not all, said spokeswoman Kami Mueller.
“Our goal for every session is to ensure legislation is passed that protects the family unit, preserves the sanctity of life, and preserves the right that all North Carolinians have to live and work according to what they believe,” said Mueller. “We will also continue our extensive statewide pro-life canvassing efforts through November, in partnership with Susan B. Anthony List, in the hopes of electing a pro-life president of the United States.”
The Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) of the Southern Baptist Convention recently released its 2016 Legislative Agenda, outlining specific pieces of legislation and important issues to watch at the national level.
The ERLC is opposing the Equality Act (S. 1858/H.R. 3185), which is similar to the controversial Charlotte ordinance, but applies nationwide.
The Frank R. Wolf International Religious Freedom Act of 2015 (H.R. 1150) is a bill supported by the ERLC. It would create new government offices and committees to help ensure the priority of international religious freedom and, among other requirements, direct the Commission on International Religious Freedom to publish a periodic list of persons imprisoned, detained, disappeared, placed under house arrest, tortured or forced to convert religions.
A related bill would require the investigation and enforcement of sanctions against North Korea and anyone cooperating with the North Korea if credible information were discovered related to weapons violations, human rights abuses or censorship.
The ERLC is also lobbying the Broadcasting Board of Governors to fund Internet firewall circumvention technology that would allow people censored by authoritarian governments to access information and communicate with others without threat of punishment.
In line with their ongoing commitment to the sanctity of life, the ERLC will keep track of the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Select Investigative Panel on Infant Lives.
A series of undercover videos released by the Center for Medical Progress in mid-2015 revealed Planned Parenthood’s practice of collecting and selling aborted fetal parts.
As a result, the congressional committee was formed to gather information from abortion providers and procurement organizations about the controversial practice. The ERLC believes the committee findings will “create new legislative space” for future pro-life bills.
Predatory lending practices are also a concern for the Southern Baptist public policy organization. Payday loan providers often target poor communities and exact interest rates up to 400 percent. The ERLC partnered with other faith groups to form the Faith for Just Lending Coalition (lendjustly.com) to provide information and resources about unjust practices in the financial services industry.
Other statutes are described in the legislative agenda as well, such as Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act (S. 2066/H.R. 3504), the Child Interstate Abortion Notification Act (S. 404/H.R. 803), the Protecting Adoption Act and the Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act of 2015 (S. 2123).
Each of the evangelical public policy organizations also sponsor events throughout the year to equip evangelicals to promote and protect their values in the public square.