A well-known theologian and seminary president is urging Congress to defeat the Equality Act and warning its passage could mean “the effective death of religious liberty” in America.
The bill, H.R. 5, would amend the Civil Rights Act of 1964 – a law that was passed to confront racial discrimination – by adding “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” to the list of protected classes for public places, education, housing and employment. It previously passed the House and is now being considered by the Senate. President Biden supports it.
Its impact on religious freedom has led many Christian leaders to oppose it. One of those is Albert Mohler, who writes in a new analysis in The Public Discourse that the Equality Act “represents the greatest present threat to religious liberty in the United States.” Mohler is an author and the president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky.
“No aspect of American public life would be unchanged, and the bill would invade the private sphere as well,” Mohler wrote. “... A moral message will be telegraphed throughout society, normalizing virtually everything comprehended within the ever-expanding categories of LGBTQ.”
For example, Mohler said, the text of the Equality Act “includes no acknowledgement of the right of Christian colleges and schools” to “hire teachers in accord with the school’s stated religious convictions.” Further, religious colleges and universities, Mohler said, could be forced “to allow same-sex couples to live in student housing.” Yet that is “but one in an apparently endless list of other accommodations that the LGBTQ community now demands.”
The bill explicitly forbids individuals from using the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 to sue based on classes covered by the Equality Act. That 1993 law, signed by President Clinton, prevents the government from “substantially burdening a person's exercise of religion.”
Mohler quoted bill supporter Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.) as saying of individuals making claims of a religious liberty violation: “The determination would have to be made as to whether or not the decisions they are making are connected to their religious teachings and to their core functions as a religious organization,” Cicilline said, “or is it a pretext to discriminate?”
“With those words,” Mohler wrote, “every religious congregation, denomination, and institution is put on notice: The government will determine if your hiring and housing and student conduct and employee policies are truly ‘connected’ to your religious teachings, or if you are merely using a claim of religious conviction as a ‘pretext to discriminate.’
“These words mean the effective death of religious liberty, for the burden of proof will now fall to each religious institution to prove to the government’s satisfaction that its convictions are authentic,” Mohler wrote.
The religious texts of evangelicals, Catholics, Jews, Muslims and Mormons “are incompatible with the normalization of LGBTQ identities, behaviors, relationships, and gender confusions,” Mohler asserted.
“The Equality Act, therefore, represents the threat of government coercion against a certain structure of theology, doctrine, and morality,” Mohler wrote. “This means the threat of the state directed against any claim of divine revelation that contradicts the new morality, the newly minted definition of marriage, and the newly constructed ‘rights’ of the LGBTQ revolution.”
Photo courtesy: Southern Baptist Theological Seminary Facebook
Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, the Leaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.