The Equality Act and the Future of Religious Freedom

May 5, 2021 by

by Canon Phil Ashey, AAC:

For the past few months, American Christian commentators have watched the Equality Act (Amendment HR5) make its way through Congress. The Act presents a serious challenge to religious freedom and directly affects the rights of Christians and other religious worshippers to express beliefs that may be contradictory to the cultural zeitgeist and are deemed discriminatory. In a recent podcast, we had the privilege of interviewing Mr. Rich Baker, a Christian attorney who focuses on helping churches and non-profits navigate the complexities of today’s highly regulated environment. Mr. Baker discussed how the Equality Act will legally affect Christians.

The main purpose of the Equality Act (HR5) is to amend the Civil Rights Act of 1994 to prohibit discrimination on the basis of sex, gender, sexual orientation, and gender identity among other identifying factors. The sponsors claim it’s necessity in our pluralistic society to combat bigotry deriving from one segment of the population that is marginalizing another. They believe that these “outdated modes of belief” can be held privately, but that they must be banished from the public sphere. By adding HR5 to the Civil Rights Act, it equates sexual and gender identity to race.

There are a number of key provisions in the act that are central to its implications. The Equality Act broadens the term “sex” and redefines what it means to be a gendered human being. It accepts and assumes a non-biblical anthropology. This has direct effect on Christians who take Genesis 5:2 seriously since the bill essentially criminalizes this passage and those like it (cf. Mark 10:6), at least when expressed in the public sphere.

What defines “the public sphere?”  The wording of the act broadens the definition and could be used to include places of worship. And how do these new regulations based on new anthropology treat Scripture and other religious texts? There is no doubt they would be made legally discriminatory and morally offensive as the Act essentially abolishes a Christian metaphysical worldview and makes it criminal in the public sector.

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