While the Southern Baptist Convention’s political arm, the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, is mired in scandal resulting from ERLC head Richard Land’s repeated plagiarism and inflammatory remarks on race, it has found time to criticize the Violence Against Women Act. Doug Carlson, manager for administration and policy communications for the ERLC, voiced the group’s opposition to the highly successful law because of new provisions that ensure that LGBT victims of domestic violence do not encounter discrimination while seeking help.
Carlson quoted a letter Richard Land signed along with Mathew Staver of Liberty Counsel, Jim Garlow of Renewing American Leadership Action, Tom McClusky of Family Research Council Action, C. Preston Noell of Tradition, Family, Property Inc., Phyllis Schlafly of Eagle Forum and Penny Nance and Janice Shaw Crouse of Concerned Women for America.
Notably, the letter was also signed by conservative activist Timothy Johnson, who was convicted of a felony domestic violence charge and was arrested a second time for putting his wife in a wrist lock and choking his son, as reported by Sarah Posner.
Under the reauthorization, VAWA, as the bill is known, would spend vast sums of taxpayer money—more than $400 million each year—on programs that lack sufficient oversight and fail to address the core issue of protecting vulnerable women from abuse. Many of the programs duplicate efforts already underway. Among other problems, it would expand special protections to include same-sex couples. Men who are victimized by their male sexual partners would receive the benefit of the law above heterosexuals. And with broadened definitions of who qualifies for services, those who are most in need of the bill’s protections would have diminished access to it.
Pro-family groups, too, have been leveling attacks on the bill for months for its anti-family policies. Many of them expressed those concerns to the Judiciary Committee in February in hopes of derailing the bill. “We, the undersigned, representing millions of Americans nationwide, are writing to oppose the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA),” Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission President Richard Land, along with nearly two dozen other religious and conservative leaders, wrote in a Feb. 1 letter to members of the Senate Judiciary Committee. “This nice-sounding bill is deceitful because it destroys the family by obscuring real violence in order to promote the feminist agenda.”
“There is no denying the very real problem of violence against women and children. However, the programs promoted in VAWA are harmful for families. VAWA often encourages the demise of the family as a means to eliminate violence,” they added.
Regrettably, a slim majority of committee members rejected that counsel, ultimately approving the bill in February on a narrow 10-8 vote. Now the battle lies in the full Senate, where those opposed to the new VAWA are facing significant pressure to support it. Allies of the bill are tagging its opponents as waging a “war on women.”
But no matter how noble its title suggests, the Violence Against Women Act is the wrong answer to addressing ongoing domestic abuse. With a shortage of evidence to date of VAWA’s success in reducing levels of violence against women, the war to decrease such violence and to ultimately strengthen the family shouldn’t include reauthorizing a flawed policy that promises an expansion of the same.