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THE BISHOP'S VOICE: Equality Act strikes at the heart of religious freedom

03/05/2021 | Comments

The so-called Equality Act of 2021 (H.R. 5) has passed the U.S. House of Representatives and is now on its way to the Senate for their approval. If passed into law, this piece of legislation would strike at the heart of religious freedom in our country.  President Biden has promised to sign the bill.  As Catholics, we should be very concerned.

The Equality Act redefines the meaning of human sexuality as our Judaeo-Christian culture has understood that reality for millennia.  The new definition will be imposed by law on many of our institutions thus effectively rendering them unlawful and subject to criminal and financial penalties.

The legislation upholds gender ideology, the idea that gender is merely a social construct, and does not actually identify a person as either male or female.  Groups or organizations who do not accept this ideology would likely be punished.  There would be no more male and female sports teams.  Men and women would be allowed to play on the same teams, if they wished.  Our schools and church buildings would be required to allow those biological males who consider themselves female to use the women’s rest rooms and locker room facilities.  Religious adoption agencies would be shut down if they refused to allow persons or couples suffering from gender dysphoria to adopt children.  In the end, it would be the federal government, and not divine revelation and Church teaching, which would provide the moral principles by which we would be required to live. Catholic hospitals would lose federal funding if they refused to provide abortions. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has strongly opposed this legislation.

In addition to giving gender ideology legal protection, the Equality Act would likely expand taxpayer-funded abortions by amending civil rights law to forbid “pregnancy” discrimination — in effect making it illegal for any health care worker to deny a woman an abortion. The Act would trump faith and conscience.

The Equality Act has been inaccurately touted as legislation that ensures that those who have bought into the gender ideology myth would be granted the “rights” that they deserve.  This new legislation has been compared to the 1964 Civil Rights Act that prohibited discrimination against African-Americans based on the color of their skin.  That is a false and specious comparison.  African-Americans — as well as Caucasians, Asians and all races — are human beings.  As such, they should be recognized as having the same rights as all human beings.  Sex and race are objective realities, while gender identity and sexual orientation are subjective perceptions.  As such, they should not be included as a protected class in the federal civil rights law that protects individuals against race or sex discrimination.

The Family Research Council describes the Equality Act as “a catastrophic loss of religious freedom in America . . . The Equality Act is a grave and treasonous threat to our nation’s core values contained in our First Amendment . . . This is a radical bill that uses the government to control, through coercion, how every American thinks, speaks, and acts on issues of human sexuality . . . No person of faith or religious institution, whether school, church, synagogue, mosque, business, or non-profit, will escape the Orwellian reach of the Equality Act.”

As Catholics, we believe that every human being deserves to be treated with respect and compassion. This includes those who suffer from gender dysphoria or same-sex attraction.  We must not allow our faith and consciences to be overridden by an unjust law.  Please contact your United States Senators and urge them to vote against the Equality Act (H.R. 5).

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