What Is the Equality Act and Why Should You Care?

As Mission Pastor here at Resurrection, I have the joy of overseeing our work to build a culture of life. Like every sincere person of faith, I also treasure our nation’s commitment to religious liberty, especially considering our church planting work. In light of this, I have been reading carefully and with concern about the “Equality Act.”

On February 25th of this year, the U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R. 5, also called the “Equality Act.” The bill alters the Civil Rights Act of 1964 by expanding the definition of sex to include sexual orientation and gender identity. What could possibly be wrong with that?

On the one hand, Christians should vigorously oppose mistreatment of vulnerable groups of people. But many careful observers, like Douglas Laycock, an agnostic law professor at the University of Virginia, argue that H.R. 5 swings radically in the other direction. Laycock recently told NPR, “It protects the rights of one side, but attempts to destroy the rights of the other side [traditional religious believers]”—which is why the Washington Post posted an opinion piece urging both sides to work for a major compromise.

Practically, if passed, churches, religious schools (including colleges), and other faith-based organizations (Christian, Jewish, Muslim, etc.) that have deep convictions about marriage and sexual identity could be punished in certain circumstances if they refuse to change their policies and practices. The bill would also enshrine abortion as “health care” officially and legally by banning “pregnancy discrimination.” Catholic attorney and professor Kenneth Craycraft writes, “The Equality Act would make opposing abortion access morally equivalent to opposing dialysis, chemotherapy, stitching a wound, or setting a fractured arm.”

In an NBC News opinion piece, Rabbi Avi Shafran also noted that H.R. 5 is explicitly designed “to override the 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration Act [or RFRA], which gives people a way to challenge government requirements that they feel impinge on their religious rights.” In other words, if a church, school, synagogue, or faith-based ministry is sued for violating H.R. 5, it can’t use RFRA in their defense. 

The original intent of RFRA protected the free exercise of religion from sweeping laws that could unduly restrict religious freedom. But as Craycraft argues, “The Equality Act will remove [the RFRA]  defense, leaving churches, synagogues, and virtually any other institution without defense against its imposition of secular ideology.”

In conclusion, while the name “Equality Act” sounds laudable, it is an ill-conceived, one-sided bill that guts religious liberties and pushes a pro-choice agenda. Christians who support both the dignity of each person and  our freedom to hold traditional beliefs about the sanctity of life, marriage, sexuality and gender should oppose this bill.

Sincerely in Christ,

Fr. Matt Woodley

What You Can Do:
Pray
– For the Lord to sway any undecided legislators to oppose this bill.
– For religious freedom to be upheld in our nation.
Call or email your legislator
Read more
– “House Passes the Equality Act: Here’s What It Would Do” NPR
– “What to Know about the Equality ActFirst Things
– “The Equality Act: Bad Policy That Poses Great HarmsPublic Discourse
– “Swinging the Pendulum Too FarChristianity Today

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