The Equality Act vs. Religious Freedom: Equality for Me, but not for Thee
In 2011, the Human Rights Campaign launched a video series that, according to HRC’s president, would “help drive the national conversation about same-sex marriage.” And it did just that. The series featured professional athletes, movie stars, politicians and civil rights leaders. And look where we are today.
Looking back, it’s clear that while opponents of same-sex marriage made much better arguments, the advocates changed the cultural imagination.
Well on Monday, the HRC announced a new video campaign called “Americans for the Equality Act.” This time, Christians need to be prepared to respond.
According to Andrew Walker of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, “the Equality Act represents the most invasive threat to religious liberty ever proposed in America.”
I agree—with the caveat that the Equality Act seemed virtually unpassable when it was first conceived all the way back in 1974. In fact, it seemed unpassable in 1984, 1994, 2004 and even 2014.
But today, what seemed unthinkable seems quite possible.
Despite the name, backers of the Equality Act aren’t seeking a balance of LGBTQ rights with religious rights. As Andrew told me recently on the BreakPoint Podcast, the Equality Act “is a winner-take-all solution. It takes the categories of gender identity and sexual orientation and elevates them to a protected class in the Civil Rights Act of 1964.”
That would mean in every area of public life—public accommodation, public education, and even Christian education—gender identity and sexual orientation would receive the highest level of federal protection.
Even worse, the Equality Act specifically targets the Religious Freedom Restoration Act—a bill passed with overwhelming bipartisan support and signed by President Clinton. So in cases involving claims of discrimination based on gender identity or sexual orientation, religious rights would be tossed aside. The Barronelle Stutzmans and Jack Phillips of the world—or any Christian trying to live out their convictions in public life—wouldn’t stand a chance.
That means that religious conviction about sexual behavior or gender realities would immediately, as Andrew said on the podcast, be put “on the opposite side of federal law . . . Our viewpoints on marriage and sexuality and how we define male and female,” would be considered irrational. And that we hold them not with good will, but with animus. “The Equality Act,” Andrew continued, “effectively turns Billy Graham into Jim Crow.”
The new Human Rights Campaign videos, which will feature actress Sally Field, figure skater Adam Rippon, Jamie Lee Curtis, and a host of other celebrities, are designed to “drive the conversation” for the Equality Act.
In fact, part of the campaign is to actively recruit “local sponsors” for the Equality Act.
To be as clear as I can, every single Christian needs to know how to talk about gender identity and sexual attraction in light of our larger rights to live out of our deepest convictions about God’s design for human sexuality and human flourishing.
The supporters of the Equality Act don’t want debate or discussion. The Equality Act is designed to effectively shut down debate about human sexuality, about gender, about same-sex attraction. That’s a national debate that we’ve actually never had. It will instead force an answer on Americans that self-determination in those areas is the same thing as race.
Also, I need to mention that some Christians are currently exploring legislative efforts to compromise with the Equality Act in order to gain protection for Christian institutions. But this would grant into law something that’s not true about our most fundamental identity as human beings—something that’s central for human flourishing. And such attempts might protect certain religious institutions, but would do so at the expenses of individual Christians in the public square. That’s not religious freedom.
Right now, the Equality Act has no chance of passing in this Congress. But elections matter: If just a few seats flip in the next election, we may very well get the Equality Act, unless we begin to act now.
Start by learning about the Equality Act. Come to BreakPoint.org, click on this commentary, and I’ll link you to an excellent article by Andrew Walker called “The Equality Act Accelerates Anti-Christian Bias.” Share it with your friends, with your clergy, with public officials. Link to it on Facebook. I’ll also link you to the podcast episode with Andrew Walker.
Christians were caught napping in 2011. The HRC and supporters of the Equality Act are counting on us to be asleep at our posts again. We can’t let that happen.
(Copyright 2019 by the Colson Center for Christian Worldview. Reprinted from BreakPoint.org with permission.)
(Editor's note: This article was authored by John Stonestreet and David Carlson. It was first posted on the BreakPoint website at this location)