Month: March 2021

ERLC: Equality Act would erode fundamental freedoms

WASHINGTON—The Equality Act will explicitly contradict the “fundamental liberties” guaranteed in the Bill of Rights if it becomes law, the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission told a U.S. Senate committee on March 17.

In written testimony for the Senate Judiciary Committee, the ERLC said the far-reaching gay and transgender rights proposal “would needlessly penalize and discriminate against millions of Americans who possess no animus toward those this bill purports to aid. As law, the Equality Act would undermine pluralism, legalize coercion, imperil religious liberty, eliminate conscience protections, and erode the very freedoms enshrined in the First Amendment.”

The ERLC submitted its analysis on the same day the Judiciary Committee held a hearing on the Equality Act (H.R. 5), which would add “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” to the classifications protected in federal civil rights law. “Sexual orientation” includes homosexuality, bisexuality and pansexuality, while “gender identity” refers to the self-perception of a person regardless of his or her gender at birth.

The Democratic-controlled House approved the bill in a 224-206 vote in late February, and President Biden has endorsed the legislation. The measure faces a difficult path to approval in the Senate, where supporters will need 60 votes to overcome an expected filibuster.

After the House vote, ERLC President Russell Moore described the Equality Act as “poorly named because, among other negative effects, it would punish faith-based charities for their core religious beliefs. Every human being ought to be treated with dignity, but government policy must continue to respect differences of belief.”

In its testimony, the ERLC offered three major reasons for its opposition to the proposal. It said the Equality Act:

“[W]ould bring sweeping and historic changes to religious liberty with devastating effects to this foundational freedom.

“[W]ould be the most pro-abortion bill ever passed by Congress.

“[[U]ndermines decades of hard fought civil rights protections for women and girls.”

The proposal fails to protect the freedom of religion and conscience of faith-based adoption and foster-care agencies, as well as religious hospitals and health-care workers, according to the ERLC’s testimony.

It “would force faith-based child welfare organizations to either abandon their deeply held religious beliefs [on such issues as marriage and family] or be shut down,” the ERLC said. Regarding health care, faith-based providers typically serve people of all backgrounds, including those who identify as gay or transgender, according to the testimony. But those with moral or religious convictions “cannot perform every procedure a patient requests,” such as gender reassignment surgery, and would “risk losing their jobs” if they refused to do so, the ERLC said.

The Equality Act “would explicitly curtail” the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, the ERLC said. The 1993 law, which was passed nearly unanimously by Congress, requires the government to have a compelling interest and use the narrowest possible means in burdening a person’s religious exercise.

The bill would violate the conscience rights of health-care workers who oppose participation in abortions by redefining “sex” to consist of “pregnancy, childbirth, or a related medical condition,” according to the ERLC’s testimony. It also would threaten the Hyde Amendment, a 45-year-old ban on federal funding of abortion, the ERLC said. “There is nothing equalizing about forcing Americans to fund abortions through taxpayer dollars.”

Moore joined more than 60 other pro-life leaders in a separate letter sent Wednesday to Judiciary Committee leadership in opposition to the legislation, which they described as potentially “the biggest setback to the pro-life movement since Roe v. Wade,” the 1973 Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion throughout the country.

The ERLC also said the measure “disregards the privacy and safety concerns” of women by removing legal protections for single-sex spaces such as locker rooms and shelters. In addition, the proposal would threaten the advances of females in athletics and academics under Title IX by permitting biological males to compete against them, according to the ERLC.

The bill would dissolve “clear boundaries around” government authority, “bringing the full weight of government against religious institutions and individual Americans simply for holding fast to their fundamental beliefs about anthropology and personhood,” the ERLC said.

In its testimony, the ERLC cited a resolution approved by messengers to the 2018 SBC Annual Meeting that reaffirmed “the sacredness and full dignity and worthiness of respect and Christian love for every single human being, without any reservation.”

The hearing by the Democratic-controlled Judiciary Committee—titled “The Equality Act: LGBTQ Rights are Human Rights”—consisted of verbal testimony by the bill’s supporters and opponents from Congress and outside organizations.

Advocates for the Equality Act say it is needed to protect throughout the country the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning (LGBTQ) people in such categories as employment, housing and public accommodations—which include establishments that provide goods, services or programs, as well as, according to the bill, health-care providers.

Opponents, which include some feminists, say they oppose unjust discrimination but contend the Equality Act would have ill effects such as those outlined by the ERLC.

In June 2020, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a watershed decision regarding federal employment law by ruling in a 6-3 opinion the category “sex” in Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act applies to LGBTQ employees.

SBTC DR responds to record freeze: feeds Fruitvale ISD students

FRUITVALE  As temperatures finally rose following February’s record freeze, many Texans struggled with flooded homes and businesses from burst plumbing.

Such a dilemma faced rural Fruitvale ISD in Van Zandt County. The district’s single two-story facility houses pre-kindergarten, elementary, middle and high school campuses. With the February thaw, burst pipes flooded the lower levels, rendering cafeteria and dining areas unusable. 

A call from the Texas Department of Emergency Management to Scottie Stice, SBTC DR director, sent two QRU mobile kitchens to prepare meals for some 400 students, faculty and staff at the district on March 4-5.

DR volunteers Fredye Quain of Athens, Freddie Dikes of Abilene, and Ronnie and Connie Roark from San Antonio, assisted by Fruitvale cafeteria staff, prepared 1,547 meals over two days, serving 375-400 at breakfast and lunch.

Kids and staff enjoyed breakfast biscuits and sausage. The district provided milk, juice, water and strudel. Lunch varied from chicken fajitas, flour tortillas and green beans to sausage wraps and pinto beans … and chips and cookies.

“The kids were so excited about having Pringles and Oreos,” Connie Roark told the TEXAN, adding that all COVID protocols were observed. DR volunteers and cafeteria staff wore masks and gloves; staff carried food to serving areas.

“It was fun to see a small town school,” Ronnie Roark said.

Fruitvale cafeteria staff working alongside the DR volunteers commented on how “calm it was in the food trailer,” Connie added. “We told them we prayed every morning over our unit, that we rely on God. They were Christian ladies. It was a good opening.”

One part-time Fruitvale worker told the crews he was a retired missionary, although “missionaries never really retire.” He remarked that he saw his job at the district as an opportunity to serve others. 

A Salvation Army large mobile kitchen set up at Fruitvale and will serve the district in coming weeks, Stice said. “We stood in the gap between the initial need and when the Salvation Army could come online,” he added. 

The QRU is designed for such short-term flexible responses.

“We were pleased to be able to serve the community of Fruitvale this way,” Stice said. 

SBTC DR training is also ongoing, both online and in-person classes. Visit for details.

“Jesus is alive!”: Discovery Plus “Resurrection” tells the hope-filled story of Easter

Editor’s note: Here are a few upcoming productions that might be of interest to your family.

Sometimes, you watch an Easter television special and wish it had never been made.

Other times, though, you watch an Easter television special and are so moved by it that you encourage others to watch it, too.

The latter is the case with Discovery Plus’ upcoming special Resurrection, a feature-length motion picture that debuts on the streaming platform March 27, telling the story of Christ’s latter days on Earth, through his resurrection and ascension. The film captures the emotions of his disciples following his death and then after his resurrection, as they’re hunted and persecuted.  

It was produced by Roma Downey and Mark Burnett, the team that also made The Bible, Son of God and A.D.: The Bible Continues. 

An embargo keeps me from saying too much, but if you enjoyed those earlier projects by Downey and Burnett, then you’ll likely enjoy this one, too. Resurrection is a film that Christians who affirm the Bible as God’s Word can embrace.

“Jesus has risen!” John says in the film.

It was made using footage from the “vast library” of biblical material from Downey and Burnett, a press release said. (In other words, it wasn’t filmed during the pandemic.) 

“Faithful audiences crave content that speaks to their faith and values, and we can think of no better home for this film than Discovery Plus,” Downey and Burnett said in a statement. “… We look forward to sharing Resurrection’s ultimate story of hope with the Discovery Plus viewers and are grateful to be able to share this epic story with families just in time for the Easter season.”

David Zaslav, president and CEO of Discovery, Inc., said the film “is emblematic of our ambition” to “provide a subscription service for everyone, including premium storytelling for the entire family.”  

“We are thrilled to partner with Mark and Roma on this powerful film,” Zaslav said.

Discovery Plus remains one of the best streaming options for families with its vast catalog of home improvement, nature-themed and educational programming. Resurrection only adds to the list of reasons to give it a try. 

Also worth watching this spring:  

Flora & Ulysses (Disney Plus) — A 10-year-old cynical girl takes in an injured squirrel, only to learn it has superhero-like powers (it can write — using a typewriter — and fly, too). She names it “Ulysses,” and it helps her re-discover the wonders of the world. More importantly, it helps her mom and dad reunite. This box office movie is based on a book and is one of the best family films thus far of 2021. Rated PG for some mild action and thematic elements.  

The Muppet Show (Disney Plus) — At long last, the original series starring Kermit the Frog and Miss Piggy lands on Disney Plus. Created by Jim Henson, The Muppet Show ran from 1976 to 1981 and followed the Muppets cast — backstage and on stage — as they took part in hilarious skits for a variety show. They also welcomed such guests as Steve Martin, Diana Ross and Mark Hamill. TV-PG.

The Snoopy Show (Apple TV) — America’s favorite beagle gets his own show in this hilarious new series that stays true to the original Peanuts classics. In the first episode, we learn the backstory of how Charlie Brown met Snoopy and how Snoopy befriended Woodstock. Apple TV is home to multiple Charlie Brown titles, including classic holiday specials and a few movies. TV-G.   

Bobbi Jo: Under the Influence (VOD) — It’s the powerful story of Bobbi Jo Reed, a former drug addict and alcoholic who has rescued thousands of individuals from following her path. She does by that sharing her own personal story of how Christ saved her life and her soul. Due to mature themes of abuse — Reed was raped — this documentary is best for older children and teens. She’s been sober more than two decades. Visit

Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and entertainment for more than 15 years. He is the husband to Julie and the father of four young children.  

Jacksonville College announces presidential search

JACKSONVILLE, Texas—Trustees of Jacksonville College, a faith-based liberal arts institution, have announced a search for the institution’s next president following Mike Smith’s announcement on Feb. 26 of his intention to retire at the end of 2021.

Smith has served as the college’s president since 2011.

Applicants wishing to be considered to lead the faith-based liberal arts junior college located in East Texas must possess an earned doctorate, preferably in education or a related discipline. Pastoral ministry-related experience is a plus. Candidates should be conservative, growing Christians with experience in institutional development, fundraising and administration. Pastoral or ministry-related experience is also preferred.

Applicants are invited to submit the following: a cover letter, a personal resume including family information, work history, personal testimony of faith, and contact information for three references. Resumes should be emailed to Donnie Page at by April 10 for full consideration. 

Jacksonville College was founded in 1899, and is related with the Baptist Missionary Association of Texas and the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention. The college is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC) to award associate degrees, junior college diplomas and continuing education units.