By / Feb 26

As a husband, pastor, and the father of eight children, five of whom are daughters, there are many reasons I am deeply troubled by H.R. 5, legislation ironically named the Equality Act. In this article, I want to focus on my concerns as a girl dad who loves sports.  

As a girl dad, I am concerned about the Equality Act because it will undermine female equality by negating the biological reality of sex. Erasing biological sex as a legal category will negatively affect all of us, but it will disproportionately harm women.

Women and Title IX

Under H.R. 5, vital laws protecting women from discrimination on the basis of “sex” would be upended. A person’s sex would no longer be a matter of biology, but of one’s internal sense of “gender identity.” Title IX is a portion of the United States Education Amendments of 1972, designed to ensure equal opportunities in programs and activities for biological females. The amendment is probably best known for its impact on high school and college athletics. Title IX reads,

No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.

Of course, when Title IX was adopted, “sex” merely indicated whether a person was biologically male or female. If the legal definition of “sex” is expanded to include non-verifiable gender identities, which H.R. would do, then what is the purpose of Title IX? How can you have an anti-discrimination law in place to protect women if there is no objective way to determine who is male and female? Any attempt to enforce such regulations would be nonsensical.

Impossible standards

In athletics, a refusal to account for biological, sex-dependent differences will legally enshrine inequality in sports. In addition to being unfair, it is insulting and demeaning to females when we proceed as if biological males are the standard by which they ought to evaluate themselves. Acknowledging biological differences in athletic competition is as necessary as acknowledging differences in age.

This is not hyperbole. 

Female athletes nationwide are already experiencing the unjust effects of our cultural gender chaos. In Texas, a 17-year-old female student transitioning to male and undergoing testosterone treatments won the girl’s state championship in wrestling. Performance-enhancing drugs are banned in most sports competitions but not if allowing them accommodates the student to “transition.” In Connecticut, biological males competing as females combined to win 15 girls state outdoor or indoor championship races. And how should we respond if a male who self-identifies as a female seriously injures a female while wrestling? It is not inconceivable that such issues portend the end of public school athletics.

Even tennis champion, long-time gay rights activist, and open lesbian Martina Navratilova responded with shock and outrage when she heard about biological transgender males competing against females. She penned a February 2019 article titled, “The rules on trans athletes reward cheats and punish the innocent.”

Navratilova asserted, “It’s insane and it’s cheating. I am happy to address a transgender woman in whatever form she prefers, but I would not be happy to compete against her. It would not be fair.” She continued, “To put the argument at its most basic: a man can decide to be female, take hormones if required by whatever sporting organization is concerned, win everything in sight and perhaps earn a small fortune, and then reverse his decision and go back to making babies if he so desires.” Of course, she was pilloried for her common sense comments and walked them back a bit.

Level playing field

My oldest daughter has enough talent as a tennis player, competing against other girls, to earn an athletic college scholarship to an excellent school. Would that be the case if she had to compete against biological males? No. Not even close. 

Let’s be honest; legislation like the Equality Act is not about protecting people who have been unfairly excluded from participation in sports. It is about politicizing everything in our culture, including sports, in service of the sexual revolution. 

I have no plans to turn my back on the reality of biological science. Nor to accept the new sexual orthodoxy. Still, I am gutted when I think about the implications of this legislative assault on my five daughters. There are far worse ramifications of H.R. 5 than the end of female sports, but as a dad who fiercely loves his daughters and has spent a lifetime enjoying sports, I grieve the thought of that loss in particular. 

The truth is found on the opening page of Scripture. “God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them” (Genesis 1:27). I cannot wait until the weather warms, to watch my daughters compete against other girls on a tennis court. The beauty of competition taking place on a level playing field brings me great joy. I plan to enjoy it as long as I can.

By / Feb 25

If you were looking for the very best way to get Americans to accept a radical piece of legislation, giving the bill a clever name would be near the top of the list. This is exactly the case with the so-called “Equality Act,” officially known as H.R. 5. Judging by its name alone, it seems like the kind of legislation that almost anyone would support. After all, what kind of person is opposed to equality? Even more, the bill is supposedly an effort to combat discrimination. And what kind of monster would think discrimination is good? 

But here’s the real issue: it takes more than a clever name to make a good law. And once you move past its name, the serious issues with H.R. 5 are both obvious and alarming.

The Equality Act

The truth is, the Equality Act is not just a bad bill; it’s a dangerous one. (See our explainer and one-pager). It does not represent a good faith effort to protect LGBT Americans from discrimination. It is, in fact, an effort to codify into law the progressive orthodoxy of the sexual revolution and to legally silence those who dissent. 

H.R. 5 would “expand the definition of ‘sex’ to include ‘sexual orientation’ and ‘gender identity’ (SOGI) and would revise every title of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to add these categories as new protected classes in the federal code.” Should it be enacted, it would imperil religious freedom, substantially harm women and girls, and cement a false conception of the human person into our nation’s laws and consciousness. Not to mention the fact that it would effectively destroy the clear (biologically determined) distinctions between males and females in our society and laws.

And for these reasons, it is paramount that H.R. 5 is defeated.

Addressing discrimination

Christians should oppose discrimination and stand up for human dignity. Of all people, followers of Jesus should recognize the inherent value of every person, regardless of their age, race, ability, religion, or any other details or features that define them, including their sexual orientation and sense of gender identity. Every person is created by God and made in his image (Gen. 1:26-27). That is why every person matters. Regardless of who they are, what they believe, or what they’ve done, no one can separate themselves from the image of God. Being stamped with God’s image means that each person possesses intrinsic dignity and deserves to be treated with respect.

There is no doubt that people in the LGBT community sometimes experience discrimination. But as Ryan T. Anderson points out, “Rather than finding common-sense, narrowly tailored ways to shield LGBT-identifying Americans from truly unjust discrimination, [H.R. 5] would act as a sword — to persecute those who don’t embrace newfangled gender ideologies.”

Anderson is correct. If the Equality Act were merely attempting to eliminate unjust discrimination, it would likely enjoy enthusiastic and bipartisan support. But it isn’t. 

Instead, in the name of “antidiscrimination” H.R. 5 would see Christians and others forced to deny their sincerely held beliefs or suffer untold consequences at the hands of the state. It would see women and girls forced to share private spaces with biological males. It would see pro-life conscience protections stripped away from healthcare professionals. And it would threaten the very existence of countless faith-based charities and nonprofits. 

Disagreement isn’t discrimination

We live in an age where disagreement on issues of sexuality is construed as violence. Christians and others who hold to traditional understandings of gender and sexuality are frequently slandered as zealots and bigots. But in most cases, such charges are baseless.

H.R. 5 would punish people who, whether on the basis of the Bible or biology, hold fast to their beliefs that there are only two sexes (male and female), that gender is tied to biology, and that both of these realities are permanent and fixed. 

Christians should have enormous compassion for people struggling with their sexual identities and for people who believe there is some kind of misalignment between their biological sex and their internal sense of gender. But that compassion doesn’t negate our convictions about God’s intentional design for men and women. Nor does it undermine the importance of biological realities.

Men and women are different. Public policy shouldn’t punish people for adhering to facts supported by science, reason, and faith. Moreover, women and girls shouldn’t be forced to share changing facilities and restrooms with biological males or to compete against them in athletic competitions. Faith-based nonprofits shouldn’t be forced to choose between maintaining their beliefs about human sexuality or ceasing operations. Healthcare professionals shouldn’t be forced to violate their consciences (and medical training) in order to remain licensed and employed.

Opposing the Equality Act

Legislation that would punish people for recognizing distinctions written into our DNA is not a serious way to advance equality. It is, however, a clear demonstration of the strength of the LGBT lobby. People of faith, and all Americans of goodwill, should reject H.R. 5 for exactly what it is, reckless government overreach. 

This bill would eradicate safeguards, destroy civil liberties, and obliterate freedom of conscience. It would also erase women and girls and supplant biological facts with subjective experiences. Supporting H.R. 5 is no way to advance equality.

By / Feb 24

The ERLC’s public policy advocacy includes supporting good legislation while also opposing bills that are harmful to the common good. Jeff and Chelsea welcome their friend Katie Glenn from Americans United for Life to discuss how the promotion of justice for life-affirming laws requires both.

Guest Biography

Katie Glenn serves as Government Affairs Counsel at Americans United for Life. Her work to enact pro-life laws at the state and federal level includes writing and testifing on all of AUL’s issue areas across the United States. She is an associate editor of Defending Life 2020, and plays an integral role in AUL’s growing advocacy in Latin America. Prior to AUL, she worked with legislators, faith leaders, and religious institutions to protect religious freedom for all Americans, while traveling across the country to assist in the legislative process. She graduated with honors from Tulane University and earned her Juris Doctor from the University Of Florida Levin College Of Law.

Resources from the Conversation

By / Jan 22

Public policy advocacy is one of the many ways the ERLC fulfills its ministry in the public square. We released our 2021 Public Policy Agenda, which focuses on more than three dozen policy issues we will advocate before the U.S. Congress. 

Below is a sample of our policy priorities in the areas of sanctity of human life, religious liberty, family and marriage, justice, and international engagement.

Some of these issues have been a part of the ERLC’s legislative agenda for the last several years; other issues are new and a product of the political moment in which we find ourselves. Legislatively, with two surprise results in the Georgia senatorial runoff elections, both chambers of Congress will be controlled by the Democratic Party during the 117th Congress, although with razor-thin margins. The Senate is divided 50-50 between the party caucuses, with Vice President Kamala Harris breaking any ties. In the House, the Democratic Party holds control by a handful of votes.

Although Senate Democrats will have some procedural tools to pass legislation on partisan lines, broadly speaking, only legislation with substantial bipartisan consensus will be able to pass both chambers and be signed by President Biden. It will therefore be difficult to pass legislation within many of the areas of most concern for the ERLC, which do not enjoy broad bipartisan support, such as protecting the human dignity of the preborn, religious liberty, and comprehensive immigration reform. Nevertheless, the ERLC will work to advance and make progress on our public policy agenda in these divided times at the federal level.

Sanctity of Human Life

  • No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act: Americans are divided over the issue of abortion, and many Americans strongly object to their tax dollars being used for what they believe to be a great moral wrong. In 1976, the Congress recognized this reality and every legislature since then has voted to protect the consciences of pro-life Americans. Since its enactment in 1976, Congress has passed the amendment as a temporary rider which expires each year. The No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act would codify the Hyde Amendment into law, by prohibiting federal funds from being expended for abortion or health coverage that includes coverage for elective abortion. 
  • The Born Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act: Federal law does not adequately protect a born child who survives a failed abortion. The Born Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act would amend the federal criminal code to require any health care practitioner present when a child is born alive following an abortion or attempted abortion to, first, exercise the same degree of care as reasonably provided to any other child born alive at the same gestational age, and, second, ensure the child is immediately admitted to a hospital.
  • Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act: This Act would prohibit the performing (or attempted performance) of abortions on babies at 20 weeks or greater gestation, except in cases of rape, incest, or to save the life of the mother. In the 115th Congress, the bill passed the House of Representatives. In the 116th Congress, the bill was introduced in both chambers, but did not pass either chamber. 
  • Preventing proliferation of chemical abortions: Chemical abortion (sometimes referred to as a medication abortion or pharmaceutical abortion) is a method that uses an abortifacient to stimulate uterine contractions and end the pregnancy in a process similar to miscarriage. The ERLC will continue to counter the abortion lobby’s efforts to distribute abortion pills.

Religious Liberty

  • Defending Religious Freedom during the COVID-19 Pandemic: The ERLC will continue to advocate that the government treat churches the same as similar activities, businesses, and spaces, while recognizing that God has given the state the authority to manage activities, businesses, and spaces during a national health crisis. To this end, the ERLC has produced a number of resources to equip churches as they work to understand the public health orders issued in their community and as they engage with local officials to advocate for their religious liberty rights.
  • Opposition to the Equality Act: There are multiple pieces of legislation introduced in recent years which aim to, at the most extreme, codify the demands of the sexual revolution and radically reshape religious freedom in the United States. In May of 2019, the House passed The Equality Act—a bill that would amend the 1964 Civil Rights Act to add sexual orientation and gender identity as protected classes under federal civil rights law. The bill would curtail religious freedom protections, hinder the work of healthcare professionals and faith-based hospitals, undermine civil rights protections for women and girls, and ultimately steamroll the consciences of millions of Americans. The ERLC believes that this bill represents the most significant threat to religious liberty ever considered in the United States Congress. We will continue to oppose the Equality Act and similar legislation introduced this Congress.
  • Opposition to Do No Harm Act: This bill, if passed into law, would weaken religious freedom protections for millions of Americans. The ERLC opposes the Do No Harm Act because it would do significant harm to the landscape of legal protections foundational to America’s first freedom.

Family and Marriage

  • Combating hunger during Covid-19 pandemic: The COVID-19 crisis has impacted food supply chains, driving up the price of food, which has a disparate impact for lower-income families. Many families find themselves newly needing to access the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). While Congress did expand and increase unemployment insurance and benefits, many families are still unable to feed their children. The ERLC has prioritized this issue by advocating for flexibility within the SNAP program, to ensure that individuals’ needs are met, and that all Americans have access to food security.
  • Responding to the opioid crisis: The SUPPORT for Patients and Community Act (H.R. 6) bill, signed into law by President Trump, marked a significant step forward in response to the opioid crisis. The legislation approved $6 billion in funding, curbed drug shipments, lifted treatment restrictions, expanded recovery centers, sped up new painkiller research, and made regulatory changes to Medicare and Medicaid. We will continue to engage with Congressional leadership and the Department of Health and Human Services on implementation of the SUPPORT Act and a range of efforts including poverty and welfare programs and training for the faith community.
  • Revive obscenity prosecution: The Obama administration’s Department of Justice terminated the Obscenity Prosecution Task Force (OPTF). Though the Department continued to prosecute cases involving children (which is essential), they ignored virtually all other violations of existing federal law which makes production and distribution of hardcore pornography illegal. The ERLC will advocate for the Department of Justice under the Biden Administration to seriously and aggressively confront exploitation of women, teens, and girls and boys by the pornography industry.

Justice

  • Permanent Solution for Dreamers: After multiple attempts to rescind the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, followed by more than a year of litigation and a Supreme Court decision, those young immigrants who were brought to the United States by their parents remain in an unstable situation. These immigrants broke no law, and yet they remain without permanent legal status. Now young adults, these Dreamers—many of whom have families of their own with children who are U.S. citizens—are workers, students, and positive contributors to their communities. We will continue to work closely with Congress and the Biden Administration to deliver a permanent legislative solution for Dreamers.
  • Criminal Justice Reform: The ERLC will continue to advocate for reforms that focus on transformation and rehabilitation, such as the Recognizing Education, Employment, New Skills, and Treatment to Enable Reintegration—or, RE-ENTER—Act. This bill allows eligible individuals with federal convictions to apply for a certificate of rehabilitation from a district court, attesting to a law-abiding future and a commitment to successful reintegration into society.
  • Human Trafficking: The ERLC will continue to advocate for anti-human trafficking legislation in the new congress—particularly legislation aimed at supporting trafficking victims.

International Engagement

  • Advocating for a strong Office of International Religious Freedom: The Office of International Religious Freedom at the Department of State is one of the most effective government institutions for protecting religious minorities, including persecuted Christians. The ERLC will advocate for the appointment of a strong, capable, and experienced Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom and for continuity of leadership at the Office until a new Ambassador-at-Large is appointed. We will also continue to advocate for international religious freedom to remain a top U.S. foreign policy priority.
  • International Pro-Life Engagement: The international abortion lobby is active and entrenched at the United Nations and also working to pressure countries around the world to legalize abortion. For decades, this lobby has been working to create an “international right to abortion.” The ERLC will continue to work against this lobby at the United Nations, ensuring that international law is not expanded to include such a right. In addition, the ERLC is exploring opportunities to support countries seeking to exercise their right to protect life within their borders.
  • Advocating for the elimination of blasphemy and apostasy laws: Dozens of countries still enforce these laws—often through the death penalty—prohibiting one from converting to another religion or speaking or acting in any way that is deemed offensive to the god of their particular religion. This is even enforced, such as in Pakistan, against adherents of other faiths. We are ERLC is committed to working to repeal these laws and ensure that all peoples have the right to worship freely without fear of persecution or penalization.
By / Jan 22

On Tuesday of this week it was announced that Dr. Rachel Levine would be nominated by the Biden administration to serve as assistant secretary of health for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). The announcement immediately garnered attention because Dr. Levine, the current secretary of health for the commonwealth of Pennsylvania, “would become the first openly transgender federal official to be confirmed by the U.S. Senate.” And following the inauguration on Wednesday, it was also announced that President Biden had signed an executive order “on Preventing and Combating Discrimination on the Basis of Gender Identity or Sexual Orientation.” 

News of this sort was unsettling to many evangelicals. The progressive policies favored by the new administration concerning human sexuality are distressing to us. And they should be. As Christians we believe that God, at creation, established a pattern for human life. That pattern is clear and easily discerned. He made us male and female, which is to say that he made each person male or female (Gen. 1:27). For Christians, the Bible’s anthropology correlates directly with our lived experience in the world in terms of sex and gender. Sex is tied to biology; gender is tied to sex. And none of these things are fungible.

Even so, it is apparent that the world is changing around us. Christians can no longer take for granted the fact that our neighbors (and our culture) share our beliefs about human sexuality. And in a sense this isn’t shocking at all. In the moments after the Obergefell decision was handed down in June of 2015, ERLC President Russell Moore said, “We need to be the people who know how to articulate a Christian vision of sexuality that will be increasingly counter-cultural from this point on.” This is even more true today. Over the next several years, and potentially decades, the Christian vision of human sexuality will stand in even starker contrast from the ever-shifting view of sexuality in our culture—and now promulgated by our government.

A Christian response

But how should Christians respond to this? The first answer is to remember our mission. Jesus has called his people to live as missionaries in a world that is lost in darkness. Some of these conversations are still shocking to us, confusion about basic elements of biology and identity, but if anything they remind us that this world is under a curse. Admittedly the sexual revolution has brought us further and faster than I once believed it would, but even these developments give us an incredible opportunity to talk about why the Christian church holds the views we hold on the goodness of sex and gender as creation categories. 

There is no need to feel afraid. It’s not only still true that Jesus is King and sovereign over everything that happens in our lives and in our world. It is also the case that he has equipped the church with everything it needs to meet the challenges of this moment. It would be a mistake for Christians to respond, for instance, to the announcement of Dr. Levine’s nomination out of fear or revulsion. Yes, transgenderism is deeply discordant with the pattern of God’s design. And while we are right to lament the idea that such is being normalized in our culture—and likely doing further harm to others struggling with their sexual identities—the appropriate response is to speak words of truth and compassion instead of words marked by anger or fear or cruelty.

More than that, with the world embracing false beliefs about what it means to be male or female, it is all the more critical for Christians to heed Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 5. In that passage, Christians are instructed to pay careful attention to the conduct and sins within the church itself, rather than the outside world. Paul’s point, of course, is not that the world will not be judged for its sins (it will), but that it is God who judges the world. As Christians, we must hold fast to sound teaching about sex and gender and pass these things along to our children and the generations that follow them. We may not, at this time, be able to reverse the world’s thinking about the goodness of God’s design. But we must still bear witness to these things, demonstrating the joys and benefits of living according to this creational paradigm, and be prepared to minister to those who are left reeling as the sexual revolution fails to keep its promises.

Serious policy concerns

At the same time, none of this means that we simply acquiesce to these changes in our world, even if they seem inevitable. The concerns Christians and others have raised about the inequity of biological men competing in women’s sports are no less valid today than they were the day before President Biden signed that executive order. Neither are the very serious concerns previously raised about personal privacy and safety in restrooms and changing facilities. These Day-1 efforts to erase the distinctions between males and females through an executive order are critical errors. Such missteps will only be further exacerbated if the administration throws its support behind the so-called Equality Act, which would not only codify these errors into law but threaten the religious and conscience freedom of those who dissent. Whatever laudable actions the administration may take on any number of other issues, Christians should have the courage to say that these efforts concerning gender and sexuality are wrong, and that executive orders cannot countermand biological realities. 

Politics is increasingly driven by outrage. But as Christians we need not engage in that game. As we consider these issues, we should remember that the men and women, especially the young boys and girls, who are struggling with issues related to sex and gender are suffering. The shockingly high suicide rate among transgender youth should be both alarming and devastating to us. And rather than judgment, we must offer compassion to those experiencing gender dysphoria and related issues. But that will never happen if the main thing a watching world sees from Christians is outrage or disgust. If anything, thinking through our response to these issues should remind us of Jesus who intentionally spent his time ministering to those most frequently marginalized by society.

Do not despair. Neither Dr. Levine’s nomination nor the administration’s actions on issues of sex and gender portend the end of our republic, and certainly not the church (Matt 16:18). But they do provide further evidence that Christians can no longer assume the world agrees with us about sexual ethics. As frustrating as any of this may be, we should actually recognize this as a call back to our mission field. And instead of acting as cultural critics screaming into the void of social media, we should see ourselves as missionaries, with a people to love and a gospel to share.