If you have followed politics and national news lately, you may have heard about the “Equality Act.” What is it? And why are many Southern Baptists and others calling it a serious threat to religious liberty?
According to the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), “The essence of the ‘Equality Act’ is its addition of ‘sexual orientation’ and ‘gender identity’ as protected classes to already existing federal nondiscrimination laws. This would prohibit employers, preschools, and even religious schools and organizations from making choices based on basic biology, bodily privacy, and their beliefs about the nature of marriage. It would apply to every single recipient of federal financial assistance (including every public school and almost all colleges and universities.)”
ADF then said, “The bill actually poses a devastating and unprecedented threat to free speech, religious freedom, and the progress that women have made toward true equal treatment in law and culture.” They went on to say that the “Equality Act” is “a deliberate attempt to force people of faith—good people who serve everyone—to promote messages and celebrate events that conflict with their sincere beliefs.”
Albert Mohler, president of Southern Seminary, who is not prone to hyperbole, called the “Equality Act” the “greatest threat to religious liberty in American public life in decades.” He said, “The audacity is breathtaking, and the threat to America’s first liberty is all too real.”
In his remarks against the Equality Act, Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission President Russell Moore offered three major reasons for its opposition to the proposal. He said the Equality Act:
- “(W)ould bring sweeping and historic changes to religious liberty with devastating effects to this foundational freedom.
- “(W)ould be the most pro-abortion bill ever passed by Congress.
- “(U)ndermines decades of hard fought civil rights protections for women and girls.”
In a recent interview with the Baptist Messenger, U.S. Senator James Lankford likewise explained his opposition to the Equality Act. While the bill already has been passed by the U.S. House of Representatives—and while President Joe Biden has promoted the bill and promised to sign it if it comes to his desk—the bill thankfully has not passed the U.S. Senate.
While the implications of the bill are shocking and a direct affront to our First Amendment guarantees of religious liberty (of all faiths, not only Christians); what is perhaps even more shocking is that the “Equality Act” offers no religious liberty protections for organizations. That means any institution or organization that will not get on board with the emerging and ever-changing definitions of gender and sexuality could face a threat to their mission and even their very existence.
So what should we do at a time like this? Whenever a proposed policy comes along that threatens religious liberty, Christians must do our part to educate people on the issues and speak up against it. Moreover, we must redouble our prayer efforts, asking God to give wisdom and favor to those in leadership seeking to the do the right thing.
Because in the end, “the ‘Equality Act’ gives people of faith an ultimatum: Change your faith-based practices or face government punishment,” as the ADF has stated.
While Christians can and should be ready to take a stand for the Faith and face the consequence, we can and will oppose such efforts to wipe away religious liberty with one Congressional Act.