An interfaith coalition of groups sponsored a prayer vigil at the United Methodist Building in Washington, DC on May 14 in support of the Equality Act (H.R. 5), pending before the House of Representatives. The top legislative priority of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, it would add sexual orientation and gender identity to federal anti-discrimination categories, as well as expand the scope of civil rights law beyond commercial transactions to cover much of the private world as well.
Speakers from a variety of faith traditions expressed support for the act, emphasizing that acceptance of self-chosen sexuality and sexual expression is clear from the ethic of love found in many religious traditions, and the suffering of those who have experienced rejection or in one way or another been penalized for their sexuality.
The Rev. Michael Crumpler, now a Unitarian Universalist, spoke of the hostility of his Evangelical background to homosexuality, of rejection at his Evangelical school (which likely would not be able to discipline anyone for homosexual behavior, or probably any other form of sexual immorality, if the Equality Act is enacted), of his discovery that true faith is not “antithetical to love in all its forms,” and that in his gospel “people of all gender identities and gender expressions deserve federal protections against sex discrimination at schools, in community centers and in homeless shelters that take federal dollars.” The statement showed just how draconian the law is. It would render the terms “male” and “female” self-defined, and thus meaningless for legal purposes, require any private organization receiving federal money to accept homosexuality and transgenderism, make it difficult if not impossible for religious schools or other private religious organizations to maintain a standard of chastity if they receive any government funding or serve the public in any way, open public rest rooms to persons of both sexes, and require shelters for homeless or abused women to include men who believe that they are women.
Other drastic provisions would define “sex” discrimination to cover “pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical condition,” thus jeopardizing conscientious objection to abortion on the part of medical personnel, define any therapy to re-orient an individual to their natural sex as “discrimination,” expand the “establishments” covered by the law to include any “online retailer or service provider, salon, bank, gas station, food bank, service or care center, shelter, travel agency, or funeral parlor, or establishment that provides health care, accounting, or legal services.” The last category would presumably require legal service organizations which have defended religious freedom against SOGI requirements to defend clients they disagree with. Finally, the Equality Act would prohibit any appeal to the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 (RFRA) for protection against the Equality Act’s provisions, which is currently still possible against SOGI claims in federal cases even where state and local SOGI laws apply. This is thus not really a federal version of state and local SOGI laws, but a radical re-ordering of society to require acceptance of homosexuality in both the public and private worlds.
The Rev. Peter S. Simmons-Scie, of Metropolitan AME Church in Washington, D.C, said that God “created each of us with individual distinctions, though we may have similar characteristics … no two individuals are completely alike. We all are authentic in our individuality” and that we should “honor and respect the diversity of humanity.” Apparently the Equality Act is required to ensure that we do.
This shows the essential deception behind the rhetoric. People are identified with their inclination and behavior, and there appear to be as many genders as there are human beings. While speakers at the vigil cast the issue as discrimination against homosexual or transgender identifying persons, which the public generally would oppose, the true issue is of course the righteousness of homosexual behavior and the requirement that everyone be complicit in it, even if complicity is understood to be sinful or evil.
It was claimed early in the vigil that the proposed law represents a compromise with religious liberty, in that churches are not specifically covered by its provisions. Yet the Rev. Angela Flanagan of Silver Spring United Methodist Church subsequently regretted this protection for churches and other houses of worship, as the Equality Act would not therefore apply in her case (which current rulings from the Supreme Court would make impossible anyway, although churches could possibly be required to retain non-clerical LGBT employees).
What the legislation really seeks is the abolition of any private world in which a standard of chastity can be maintained. This was clear from one of the stories of woe (which is hardly unique) in which a woman was expelled from her birth family when her lesbianism was revealed. As with the other stories that were told to support the LGBT agenda, people need to think about what is really being said. The law is being invoked to prohibit the rejection of homosexuality, because of the pain it causes homosexuals. By this logic, the family should have been penalized, just as bakers, florists, and photographers are today, for rejecting homosexuality. And presumably the family should have been required to keep her in the home, just as religious organizations will be required to retain LGBT persons if the law passes.
Aware that the principal motive for opposing the LGBT agenda is religious, the speakers in colorful clerical vestments really preached a common gospel focused on human desire in this life. All speakers clearly assumed that the stories of suffering they offered establish injustice, and that this calls for government action to mandate acceptance of homosexual behavior and transgender claims in both the public and private worlds. They ignored what is the most basic fact of at least the Christian religion, and surely Judaism and Islam as well, namely that God is king, and our preeminent duty is to obey him above the mandates of state and society, family and friends. Thus Jesus declares that obedience to him is more important more important than anything else in life, and that the painful narrow gate is the road to eternal life, while Paul instructs that Christians are to be separate from sin, and at least in their own churches and organizations expel the sexually immoral. But complicity in sin, clearly forbidden by Scripture, will be required by the Equality Act of Christians in many business and professional situations. Nor will Christian organizations, except churches, and then possibly only for clerical positions, be legally able to hire and fire personnel according to their own religious standards.
As this writer has repeatedly emphasized, the “free exercise” of religion guaranteed by the Constitution must, by its very wording, cover more than mere religious belief, a claim supported by James Madison, principal author of the First Amendment guarantee. So the Constitution is not neutral about religion, but clearly favors religious practice over other considerations. What speakers at the vigil clearly seek is not equality, but privilege for homosexual behavior and transgender claims over all other considerations. Antidiscrimination law takes away any choice a public entity or private party might have if the choice is based on an adverse judgement against the protected category. And as this writer has also emphasized, for sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) legislation, unlike other civil rights legislation, no definite group of people is covered, but only sexual behaviors, sexual self-definitions, and (for the Equality Act) a prohibition against using nebulous “sex stereotypes.” SOGI legislation in effect privileges homosexual behavior and inclination, and transgender claims. Pacifist photographers can decline to photograph soldiers, vegetarian photographers can decline to photograph butcher shops, but the right of conscience is denied where homosexuality is concerned.
This legislation is also much more drastic than earlier civil rights legislation because it is no longer focused on commerce, as civil rights law previously has been. Earlier civil rights law applied to the sale of goods and services, housing, and employment — activities that involved the exchange of money. The Equality Act attempts to cover all of life, even free public services, threatens religious private schools, and voluntary associations (although it does not yet fully cover families and churches).
While it may not be likely that the law will pass with a Republican Senate and President, the passion of the American Left to require acceptance of the sexual revolution (which is really its top priority), the complicity of the corporate world, academy, and entertainment industry, and the indoctrination of young Americans in public schools and colleges, may eventually result in a national SOGI law such as the Equality Act. While speakers at Tuesday’s event were applauded as “courageous,” in truth it is opposition to homosexuality and transgenderism which requires courage in today’s society. One may have to face loss of job, family, friends, professional credentials, or even freedom (where state or local SOGI laws are held to be violated). But we must remember that in the logic of Christians’ place in this conflict, we cannot ever make the concessions wanted. If God is king, we must always obey him, trusting in his providence and final victory.