Church opposes the Equality Act

The Church issued a statement today on the Equality Act, a House bill that promotes LGBTQ issues while not protecting religious freedom.

The Equality Act now before Congress is not balanced and does not meet the standard of fairness for all. While providing extremely broad protections for LGBT rights, the Equality Act provides no protections for religious freedom. It would instead repeal long-standing religious rights under the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act, threaten religious employment standards, devastate religious education, defund numerous religious charities and impose secular standards on religious activities and properties. The Church joins other religious organizations that also strongly oppose the Equality Act as unbalanced, fundamentally unfair and a path to further conflict.

Here is the Church’s entire statement on this issue.

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About Geoff B.

Geoff B graduated from Stanford University (class of 1985) and worked in journalism for several years until about 1992, when he took up his second career in telecommunications sales. He has held many callings in the Church, but his favorite calling is father and husband. Geoff is active in martial arts and loves hiking and skiing. Geoff has five children and lives in Colorado.

21 thoughts on “Church opposes the Equality Act

  1. I know that some folks like to suggest that religious organizations have always been protected and will always be protected. But it isn’t much protection if folks are always having to go to court for years to defend that protection. For example, when I was in Utah this April, I was surprised at the activism at BYU regarding LGBTQ issues.

    Interesting video this week as part of the Come Unto Christ curriculum, by the way. The video depicts a college-aged woman in a class who gets pulled into a relatively ugly confrontation about her “bigoted” Church by another student who isn’t religious (and who may be gay – that wasn’t made clear). In the scenario, the teacher fomented the discussion.

  2. I have serious concerns about this type of legislation. This act is inherently anti-religious in that it empowers the LGBT community to make life miserable for those who choose to practice or voice their religious teachings. From what I can determine, religious liberty is completely dismissed in the Act as a valid reason for balancing the interests of LGBT people with those of religious persons. Heaven only knows how such an act would affect public schools and universities.

    I have no problem with legislation which protects LGBT persons from discrimination in housing and employment with religious freedom factored in. Utah has a pretty workable compromise already in place. There is no widespread discrimination against LGBT kids in public schools. I really feel this legislation is a fix to problems that could be remediated more consistently and accurately on a state level.

  3. It is exasperating to think that everything hinges on every single election as well when it comes to legislation like this.

  4. I am the victim here. Religious people made it illegal to be gay, then illegal to for them to marry, they are still fighting for the right to discriminate.
    Are the people who are required to question their discrimination really being discriminated against?

  5. Yes, Questioning. But you know that–you’re on a website dedicated to members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, one of the few populations in American history whose *murder was decriminalized*. It’s pretty rich that you’d seek to shame the Latter-Day Saints for seeking protection from overweening government intrusion.

  6. Let’s assume this did become the law of the land, and survived Supreme Court scrutiny. In what specific ways would the Church be affected? This is an issue that has deep doctrinal underpinnings so I’m certain the Church is not going to cave. But what would the Church have to change to accommodate the new reality? Could we still accomplish the core mission of gathering Israel and ministering to the gathered?

  7. Justin, the first thing to understand is that many norms that were considered sacrosanct just a few years ago are being destroyed right in front of our eyes. Who ever thought that girls would be forced to share showers with biological males? Who ever thought that schools could force children to hear transgender propaganda, and if the parents object they can be jailed or lose their children to the state? Things are moving so quickly on this subject, that the Church and many other churches are in a completely defensive mode. So, we must accept that many things we consider untouchable are now being threatened. The Church could face a litany of attacks: LDS charities could be shut down; governments could force the Church to perform same-sex marriages in chapels and even in temples; the Church could lose millions of dollars in law suits for trumped-up charges for discrimination. The Church will always accomplish its core mission, but this is about basic fairness and religious liberty. The Equality Act — which will not pass with a Republican Senate and will not be signed by President Trump — makes all of these possibilities real. If Democrats win the presidency and the House and Senate in 2020, the Equality Act or something like it will be in place in just three years. This is a real threat.

  8. The fundamental question regarding any law is “could this be weaponized against a political enemy?” That is, can it be used to actively punish an outgroup? If the answer is yes, the law is bad and must not be allowed forward. It doesn’t matter what the law’s ostensible purpose is. If can be actively deployed against some other group it’s a bad law.

    Does that mean “sodomy laws” are bad laws? Yes. Does it also mean “equality laws” are bad laws? Also yes.

  9. This is where atheism leads…. totalitarianism, control of others’ thoughts. This phony “equality” is not “freedom for everyone” or even freedom for a few. It’s enslavement, not just of outward acts, but of thought itself.

    This is how the Soviet Union came about, according to Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, in his Templeton address: “Men have forgotten God” http://orthochristian.com/47643.html

  10. A good rule of thumb with Congress: the name of the Act, almost certainly, really means the opposite. Patriot Act = Unpatriot Act, Affordable Care Act = Unaffordable Care Act.

    So it is with the Equality Act: It’s really the Inequality Act.

  11. It is often hard to predict the repercussions, intended or not, from legislation like this.

    I work for a high-tech Fortune 500 manufacturing company that sanctions several employee “diversity” groups. Some are based on religion, such as those for Christians, Jews and Muslims. Others are organized around race or ethnicity, like the groups for Black, Chinese, Korean, and Indian (Asia), etc. employees. We also have a Pride Network for LGBTQ employees.

    When training employees on proper workplace etiquette, we are taught certain restrictions on the extent we can share or demonstrate religious devotion and beliefs. There are definite limitations and we must be very careful to not mix religion with work or at work. Yes, we can have a meeting of the group using employer facilities. We can even publicize events. But outside of that, we must be careful what we say or imply regarding our religion (or lack thereof) while on the job.

    However, the approach is very different when it comes to the Pride Network. All employees are encouraged to talk openly with their LGBTQ coworkers and let them express their feelings about their identities, families, and interests. The idea is to let them be their Whole Selves at work.

    I often wondered at the contrast – the restrictions placed on the religious groups as opposed to the openness of expression encouraged for the Pride Network – and if the same disparity isn’t being modeled in our country and in many parts of the world today.

    For that reason I believe a check is needed on legislation like this. Indeed, “fairness for all” is an apt description that points everyone toward the shared middle ground that is so often ignored in today’s polarized polemics. I fully support this expression of caution from the Church as well as from other religious bodies.

  12. Not being an attorney myself, I will quote from a comment over at BCC on this same topic:

    Temple recommend requirements for “secular” Church employment is literally the Title VII case the Church took to the Supreme Court 30 years ago and won.

    Happy reading! https://scholar.google.com/scholar_case?case=18010264432732834038&q=corporation+of+the+presiding+bishop+v+amos&hl=en&as_sdt=20006

    The Equality Act would affect 0% of that. It’s amending Title VII to encompass a broader definition of sex discrimination. It’s not amending Title VII to eliminate the exemption that already exists that religious institutions are permitted to discriminate in hiring on the basis of religious belief.

    The fears about the government forcing changes in church hiring practices, temple recommends, etc, could be seen as unjustified fears, and traditionally, the Supreme Court has been reluctant to overturn long standing precedent. Recently, though, in California Tax Board vs. Hyatt, a 5-4 decision overturned a 40 year old precedent that allowed state governments to be sued by plaintiffs from another state. In the current rush to promote anti-abortion laws in states in hopes of them ending up at the supreme court and overturning Roe vs. Wade, another long standing precedent, perhaps conservatives may end up shooting themselves in the foot if the court becomes more liberal in coming years, and has no qualms overturning the precedent that protects the Church in Presiding Bishop vs. Amos. Be careful what you wish for, the law of unintended consequences can end up creating more problems than we consider. For the record, I am a moderate on abortion. A total ban that eliminates exemptions for rape, incest, or other special cases is not consistent with Church policy on abortion as outlined in the Handbook (at least as it read a few years ago; I don’t currently have access to a copy). I support the Church policy, and otherwise oppose abortion.

  13. We cannot simply think about the language of the act in question, but what could be done with that language in coming years. We also need to consider the fact that we should not ignore that the Church is led by Christ, through the use of prophets, seers, and revelators. Do we believe that they might see a bit further over the horizon than we do?

    Frankly, I am very concerned about what the courts and administrations (both current and future) might be able to do with the language.

    I wish I could say that I am surprised by the fact that those upset with the Church’s statement don’t actually discuss the statement, but merely exclaim that the Church should stay out of it, and simplistic arguments about “what is wrong with equality?”

  14. KevinF, if you study the Supreme Court these days, it is not a 5-4 court “conservatives” vs “liberals.” It is much more complex than that. There are four consistent liberals, three mostly consistent conservatives and two swing votes (Roberts and Kavanaugh). One of the things that both Roberts and Kavanaugh believe is that it is not the Supreme Court’s job to overturn the democratic will of the electorate (see Roberts’ Obamacare decision for an example). So, in a theoretical case where the Equality Act was passed by the House and Senate and signed by the president, the likelihood that it would be overturned by the current Supreme Court is close to zero. So, it is not only the issue of precedent. It has been hilarious and sad (from my perspective) to see left-wing members of the Church change the goalposts literally every six months on social issues. I remembered heated discussions 15 years ago that same-sex marriage would never be legal, and left-wing members of the Church said they would never favor same-sex marriage — all they wanted was civil unions. And then just five years ago these same people were saying that anybody who didn’t favor same-sex marriage was a reactionary scum, and then they began pushing for transgender rights, and of course now these same people say anybody who doesn’t want biological males in girls’ showers is even more of a reactionary scum.

    So, I don’t buy for a second this whole argument that the legal system will protect religious liberty. And this is of course why our church and other churches are speaking out on this issue — they are completely on the defensive and honestly and sincerely concerned about their future ability to even act as churches in the public square. And if you study the history, you should be concerned too.

  15. “The Equality Act would affect 0% of that. It’s amending Title VII to encompass a broader definition of sex discrimination. It’s not amending Title VII to eliminate the exemption that already exists that religious institutions are permitted to discriminate in hiring on the basis of religious belief.”

    I also read that post over at BCC. It was written by a (presumably) LDS attorney. She is very much gung ho in favor of the Equality Act, and she rather quickly dismisses the arguments against it. In her mind, anti-discrimination statutes trump First Amendment protections.

    The problem with her insouciance is that, just as Geoff has detailed above, I’m not convinced that a Chief Justice Roberts would vote to overturn a putative Equality Act. And, if you actually take the time to read the proposed legislation, it does, in fact, surreptitiously strip religious exemptions. You have to understand the folks who have written this bill: they know exactly what keeps them from enacting their dream legislation with respect to LBGT rights. They are well aware of Supreme Court precedent and they know that if they change Title VII, the Court will mostly likely have to go along with it. (All of this assumes, of course, that a nominal GOP Senate will pass and a President Trump would sign, such legislation. Won’t happen this year or next.)

    The Supreme Court, if a case or controversy regarding the putative Equality Act came before them, would be forced to adjudicate the merits based on the text of the Act itself. The authors of this Act have written things very, very carefully. They know what they want and they know what stands in their way.

    I would urge all Latter-day Saints to heed the statement put out by the Church. It has President Oaks’ fingerprints all over it. He’s a heartbeat away from being the next prophet. We need to pay careful attention. This is serious stuff. Our ability to exercise our religiously informed values is, 100%, under attack.

    [As a side note: I’m very disappointed in the LDS (assuming) attorney who mischaracterizes and obfuscates the concerns that the Church is bringing up over at the BCC blog. She dismisses and minimizes the good-faith objections to the Act and basically says, “this is no big deal.” She’s utterly wrong. I think she’s betraying the spirit and letter of the First Amendment, but such is par for the course among those who want to be popular and praised in the corridors of influence and power.]

  16. Geoff and Michael, I think we are talking past each other. If social conservatives, including many members of the Church, are hoping that a Supreme Court will overturn precedence in some of the new anti-abortion laws that almost certainly will end up there, it is just as likely that religious exemptions under Title VII, with a more liberal makeup of the court, could also be overturned. I agree, Chief Justice Roberts is probably the most likely swing voter on the Court at present, and perhaps the most likely of the less liberal justices to resist ignoring long-standing precedence. You can’t hope that precedence will be rejected in Roe vs. Wade, and not fear that it could also be rejected in some future case regarding Title VII religious exemptions. Something fundamental has changed, and our regard for democratic institutions has been eroded by administrations on both sides of the aisle. We are on a slippery slope in all directions.

  17. MT, have the moderates and middle-of-the-road-ers figured out that leftists always lie ? Or noticed that compromise and accomodation has mainly and overall gone one way for 55 years? Or will they figure it out?

    Has anyone else noted that Republican leadership basically gives the left/Democrats exactly what they want, oh, about 15 to 20 years after they start asking for it?

    Republicans and Democrats… the right and left rails of the same track, going to the same place. Just that the left wheels are a few years ahead of the right wheels.

    Have you been reading Bruce Charlton’s “Notions” blog?

  18. KevinF, no, I understand your point. And I mostly agree with you about the state of our democratic republic. So, we are mostly in agreement. However, I think you are overstating the importance of precedent to the legal academy. Judges love to cite precedence for not doing things like overturning Roe v. Wade, but when it comes to other issues, like same-sex marriage, the courts completely ignore precedence and invent a new right out of thin air. All case law makes it clear that marriage is a state issue and is not something the federal government deals with, but all of the sudden in Obergefell we get the feds inventing a new right. The exact same thing happened with Roe v. Wade. So, I have absolutely no concerns that left-wing judges care about precedence when it comes to Title VII. The philosophy that the Constitution is a “living document” means that judges can twist the Constitution to say whatever they want it to say, including inventing new rights and taking other rights away whenever they want to. They will of course come up with convoluted justifications for their actions, but these justifications will ignore what the Constitution actually says. This is why our Constitution is hanging by a thread and has been for many years.

  19. “You can’t hope that precedence will be rejected in Roe vs. Wade, and not fear that it could also be rejected in some future case regarding Title VII religious exemptions. Something fundamental has changed, and our regard for democratic institutions has been eroded by administrations on both sides of the aisle.”

    Kevin, I understand what you’re getting at. But let me add a bit of context and commentary on this issue. The reason we are in this mess is 100% the fault of the Supreme Court. SCOTUS has consistently, but particularly in the Earl Warren years, ignored democratic institutions. I can point to any number of opinions handed down by the court but Roe v. Wade is probably the most notorious one of the modern era. Honest left-leaning constitutionalists agree that it was made up of whole cloth and has zero textual, substantive, or precedential support. The Court totally made it up, and a huge basis underlying their decision was a desired policy outcome, itself based on fraudulent testimony presented to the court. (All of this has been highly detailed in several books over the years. Among constitutional legal scholar, even those who personally favor abortion rights, the Roe v. Wade legal argument is a total embarrassment.)

    The Supreme Court is not supposed to reason for the purpose of producing a desires social policy outcome: that is the job of legislatures, both state and the Congress. It’s when the Supreme Court acts as a kind of superlegislature that we run into serious problems and terrible rules.

    Stare decisis is the judicial doctrine that courts rely on previous rulings. It encourages stability and predictability in the law. The problem, of course, is what should a court do when they get a decision utterly wrong? Justice Thomas says that if a precedential decision violates the Constitution or has no legally justifiable basis, we ought to jettison it, and fast. Stare itself should not be used to protect terrible rulings. And of course, he’s absolutely right: if the Court in years past truly believed in stare decisis, then Plessy v. Ferguson and Dred Scott v. Sanford would still be good law, and those were egregiously wrong rulings legally as well as morally.

    So there really isn’t a problem with overturning precedent as such. The issue is why. There are good reasons to overturn precedent and there are nakedly partisan reasons for doing so. One good reason for overturning Roe v. Wade — aside from the fact that it allows for the killing of innocent babies — is that it ought to be returned to the states. Let the states regulate abortion, since states are far more responsive to the will of the people. That would be a win for “democratic institutions.” There is nothing more anti-democratic than a majority of five black robed, non-elected rulers telling us what we can and can’t do.

    As for the Title VII issue, the Civil Rights acts of the 1960s (and further amendments in the 70s) would never have passed had they not specifically carved out religious exemptions. That is literally the only reason it passed back then. Progressives have hated and despised those carve outs ever since; and they will stop at nothing to get rid of them. This Equality Act is, quite frankly, a Trojan horse. It needs to be sent to the glue factory.

  20. I could not help but consider this debate in light of President Nelson’s warning to the Samoan saints this week that great persecutions are coming and will affect even them in Samoa.
    Are we ready?

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