The Southern Baptist Convention (SBC)’s Religious Liberty and Ethics Group (or ERLC) is usually a champion of fairly conservative causes. Recent blog posts on their website include an article expressing disappointment with the inclusion of gay boys in the boy scouts because it will “sexualize” scouting sits alongside a post discussing the “carnage” of abortion culture. And the ERLC’s positions aren’t just mainline conservative, but in line with the sort of moralistic right-wing stuff that was in the mainstream during the years of George II: they oppose embryonic stem cell research, oppose the right to die, and gleefully embrace intelligent design.
So many might be surprised to see the ERLC putting $250,000 into a pro-immigration reform advertising campaign. But they are doing exactly that. Their campaign will feature radio ads and billboard ads designed to promote a bipartisan solution to immigration. Russel Moore, the head of the ERLC, commented on the campaign.
Our involvement signals the fact that we don’t see this as a blue state, red state, culture war question. When you have people of courage and goodwill, such as Sen. Marco Rubio, who is heroically working to craft legislation that is fair and just, I think it’s very difficult to pigeonhole this into the easy left-right categories we’re accustomed to.
But let’s not celebrate evangelicals turning around on immigration reform just yet. With annual expenditures of three and a quarter million dollars, the ERLC is really only putting a tenth of their money into immigration reform. And really, this amount of money pales in comparison to what a group like NumbersUSA, an anti-immigrant organization, spends in a year (last year, it was over half a million dollars). The sort of nativism expressed by NumbersUSA is unfortunately still the norm on the right, and NumbersUSA often uses religion as a reason to oppose immigration.
I’m pleased to see the ERLC turn so decisively in favor of immigration reform. But this money feels more like a toe in the water to test the viability of embracing immigration reform, rather than a decisive push for change. While it’s a positive step, I’m not about to declare the death of nativist Christianity in America. Sadly, the ERLC’s position is still more marginal than we might like to think.