Protecting life, marriage top Southern Baptists’ 2014 legislative agenda
NASHVILLE, TN, February 5, 2014 (LifeSiteNews.com) – The nation's largest Protestant denomination, the Southern Baptist Convention, has announced its top legislative priorities this year – and the vast majority are dedicated to protecting unborn life and preserving the definition of marriage.
On Monday the public policy and analysis committee of the church, its Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, released a list of the pending bills it would like to see pass Congress this year.
“Of all the areas of interest to the ERLC, the sanctity of human life is our chief concern,” its 2014 Legislative Agenda states.
On the issue of abortion, the ERLC supports the following bills:
- Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act (S. 1670/H.R.1797) establishes a national ban on abortion after 20 weeks on the grounds that unborn children can feel pain. Trent Franks' bill passed the House last summer and has been introduced in the Senate. However, no further action is pending in the Democrat-controlled chamber at this time.
- No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act (S. 946/H.R. 7) was combined with the The Abortion Insurance Full Disclosure Act of 2013 (S. 1848/H.R. 3279) and passed the House last Tuesday. The combined bill would apply the Hyde Amendment to all federal abortion funds, preventing federal funding of abortion except in cases of rape and incest, as well as requiring health insurance companies to clearly inform customers whether a plan covers abortion. No action is anticipated in the Senate.
- The Abortion Non-Discrimination Act (S. 137), introduced by Louisiana Senator David Vitter, forbids any government entity that received federal funds from discriminating against physicians or other health care organizations who refuse to participate in abortions and allows those who feel wronged to sue. Neither chamber has voted on the measure.
- Child Interstate Abortion Notification Act (S. 369/H.R. 732) makes it illegal to transport a girl across state lines in order to avoid parental notification laws and requires abortionists in states without such laws to inform the parents of girls who come from states that do have notification laws. No vote has yet been held in either chamber.
- Prenatal Nondiscrimination Act (PRENDA) (S. 138/H.R. 447), Trent Franks' bill to forbid abortions based on the race or sex of the child. Ironically, pro-abortion forces said the bill preventing such abortions was racist. No action has been taken in either chamber.
- The Health Care Conscience Rights Act (S. 1204/H.R. 940) exempts those with a deeply-held religious objection from the HHS mandate to provide contraception, sterilization, and abortion-inducing drugs to female employees with no co-pay; provides such organizations with stronger conscience protections; and allows those who believe they have faced discrimination over their beliefs to file suit. Neither chamber has voted on the bill.
- The Children in Families First Act of 2013 (S. 1530/H.R. 3323) simplifies the process for families seeking to adopt children from overseas.
The ERLC similarly supports several bills dedicated to preserving the institution of marriage:
- The State Marriage Defense Act of 2014 (H.R. 3829) would require the federal government to respect each state's definition of marriage by saying the government must look at state law before dispensing federal benefits intended to married couples. This has become a tense issue as the Obama administration has stated it will recognize same-sex “marriages” performed in Utah, which the state does not recognize as legal and which no judge has yet declared bona fide legal “marriages.” Neither chamber has voted on the bill.
- The Marriage and Religious Freedom Act (S. 1808/H.R. 3133), which was introduced in December, would prevent the federal government from discriminating against any individual or entity for holding a religious belief that marriage is exclusively the union of one man and one woman. Such groups could not lose their tax-exempt status or be denied federal grants under the bill. Neither Raul Labrador's House version nor Mike Lee's Senate version have received any action.
ERLC's other stated priorities this year include improving conditions in foreign prisons and granting amnesty to millions of illegal immigrants in the United States.
ERLC President Russell D. Moore admits “the ongoing political rancor” during this year's high-stakes midterm election will make it “hard to find a path forward for many of the bills we want to see become law.”
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However, Moore said faithful Christians are called to perform their role in a democratic form of government. “Government is part of God’s design for ordering human relationships,” he said, “so we must work to help it fulfill its creational purpose.”
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