Part of the mission of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC), the public-policy arm of the Southern Baptist Convention, led by Richard D. Land, is to expand, generally, the freedom of religious groups to influence law and policy. This past Sunday, Land was among more than 400 religious leaders to participate in the Alliance Defense Fund’s Pulpit Freedom Sunday, wherein pastors videotaped themselves preaching to their congregations about scripture, politics and political candidates to challenge the Internal Revenue Services’s rule that prohibits churches with 501(c)3 status from endorsing political candidates, reported The Christian Post. The plan was for pastors to mail those tapes to the IRS and then the Alliance Defense Fund will defend churches if their tax-exempt status is threatened in court.
The Christian Post quotes Land (who is CP’s executive editor), saying: “We believe the IRS regulation is a dumb one; it ought to be done away with. It violates the First Amendment.”
The paper does note that Land said he does not believe that pastors should actually endorse politicians from the pulpit.
“We (Southern Baptists) don’t believe that pastors and churches should be endorsing candidates,” Land said. “We believe that candidates should be endorsing them and their values and beliefs.”
Though they will not participate this year, Land and ERLC are working in conjunction with the Values Voter Summit (VVS) to spread their mission. VVS is scheduled to begin this Friday in Washington, D.C., wherein social activists and special-interest groups will gather to influence 2012 presidential contenders and American voters on which policies to endorse in the coming election.
A major component of the VVS site is a section on churches, specifically explaining how churches can partner with the VVS, which is being sponsored by the Family Research Council and other social conservative policy groups.
In this section, church leaders are asked to “challenge two couples from your congregation to attend the Values Summit as your Culture Impact Team.” A link is provided for the FRC-owned site CultureImpact.org. Within that site is a section on “Values Voters” and a link to another site iVoteValues.org, which is registered to ERLC and currently features a video narrated by FRC president Tony Perkins, who discuses Thomas Jefferson and anti-abortion rights. Standing in front of the Jefferson Memorial, Perkins tells viewers that when voting in the upcoming election to ask the question, “Does this candidate share my values when it comes to the sanctity of human life?”
iVoteValues is described as “the collaborative effort of Family Research Council and Focus on the Family, and was originally developed by For Faith & Family, a ministry of The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention. All three are 501c3, not profit organizations committed to promoting faith, family, and freedom in American life.”
The site offers resources and advice as to how church leaders can and should address political issues in their congregations and in their sermons. The site is designed “to equip leaders to encourage your people follow Jesus’ teaching about engaging the culture (Matt. 5:13-16) and participating in government (Matt. 22:21).”
Specifically, voters are encouraged to consider issues pertaining to abortion, same-sex marriage and religion when voting in next year’s national election.
Aside from anti-marriage-equality and anti-tobacco policies, at the center of ERLC’s policy agenda are issues related to abortion and contraception. Most recently, Land has called on the Obama administration to rescind a new controversial rule to require health insurance companies to cover contraceptive services approved by the Food and Drug Administration, suggesting, as many anti-abortion-rights groups have, that some emergency contraceptive drugs are equivalent to abortion. According to the Baptist Press, ERLC has also asked the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to expand current religious exemptions.
Recently, Land called being gay “one sin … that I find totally incomprehensible” and referred to same-sex marriage as the precursor to “full-blown paganization.”
Listen to Land’s anti-LGBT statements: