It’s being described as “the most comprehensive assault on Christianity in America ever written into law,” “a dangerous threat to our nation,” “the Left’s woke new heresy code,” and “something no American should stand for.” What is it? The so-called “Equality Act” that was recently introduced to Congress. But it’s for anything but “equality”—it’s for destroying freedom of religion and freedom of conscience in this nation, as guaranteed by the First Amendment.
Many Christian leaders and organizations are expressing their concern about this far-reaching bill. Why? Well, because, as the American Family Association said, “The bill has nothing to do with equality, but everything to do with punishing Christians’ religious liberty.”
Here’s how Franklin Graham describes the possible effects of this legislation in an email. (By the way, the proposed legislation is written in “legalese” to obscure the catastrophic changes this legislation represents for American freedoms.):
The Equality Act will:
- Designate schools, churches, and healthcare organizations as “public accommodations.” With this, schools, churches, and hospitals could be forced to accept the government’s beliefs and mandates about sexual orientation and gender identity. That would be highly intrusive and incredibly far-reaching. It will threaten everyday speech where people can be fined or lose their jobs for using the wrong name or pronouns.
- Legislate that we allow boys in girls’ sports, boys in girls’ locker rooms, men in women’s shelters, and men in women’s prisons. It will force teachers and students to publicly pretend that a biological male is a female. Schools will be encouraged or mandated to instruct first, second, and third graders that they can choose to be a boy or a girl, or neither, or both, making biological sex (and science) a relic of the past.
- Use the force of law across all 50 states to strip Christian and other religious ministries of their right to hire people of shared faith to pursue a shared mission. Can you imagine a Christian organization being forced to hire people hostile to its deeply held beliefs who have no passion for its beliefs, teachings, and mission? That doesn’t work.
- Strip health professionals of their rights of conscience. It will force doctors and medical professionals who long to do no harm to engage in gender transition treatments such as hormone-blocking, cross-sex hormones or surgery. It is obvious that a Catholic or faith-based hospital should not have to perform gender transition surgeries that go entirely against all they believe.
- Be a tool used by the government to deny or threaten accreditation to religious colleges and universities if they do not satisfy the demands of the secular Left to apply sexual orientation and gender identity to dorms, sports, places of privacy and even teachings. The Act could be used as a weapon to threaten the availability of federal student loans and grants to students at certain disfavored religious schools [emphasis added].
Franklin Graham ends this summary by saying, “the impact of this legislation is immense.”
The religious liberties group Alliance Defending Freedom said the followingabout the impact of this legislation and included examples showing how some of this is already happening—it will just get much worse if this Equality Act passes:
- The “Equality Act” could forbid churches and religious nonprofits from requiring their employees to live out their religious beliefs about marriage, sexual morality, and the distinction between the sexes. They could be required to open their sex-specific facilities to members of the opposite sex. ADF successfully represented one Massachusetts church after the government threatened to force it to open its women’s shelter for victims of domestic violence to males.
- The “Equality Act” would threaten religious foster care and adoption agencies with closure if they operate according to their deeply held belief that the best place for a child is a home with a married mother and father. In New York, for example, the state is using a sexual orientation, gender identity regulation—similar to the “Equality Act”—to shutter the adoption services of New Hope Family Services, which has been placing children in loving homes for over 50 years. ADF is representing New Hope in court.
- It would threaten creative professionals and other business owners who simply want to live and work according to their beliefs. ADF successfully represented promotional printer Blaine Adamsonafter he respectfully declined an organization’s request to print shirts with a message promoting an LGBT pride festival because the message violated his religious beliefs. But Blaine offered to connect the organization to another printer who would create the requested shirts. Even so, the organization filed a discrimination complaint against Blaine, and a local human rights commission ordered him to undergo diversity training.
- The “Equality Act” would also force individuals to speak messages that violate their beliefs under the threat of punishment. ADF is representing Dr. Nicholas Meriwether, who was disciplined by Shawnee State University for declining to refer to a male student as a woman. He offered to refer to the student by first or last name only, in order to respect both the student and his own beliefs, but this did not satisfy the university, which still punished him.
In the past, similar proposals have claimed to respect the concerns of the religious community, offering a few narrow protections for religious freedom. But the “Equality Act” offers no protections for religious freedom. In addition, the bill would forbid religious individuals and organizations even to invoke the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. That would make it harder for the faithful to defend themselves against a bill designed to punish them for living out their beliefs.
Does that sound like equal treatment to you?
Essentially, the “Equality Act” gives people of faith an ultimatum: Change your faith-based practices or face government punishment.
The Bottom Line
Laws must respect freedom and promote justice for every citizen, no matter who they are. But that is not what the “Equality Act” does. Instead, it threatens Americans’ fundamental liberties. And that is something no American should stand for.
The Family Research Council sums it up this way: “It’s hard to imagine just how damaging this bill would be. Essentially, it takes every issue the Left feels is a sacred cow and wraps it into one bill—a legislative right to abortion on demand, special privileges for sexual orientation and gender identity, and the abolition of religious freedom . . . It sticks the government’s long talons into practically every area of life.”
So What Should We Do?
As part of being salt and light in this world, Christians must do what we can (our human responsibility) to stop this evil legislation from passing. Not only will it hurt religious freedom, but it will make it easier than ever for people to live out the wickedness of their hearts, which leads to more hurt and brokenness in our world. Here’s what Graham suggests that Christians do immediately (and remember, President Biden promised to pass this bill within his first 100 days in office, so this matter is urgent):
The House has already passed this legislation one time previously, so it will likely pass in the House again. But then it has to come to the Senate, and we need you to contact your US Senators to vote NO.
People of faith need to PRAY. Churches need to recognize the significance of this and pray corporately, asking for God’s intervention and mercy to extend the religious freedoms we have been blessed with for so long.
In these fleeting hours before the Equality Act comes up for vote again, we must act now! Please contact your congressmember and U.S. senators and ask them to vote NO. I also encourage you to let the White House know about your strong opposition to this bill.
I too encourage people to contact their representatives urgently and firmly, but kindly, to express strong opposition to this bill.
I also urge you to pray for this nation. Get your Christian friends and your churchtogether to pray for God’s mercy on this country. Pray for those who lead our nation: that they would do the right thing and vote against this legislation. And as we pray “thy will be done,” also pray that God would give his people boldness and courage like Daniel in the Old Testament to do what God commands—no matter what happens—in regard to this bill.
It’s important that we remember to obey God, not man, and that God is sovereign over everything. So while we will do what we can to stop this terrible legislation and pray that God will preserve religious freedom, we know that, if it passes, we will continue to do what God has called us to do: speak the truth in love, contend for the faith, be salt and light, share the gospel, and defend the faith.
Those who want this bill to pass will surely accuse Christians (as they do constantly) of “hate” against LGBT individuals and others. But we don’t hate anyone—we love them, obeying God’s command to love our neighbor as ourselves. Sadly in our culture today, disagreeing with someone and having vast worldview differences because of different starting points (man’s word vs. God’s Word) are misconstrued as “hate.” But no matter what names we are called, Christians must continue to stand for and speak the truth in love, sharing with the world the only message that truly saves—the gospel of Jesus Christ.