The Equality Act (H.R. 5) is “trying to level the playing field in nondiscrimination” and is the “morally [and] spiritually right thing to do in this country,” according to panelists at a June 29 webinar titled Baptists and the Equality Act.
The House of Representatives passed the so-called Equality Act in February, but it has not yet secured the necessary support to pass the Senate. The legislation revises the 1964 Civil Rights Act to outlaw discrimination on the basis of gender identity and sexual orientation. It is controversial because it threatens legal sanction on those who dissent from the progressive Left’s gender ideology of sexuality and gender.
A panel of Baptists, hosted by Baptist News Global (BNG), discussed why they support the legislation.
“At its core [it] is trying to level the playing field in nondiscrimination, in a wide range of services,” said BNG Executive Director, Mark Wingfield. Middle Collegiate Church Executive Minister Amanda Ashcraft, another panelist, acknowledged the act’s controversy but defended it, saying, “it’s just simply saying that we believe that it is a fundamental human right, and as people of faith, we believe that it is a moral right that all people are protected under the law against discrimination.”
Panelists were careful to distinguish themselves from other Christians who have reservations about or outright oppose the legislation. Particular caution was taken to separate panelists from the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC). One of the panelist’s churches “was disfellowshipped from Southern Baptist life because of [their] welcoming and affirming stance and [their] decision to bless same-gender covenants at that time in 1992,” said Nancy Petty, longtime pastor of Raleigh’s Pullen Memorial Baptist Church, affiliated with the liberal Alliance of Baptists that separated from the SBC following the denomination’s conservative resurgence.
Under the act, it would no longer be acceptable for organizations or individuals to: refuse to administer cross-sex hormones to children, want to keep locker rooms and sports teams sex-specific, object to performing a sex-change operation, or refuse to participate in or encourage abortion. It puts conscientious objectors of this kind on the same legal level as racial segregationists.
Religious Liberty advocates worry about the direction of modern progressive gender ideology. Some think it harms society in general and even the very LGBT people the ideology seeks to help. The Equality Act attempts to root out those with reservations and prevent them from practicing their beliefs. It puts people at risk of censure for their historically mainstream views.
The act also places pro-life persons on the list of alleged discriminators. It includes abortion as a right, saying that to deny a woman an abortion on moral or religious grounds is “pregnancy discrimination.” This means that if you or your organization object to abortion and you do not want to participate in promoting it, you risk punishment.
The most ironic part of the webinar occurred when the panel tried to pitch themselves as the great supporters of religious liberty. One might think supporting the near criminalization of Christian orthodoxy would disclude them from this title. The Equality Act is detrimental to religious liberties, but according to panelist Guthrie Graves-Fitzsimmons it is “a monumental achievement for religious freedom.”
Guthrie defended this claim saying the act “updates and expands the number of public places where our nation’s federal civil rights laws apply,” including those for religious freedom. This would be great if it was the whole story. However, one must also consider the act’s severe censure of religious objection to the new gender ideology. It extends religious freedom protections to more places, but it simultaneously removes religious freedom protections from where they are most needed.
As Dr. Ryan T. Anderson, Catholic political philosopher and President of the Ethics and Public Policy Center (EPPC) writes concerning the legislation, “Religious schools, adoption agencies, and other charities would face federal sanction for operating according to basic biology and mainstream Biblical teaching on sex and marriage. Outrageously, this act exempts itself from the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. Pope Francis would be treated as the legal equivalent of a Jim Crow segregationist.”
Beliefs about gender and sex held by historic Christianity would be put on the same legal level as white supremacy. Religious institutions would not be able to openly practice their faith without the risk of serious legal repercussions.
With this in mind, it is borderline absurd for the panelists to call themselves advocates for religious liberty. Yet they do so anyway.
The Equality act takes the Civil Rights Act, a law that is an otherwise necessary improvement for racial justice and turns it into a weapon against the Left’s political adversaries.
The Heritage Foundation writes “Where the original Civil Rights Act of 1964 furthered equality by ensuring that African-Americans had equal access to public accommodations and material goods, the Equality Act would further inequality by penalizing everyday Americans for their beliefs about marriage and biological sex.”
Unfortunately, progressive Baptists are not alone in their advocacy for the Equality Act. Many other church denominations have shown support for the bill even though it promotes unjust religious discrimination. Others, including the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and the Southern Baptist Convention, strongly oppose the legislation.
The full webinar can be accessed on YouTube here.