homosexual behavior

The Importance of Distinguishing between People and Their Behavior

on April 5, 2019

The sexual revolution surely has been the greatest threat to religious freedom America has ever known, and its power has been the confusion of people with their behaviors. A moment’s thought should tell anyone that people cannot be free from adverse judgment (discrimination) based on personal inclinations and behavior, yet that is exactly what is accomplished by sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) laws. The antidiscrimination criterion that these laws use is personal inclination and behavior, and this cannot possibly be derived from general principles of liberty and equality. Any behavior could be taken as the basis for personal identity. Personal behavior as such must be subject to both public and private judgment. Because these American ideals of liberty and equality have been celebrated as providing a good and satisfying life, restraints on what one wants are seen as a violation of them.

As noted in earlier articles by this writer, Supreme Court decisions in the second half of the twentieth century essentially declared sexual issues to be above public judgment. This was based not on the text of the Constitution, but on the extremely personal and private nature of sex, and the Constitution’s commitment to freedom. One might as well argue that because sex is such an important part of being human, it ought to be subject to public judgment. But there being no effective way to overcome judicial legislation, sexual autonomy became part of the idea of freedom for liberal Americans, but not conservative Americans. The next step has been to require acceptance of sexual autonomy by everyone via SOGI laws. More lately it has been urged that private judgment against abortion could be prohibited by defining it as discrimination against women. (There is no mention that this implies that women are determined by their biology). But essentially all of this legislation makes sexual autonomy an antidiscrimination category, and opposition to it “discrimination.”

From the standpoint of millions of religious Americans, this makes opposition to sin into discrimination. It might be thought that the clear priority the Constitution gives religious freedom as the first of rights would make this impossible. But since the Supreme Court maintained in overturning bans on contraception that sexual rights are “older than the Bill of Rights,” it is not surprising that sexual liberation seems to have a priority greater than religious freedom.

Yet there is no definite category of persons protected by the behavior based SOGI categories. Anyone can claim to be homosexual. Instead, the state has actually protected anyone’s homosexual behavior and inclination from public and private discrimination. We see the irrationality of protecting sexual behavior and inclination even more clearly with transgenderism, in which people define their sex independently of their bodies, and can require others to treat their delusions as true.

The confusion inherent in the SOGI categories is perhaps bound up with the confusion about what it means to be a person. Human beings historically were thought to have a fixed nature. In modern philosophy, the immutability of human nature has been questioned. Personhood was identified as the ability to plan and act, as evidenced by performance. More recently, this has been criticized as allowing even machines that seem to imitate human functioning to be considered persons. Contrary views of defining a person holds that he or she must place value on things, or belong to a class that has human abilities, whether that individual has them all or not. All individual human organisms, whatever their current capacities, then are fully persons. Claims about what a particular human group deserves by its special nature or circumstances are not claims to rights. But if the focus in assessing personhood is kept on mental life rather than membership the class of humans, it is easier to see why persons are understood to be what they say they are.

Perhaps a better understanding of the modern fluidity of personhood can be gained if we consider the anthropology of one of the great enlightenment philosophers, David Hume. According to Hume, a person is essentially a bundle of sensations. One can then easily see how attack on personal behavior and inclination is an attack on the person. But this simply is not workable.

Personal behavior cannot possibly be treated as equal. It must be judged, and in some cases, penalized by the state. The reflexive reaction of social liberals, that consensual sex is harmless, is at the very least arguable, in view of the decline of marriage and the family, sexually transmitted diseases, and the common conscience of humanity that sexual union outside of marriage is defiling. With the rise of transgenderism, there is the damage of sex change treatments (since one’s own reproductive organs cannot be replaced), and the threat to the conscience of professionals who do not want to damage healthy bodies. Indeed, the behavior based antidiscrimination doctrine that results from confusing people with their inclination and behavior violates the original understanding of the civil rights movement. And that was that people should be judged by their character and not the color of their skin. In fact, it represents the imposition of the sensibility of one part of society on another part.

One of the most destructive aspects of confusing people with their behavior and inclinations is the enshrining of what this writer has called “the sovereignty of the present.” Past responsibilities and future prospects (including loss of fertility or permanent damage to one’s body) are irrelevant. The rights – including the religious rights of others – to what are their ultimate commitments in life are set aside to satisfy immediate feelings and inclinations. But this is what one might expect from an anthropology holding that the true person is a bundle of sensations “in a perpetual flux.”

The confusion of people with their behavior and inclinations has entered the law via SOGI laws, and the interpretation given them by the courts (with rare exceptions, such as Masterpiece Cakeshop and the earlier Bakersfield, California case) that there may be no discrimination against the behavior of the protected identity. Logic doesn’t require this, and courts could distinguish between people in a behavior based category and the behavior itself, as was in fact originally promised, but this assurance was false. But Christians and anyone else who cares about the truth must never concede that the confusion of persons and behavior is proper, either in our actions (i.e., in facilitating sinful behavior) or in our speech. For Christians, at least, we regard this as our duty, as we know by the words of Jesus we may not be complicit in sin (Matt. 18:7).

Any claim that declining complicity in homosexual behavior is “discrimination against gay people” must be immediately corrected. It is conscientious objection against homosexual behavior. Any claim that a religious organization that bans homosexual behavior is “banning gay people” must be denied. It is prohibiting homosexual behavior, as its status as a religious organization requires it to do. Any claim that single sex restrooms deny “transgender persons” their rights must be immediately corrected. Sex should be determined by physical reality, not wishes or inclinations. And most basically, we must repeat over and over again, that those now called “LGBT people” do not need legal protection. They have the same legal protection everyone else does. Personal behavior must be subject to discrimination. The fact that homosexual and transgender behavior has historically been condemned and is still widely believed immoral is not a reason it should be privileged. However much anyone is pained, it must be is open to question and criticism. It should not be privileged from adverse judgment.

  1. Comment by colin scanes on April 5, 2019 at 11:11 am

    “The fact that homosexual and transgender behavior has historically been condemned…..” The fact is that Rick Plasterer is sanctimonious, judgmental and certainly not Christian. Historically, witches were condemned and burn by supposedly “good” Christians. Historically slavery was embraced by the same. Historically, Jews (and very recently) were killed by “good” Christians. Historically, we had little idea of medicine and science. Obviously to Rick Plasterer, science does not exist. Science has shown that human reproduction is not simply male and female (unlike the Stone age myth of Genesis) with XY and XX chromosomes. No- there are individuals with XO or XYY chromosomes, people who are mozaics of XX and XY, XY people who by external appear as females, and brain differences between gay and straight people. TURN FROM YOUR STONE AGE VIEWPOINT. You are your ilk are drive truly good people from Christ.

  2. Comment by td on April 5, 2019 at 4:26 pm

    I understand what you are saying, but Christian teaching generally says that our identity is human and that all humans have desires- some of which are holy and some of which are not.

    I am medically trained and so I understand what you wrote about chromosomes, so I do think that chromosomal gender is distinct from sexual desires. That being said, it is simply not enough to say “science has determined that sexual desire is predetermined” and therefore is holy and can not be classified as sinful. Just as science can not classify our “race”, science did not determine that each person was either homosexual or heterosexual. To be honest, current brain experiments could probably determine that tendencies toward suicide, addictions, theft, murder, lying, and every other sin is predetermined. Does that mean that all actions inspired by those tendencies are now classified as holy and godly?

    Are we to cast out everything in our Christian tradition that is contradicted by current scientific experimentation?

    What if science is wrong? Current science tells us that the resurrection is impossible. But we have eye witnesses in our tradition that say that the resurrection occurred. Our Lord, the Christ, told us that marriage exists only between a man and woman, and he reaffirmed that sexual relations outside of marriage is wrong. This was a teaching firmly upheld by the early church who lived in a pagan world full of societal-condoned sexual actions outside of marriage. This issue is not new; it existed at the time when God walked the earth with us.

    I understand that there is little possibility of agreement between us on these matters. I hope that we can respect each other enough to live side by side without making war. But it will indeed be hard to continue together in one Church.

  3. Comment by Rick Plasterer on April 5, 2019 at 5:31 pm

    Mr. Scanes,

    No one is truly good, and if they were, they would not need to come to Christ. To be Christian is to be a follower of Christ. Christ receives those who turn from sin (II Cor. 6:17-18). Those who turn from Christ instead will receive God’s wrath (Jn. 3:36), and condemnation on the day of judgment (Rev. 21:8).


  4. Comment by Lee D. Cary on April 7, 2019 at 12:03 pm

    What archeological evidence do we have of STONE AGE THINKING?

  5. Comment by Mike on April 7, 2019 at 10:36 pm

    “Obviously to Rick Plasterer, science does not exist. ” Mr. Plasterer is not writing from a scientific viewpoint, but from a social and religious one. As such, he does not try to address every possible deviation of human sexual development from what is considered normal. Rather, he is addressing the fact that our society seems to be going overboard on making everyone kowtow to those who do not fit the traditional norms, to the point of upsetting any harmony within our society.
    Too many people today are screaming “I’m special! Recognize me for what I say that I am!” even if that recognition has to be forced by threat of legal process. Too many people are just waiting to be offended. And their right to be offended has to be protected by laws that are without any rational basis whatsoever.
    There is coming a day when God will judge everyone, and His judgment is the only one that counts in the end. Only His standards will be used for that judgment. On that day, those who refused to accept societal norms, especially the norms that are sanctified by Scripture, will be seen as they really are-sinners who rebelled against God’s rules, and refused to accept any restrictions on their behavior.

  6. Comment by Linda Valdez on April 8, 2019 at 10:30 am

    Your Science is a Fake as NASA CGI (computer graphic imagery)

  7. Comment by Linda Valdez on April 8, 2019 at 10:37 am

    NASA reply is meant for Colin Scanes

  8. Comment by David on April 5, 2019 at 4:21 pm

    Yes, we had a case when I was working of a female who sought medical attention as she did not menstruate. As it turned out, she was actually a he with testosterone insensitivity. Contrary to Genesis, all mammals are born female and usually become male as the result of the Y chromosome.

  9. Comment by td on April 5, 2019 at 6:37 pm

    To be clear, the y chromosome does produce the male sex before birth- it begins in the womb after conception when the genes encoded on the y chromosome are activated. All humans are not born as females.

    It is true that without the y chromosome (or in the case of an inactive y chromosome) all humans would be female, but that merely means that without a y chromosome, the x chromosome produces female characteristics- but even there, usually two x chromosomes are needed to produce complete female characteristics.

  10. Comment by David on April 5, 2019 at 7:49 pm

    You forget X chromosome inactivation that takes place in all normal females. One of them is randomly put out of commission.

  11. Comment by td on April 5, 2019 at 9:45 pm

    True, but the barr body it is not totally silenced and is needed for typical female development. XX and XO do not yield the same gene expression- ie XO is not a typical female.

  12. Comment by William on April 6, 2019 at 11:41 am

    The sexual revolution is the greatest threat to real Christianity America has ever seen. These liberal Christian movements will not survive by embracing it because it will eventually consume them. It is the work of Satan, has been since the 1960s, and is about to claim its latest victim by splitting the UMC. It is in the process of taking down the other old mainline Protestant denominations, some of which have already split. We do not know what will rise from the ashes of this sex war. But, a new day is dawning and the light will overcome the dark — that’s God’s promise.

  13. Comment by Gary Bebop on April 6, 2019 at 2:17 pm

    Thanks again to Rick Plasterer for courageous and enlightening writing. More needs to be said in venues where truth can be openly, fearlessly contemplated.

  14. Comment by Diane on April 12, 2019 at 8:42 pm

    We are wired differently – whether we are more receptive and accommodating to new ideas & ways of thinking/understanding or whether we shut down, feel threatened and ultimately reject new understandings has everything to do with how each is neurobiologically wired. I believe it was Emory University that conducted a study that led to these conclusions (the focus was political ideology, but the principles are the same). Naming Satan as the culprit for folks turning away from traditional beliefs and understandings is primitive. Galileo was rebuked and punished by traditionalists who simply felt so threatened by new understandings that they outright rejected them. He was in league with the devil. Well, no, he wasn’t.

    My New England Puritan ancestors were excommunicated for challenging the primitive, antiquated, biblically-based understandings of witchcraft (which resulted in the execution of innocent people).

    Old, biblical understandings of gender and sexuality are changing. Satan and secularism has nothing to do with it. In another generation or two, people will look back and wonder why people insisted on discriminating against and punishing people who are lgbtqi. While it is uncommon, early childhood educators tend to be very aware of children who are quite naturally gender-queer (some identify or will eventually identify as lgbtqi). I am a retired early childhood educator and can guarantee that these children are not delusional. They may not be able to articulate their queer identity at a young age or may have already started to hide it – but it can be easily spotted among some young kids. Has nothing to do parenting styles.

    Like my ancestors who simply could not wrap their heads around understandings of witchcraft in their day, I cannot wrap my mind around the traditional understandings of gender and sexuality. They no longer make sense to me and they no longer make sense to millions of folks.

  15. Comment by Rick Plasterer on April 15, 2019 at 1:56 pm


    Will anyone identify as “LGBTQI” in the future? Or will those categories only be a memory in another generation? Law simply cannot accept people’s immediate desires and inclinations as authoritative, and require others to behave accordingly, as is now being done with SOGI laws. Remember, your side of this argument is proposing and enforcing binding rules for everyone based on what some individuals want.

    The rational basis for law is human nature, observed from antiquity. And that involves two sexes, designed for procreation. It is the publicly available and knowable reality. One can speculate on variations from this, but they should not be the basis of binding law.


  16. Comment by Diane on May 8, 2019 at 12:12 pm

    I did not marry my late husband to pro-create. We took decisive steps to never conceive and made that decision before we were married. American civil law honors that union by having provided me with a Social Security widow’s monthly benefit for the past ten years (well over $150K). All American taxpayers are required during their years of employment to pay into the pot known as Social Security. Why should other couples (who happen to be of the same gender) be denied the same economic benefit based on your understanding of “natural law”? Indeed, I married someone of the opposite sex, but, in your understanding, our intentional refusal to pro-create defines it as an “unnatural” marriage. Yet, because we joined the “right” body parts, I get a nice government entitlement. Makes no sense to deny marriage to same-sex couples on the basis of “natural law”, when those in opposite sex marriages gain entitlement benefits when their personal liberty allows them defy “natural law”.

  17. Comment by Rick Plasterer on June 1, 2019 at 2:17 pm


    Responding several weeks later, but for the sake of anyone reading this I think I should respond. It makes no good sense for the state to recognize close personal relationships for the sake of social affirmation. It amounts to the state telling its citizens what to think, which is the point of same-sex marriage. The union of man and woman in genital intercourse is the basis of the natural family, and the state is right to recognize husband and wife as true marriage and the basis for society even where no children will issue.


The work of IRD is made possible by your generous contributions.

Receive expert analysis in your inbox.