Equality Act: Scales

In a recent post from Church the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Newsroom titled Church Expresses Support for ‘Fairness for All’ Approach I learn that the unfortunate conflict between religious liberty and LGBT rights is increasing in intensity. In the article we read that:

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is deeply concerned that the ongoing conflicts between religious liberty and LGBT rights are poisoning our civil discourse, eroding the free exercise of religion and preventing diverse Americans of good will from living together in respect and peace. Lawmakers across the nation, including members of Congress, are working to enact or strengthen laws that ensure LGBT persons fair access to important rights, such as nondiscrimination in areas like housing, employment and appropriate public accommodations. The Church is on record favoring reasonable measures that secure such rights.

At the same time, we urgently need laws that protect the rights of individuals and faith communities to freely gather, speak out publicly, serve faithfully and live openly according to their religious beliefs without discrimination or retaliation, even when those beliefs may be unpopular. This includes the right of religious organizations and religious schools to establish faith-based employment and admissions standards and to preserve the religious nature of their activities and properties.

According to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints,

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.

The Equality Act, is a bill that was just approved by the House of Representatives, and it is currently awaiting consideration by the United States Senate. The Equality Act would amend the 1964 Civil Rights Act, and prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity in employment, housing, public accommodations, public education, federal funding, credit, and the jury system.

On the surface, when explained in those terms, this change seems to be reasonable. However, there is more to it, and the Church and other religious organizations are not the only ones who are worried about the potential consequences of the Equality Act.

According to an article on the National Review, titled A Liberal Law Professor Explains Why the Equality Act Would ‘Crush’ Religious Dissenters Douglas Laycock, a law professor at the University of Virginia, who has been a longtime supporter of same-sex marriage is now worried that the Equality Act

“…goes very far to stamp out religious exemptions. It regulates religious non-profits. And then it says that [the Religious Freedom Restoration Act] does not apply to any claim under the Equality Act. This would be the first time Congress has limited the reach of RFRA. This is not a good-faith attempt to reconcile competing interests. It is an attempt by one side to grab all the disputed territory and to crush the other side.”

I find it interesting, when he says that “It is an attempt by one side to grab all the disputed territory and to crush the other side“. This is why, I believe, the Church is saying that it “strongly oppose the Equality Act as unbalanced, fundamentally unfair and a path to further conflict.”

While the rights of the LGBT are important, the Constitution of the United States of America allows for the peaceful coexistence of people with different values, and one group should not impose their beliefs and practices on other groups.

This principle, obviously, is easy to state, but not always easy to apply in public life, especially when strong feelings are involved.

According to professor Laycock the Equality Act, would “crush” conscientious objectors and have several other negative consequences.

It is too early to see how this battle will develop, but there are reasons to be concerned about religious freedom in the US. Hopefully, reason and good feelings will prevail, and religious freedom will be protected together with the basic civil rights for LGBT persons in order to end this destructive conflict and protect the rights of all Americans.


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