Forty words. Two sentences. That is all the attention the Equality Act received.
In an address of 18 pages, 772 lines and 8,153 words delivered to a joint session of Congress April 28, President Joseph R. Biden was feather-light in his plug for one of the most dangerous bills ever to slog its way through the legislative process.
Dangerous? Indeed, it is. It is a gathering storm of destruction aimed at ramming the government’s intrusive foot into the door of institutions of Christian higher education and, ultimately, the church house.
Threats from Equality Act
At risk from the lawsuits that surely would follow passage of the Equality Act are the rights to uphold the biblical views of marriage and human sexuality in the human resources policies of any such institution that has accepted federal funding, either directly or in the form of federal student loans.
For the church, it may well mean lawsuits for the refusal of services when a church forum or event space, open to the public for weddings and other events, is denied to same-sex couples or those who claim to be transgender. It also will clear the path for legislation to curtail religious speech, especially when it comes to biblical sexual ethics.
Unlike most legislation that has steered clear of strong-arming the church, the Equality Act rolls up its sleeves, balls up its fists, and lets the church know the federal government—at least its left-leaning faction—is spoiling for a fight.
There is no provision in the legislation that exempts churches and institutions of Christian higher education from having to submit to the definitions and ideals of the gender identity and sexual orientation movement.
Most troubling in this bill, which would amend the Civil Rights Act of 1964, is the redefinition of the term “sex.” Understood heretofore in its biological—read, scientific—terms and denoting male and female, the revised definition of “sex” has been broadened to absorb the manifold newly crafted identities, “intersex traits” and “stereotypes” of an increasingly unscientific movement.
The Equality Act passed the U.S. House of Representatives in 2019 but flopped in the Republican-controlled Senate. It passed again in February 2021 and now awaits its hearing in the upper chamber, where we only can hope it dies a second ignoble death.
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No Christian—absolutely no Christian—ever could justify or condone the abuse or ill treatment of any person for holding different views. We have been the first to advocate for and guarantee the rights of conscience.
But preaching the gospel and holding to biblical views on marriage is not abuse. Hiring only those whose values align with a Christian institution’s organizational mission is not discrimination.
To make that so, to force those of the Christian faith or whatever faith to conform their doctrine to definitions easily rebuffed by the laws of nature and nature’s God, is to create a de facto establishment of religion. The message is clear: Teach the government’s doctrine of man, or you will suffer.
We all are sinners, but in different ways. The gospel of Jesus Christ offers escape from that sin, from the death pledged to us all for having transgressed God’s laws. It has been able to do so even where it wasn’t preached freely.
The day may come when it can’t be preached freely in our streets, or even in the churches. There already have been violations of religious freedom in the United Kingdom and Canada after similar laws were passed, as noted here, here, here, here, here and here.
President Biden said, as he rolled out the Progressive’s buffet during his speech, “No Amendment to the Constitution is absolute.”
Thus, it seems the phrase “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, nor prohibiting the free exercise thereof” now is negotiable.
As the culture moves forward at breakneck speed, away from the things of God and away from our national philosophical core of personal freedom, this is a hill we cannot climb and a road we cannot travel.
May God give us the strength to stand firm and live with compassion for those who are confused and hurting. May he give us strength to say, as the Apostle Peter said, “We must obey God rather than men.”
Gregory Tomlin is a fellow and associate professor of Christian heritage at the B.H. Carroll Theological Institute. The views expressed are those solely of the author.