By / Jun 4

President Joe Biden recently issued an official proclamation declaring June 2021 as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer Pride Month. “I call upon the people of the United States to recognize the achievements of the LGBTQ+ community,” said Biden, “to celebrate the great diversity of the American people, and to wave their flags of pride high.”

The sexual identities “Pride Month” intends to celebrate run contrary to the pattern of God’s design for human sexuality as expressed in Scripture and revealed through nature. According to article 28 of the Baptist Faith & Message, marriage — which is defined as “the uniting of one man and one woman in covenant commitment for a lifetime” — is the sole biblical “framework for intimate companionship” and “channel of sexual expression.” As witnessed by President Biden’s proclamation, in recent decades the LGBTQ movement has gained wide acceptance in our culture.

Here is what you should know about LGBTQ Pride Month. 

What is Pride Month?

In the United States, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer (LGBTQ) Pride Month occurs in the month of June to commemorate the 1969 Stonewall riots. The Stonewall riots, which occurred in New York City from June 28 to July 3, 1969, helped launch the social and political movement known as “gay liberation.” 

The Stonewall Inn, located in the Greenwich Village neighborhood of Manhattan, was a tavern operated by the Genovese crime family. The bar lacked a liquor license and violated many of the city’s health and safety codes (it didn’t have running water and the toilets frequently overflowed), which made it the frequent target of law enforcement. The mafia owners reportedly paid almost $9,000 a month (in 2021 dollars) in bribes to the local police, yet were still raided about once a month. 

At 1:20 a.m. on June 28, six police officers attempted to close the bar. About 200 patrons resisted, and a crowd of 500 gathered outside. When the crowd became violent, the police officers barricaded themselves inside the establishment. Rioters threw rocks and bricks and attempted to burn down the building to kill the police inside. A SWAT team quelled that disturbance, but two days later an even more violent riot broke out as thousands of protesters clashed with police. (Despite the violence and attempted murder against police, President Obama made the Stonewall Inn a national monument in 2016, and the NYPD police commissioner issued an apology on behalf of the police force in 2019.)

A year later, gay activists in New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles organized marches to honor the riots and promote “gay liberation.” The next year, Gay Pride marches took place in Boston, Dallas, Milwaukee, London, Paris, West Berlin, and Stockholm. By 1972 the marches were occurring in more than a dozen cities across the U.S. Since then, they have become ubiquitous in the U.S. and in other Western countries. 

Why is the rainbow flag associated with LGBT Pride?

The rainbow LGBT flag was a creation of Gilbert Baker, a designer and gay rights activist, who created the flag in 1978 as a new symbol for the gay libertarion movement. The original flag had eight colors, each of which had a representative meaning. “Pink is for sex, red for life, orange for healing, yellow for sun,” said Baker. “Green for nature, turquoise for magic, blue for serenity, and purple for the spirit. I like to think of those elements as in every person, everyone shares that.” Most of the flags today have only six colors, with the pink and turquoise removed.

Christians recognize the rainbow as the sign of God’s covenant with Noah. Where the LGBTQ movement has appropriated the sign of the rainbow as a symbol of affirmation or pride, the Bible reveals that the rainbow is meant to be a sign of deliverance from judgement. As Erik Raymond has written: “The God of the Bible owns the distinct honor, as he has long used the rainbow to illustrate his loving demonstration of mercy instead of judgment! God the loving Creator was angered by humanity’s rebellion against his will & so therefore justly demonstrated his judgment upon their sin. In Genesis 6 the Scriptures teach that instead of giving mankind what they deserve for their rebellion, he chose to save some from destruction. The mercy & faithfulness of God was demonstrated by the beautiful rainbow that filled the sky.”

Is Pride Month an official U.S. commemoration?

Three presidents have issued official proclamations commemorating Pride Month: Bill Clinton in 1999 and 2000; Barack Obama from 2009 to 2016; and Joe Biden in 2021. Donald Trump became the first Republican president to acknowledge Pride Month in 2019, though he did not issue an official proclamation.

A related commemoration occurs in October, with LGBT History Month. In 1995, a resolution passed by the General Assembly of the National Education Association included LGBT History Month within a list of commemorative months. 

Why has LGBT Pride become embraced by corporations?

During the month of June, it’s nearly impossible to find a large American corporation that is not engaged in promoting Pride Month. There is disagreement about whether the promotional activities are merely attempting to appeal to consumers or if something more nefarious is behind the marketing.

The practice is sometimes criticized as “pinkwashing,” a term used to describe the action of using gay-related issues in positive ways in order to distract attention from negative actions by an organization, country, or government. Regardless, Pride Month has become a massive cultural phenomenon that is impossible to ignore. And those who refuse to acknowledge or affirm LGBTQ causes will likely face even greater social pressure to do so in the years ahead. As Joe Carter has written: “Today, the American people fly a rainbow flag, wear an ‘ally’ pin, or change their social media avatars to show they observe LGBT Pride Month. In doing so, they show they’ve bent the knee to the LGBT cause and will not incur their wrath that will be poured out those who are not ‘affirming.’”

What is the purpose of LGBT Pride Month?

From its inception, the LGBT Pride movement has been about “sexual liberation.” As the prominent LGBT magazine The Advocate wrote in 2018, 

From its roots, Pride was a political act. And so is having the kind of sex we want to have with who we want to have it. That was a rebellion against the institution of monogamy and ideas about women as property. . . . Pride is the antidote to efforts to control and limit sex — which politicians are still trying to do.

For decades, Pride events have been frequently criticized (even by some LGBT activists) for overt displays of sexuality and championing of causal promiscuity. But as Alex Abad-Santos of Vox writes, that’s part of the point of Pride. “Queer history is often about resistance to norms and embracing radical existence,” he writes, “so engaging in respectability politics—the idea that marginalized groups need to behave or act in a certain way to validate the compassion shown toward them—flies in the face of those goals.”

For these reasons, it is all the more important for Christians to prepare their hearts and minds to stand against the tide of the LGBTQ movement. Christians must model Christlikeness as we bear witness to the truth of the gospel and about the beauty of God’s design for humanity. And we must do so without anger or fear, but with love, charity, and grace.

By / Jun 4

In this episode, Josh, Lindsay, and Brent discuss the 100th anniversary of the Tulsa Race Massacre, a Christian response to Pride Month, a major leadership change in Israel, and recent news involving the ERLC. They also cover new ERLC content including a critical abortion case headed to the Supreme Court, questions about content moderation on social media, and one city’s approach to combatting abortion through local ordinances.

ERLC Content

Culture

  1. 100 Years since the Tulsa Race Massacre. Churches are leading on racial unity.
  2. June is “Pride” Month. How should Christians think about that?
  3. A major shake-up in Israel’s national leadership. What’s that mean for the Biden Administration?
  4. A leaked letter from Russell Moore sparks conversations within the SBC about race and sexual abuse.

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By / Apr 9

On Tuesday, Arkansas became the first U.S. state to prohibit doctors from providing gender transition procedures for children. 

The legislation, known as the Arkansas Save Adolescents from Experimentation (SAFE) Act, prohibits any physician or other healthcare professional from providing gender transition procedures to any person under the age of 18. Additionally, it prohibits any public funds from being given directly or indirectly to any doctor, hospital, or other entity that provides gender transition services for minors.

In March, the bill passed the state House by a vote of 70-22, and was approved in the state Senate by a vote of 28-7. But earlier this week, Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson vetoed the legislation, saying, “This was one step way too far and I couldn’t abide by it.” On Tuesday, the state’s Republican-controlled legislature voted to override the veto.

What does the law mean by “gender transition procedures”?

For the purposes of the Arkansas law, gender transition refers to the process in which a person goes from identifying with and living as a gender that corresponds to his or her biological sex to identifying with and living as a gender different from his or her biological sex, and may involve social, legal, or physical changes.

Gender transition procedures mean any medical or surgical service, related to gender transition that seeks to alter or remove physical or anatomical characteristics or features that are typical for the individual’s biological sex. It also includes efforts to instill or create physiological or anatomical characteristics that resemble a sex different from the individual’s biological sex, including providing puberty-blocking drugs, cross-sex hormones, or other mechanisms to promote the development of feminizing or masculinizing features in the opposite biological sex, or genital or nongenital gender reassignment surgery performed for the purpose of assisting an individual with a gender transition.

What procedures are prohibited by this law?

The primary effect of the law is that it prevents healthcare providers from giving puberty-blocking drugs and cross-sex hormones to minors.

Puberty-blocking drugs are used to delay the onset or progression of puberty in children who experience distress at identifying with their biological sex. Cross-sex hormones refer to testosterone or other androgens given to biological females in amounts that are larger or more potent than would normally occur naturally in healthy biological sex females, and to estrogen given to biological males in amounts that are larger or more potent than would normally occur naturally in healthy biological sex males. 

Genital and nongenital gender reassignment surgeries are also prohibited, even though they are generally not recommended for children. However, the law points out that “evidence indicates referrals for children to have such surgeries are becoming more frequent.” Such procedures can include irreversible changes such as mastectomy, hysterectomy, thyroid cartilage reduction, and voice surgery. 

How does this affect children who are born intersex?

Intersex is a statistically rare variation in sex characteristics including chromosomes, gonads, or genitals that do not allow an individual to be distinctly identified as male or female. Intersex is a physical condition while transgender is a psychological condition, and the vast majority of people with intersex conditions identify as male or female rather than transgender or transsexual.

The legislation does not prohibit medical procedures to persons born with a medically verifiable disorder of sex development, including a person with external biological sex characteristics that are irresolvably ambiguous. 

What are the dangers of providing gender transition services to minors?

According to the American Psychiatric Association, “For natal adult males, prevalence [of gender dysphoria] ranges from 0.005% to 0.014%, and for natal females, from 0.002% to 0.003%.” But a study published in 2018 in the medical journal Pediatrics found that young people are 329% more likely than adults to identify as transgender, and that there are almost as many transgender teens as there are adult men and women who identify as gay and lesbian.

Prior to 2012, there were few reported cases and little to no research studies about adolescent females with gender dysphoria first beginning in adolescence. But parents have recently been reporting that their children are experiencing what is described as “rapid-onset gender dysphoria,” appearing for the first time during puberty or even after its completion. According to another study published in 2018,

The onset of gender dysphoria seemed to occur in the context of belonging to a peer group where one, multiple, or even all of the friends have become gender dysphoric and transgender-identified during the same timeframe. Parents also report that their children exhibited an increase in social media/internet use prior to disclosure of a transgender identity.

In 36.8% of the friendship groups described in the study, the majority of the members became transgender-identified. As the study notes, “The description of cluster outbreaks of gender dysphoria occurring in pre-existing groups of friends and increased exposure to social media/internet preceding a child’s announcement of a transgender identity raises the possibility of social and peer contagion.” Peer contagion describes a process of mutual influence between a child or adolescent and their peers that includes behaviors and emotions that potentially undermine one’s own development or cause harm to others. Peer contagion has been known to influence suicide, eating disorders, and bisexuality. 

Previous studies have shown that anywhere from 65 to 94% of children who express gender dsyphoria eventually ceased to identify as transgender by late adolescence or adulthood. But by giving them gender transition procedures, the medical profession is causing such children to be permanently affected by a condition most will grow out of by adulthood. 

The health effects of taking cross-sex hormones can also be deadly. In biological women it can lead to severe liver dysfunction, heart disease, strokes, and irreversible infertility. In biological men it can cause such conditions as blood clots, strokes, and breast cancer.

What does the Bible say about sex and gender?

Katie McCoy has helpfully defined gender this way: “We believe that gender is God-given, not socially constructed or self-determined; that gender distinctions are rooted in creation and manifested in biological differences, transcending social customs and cultural stereotypes; that being created as a [man or] woman is an essential aspect of our identity (Gen. 2:18-25; Matt. 19:4; Mark 10:6).” Similarly, biological sex, that is, whether a person is male or female, is determined by God long before that person is born. God made each person as either male or female, and this is a physical and genetic reality (Gen. 1:27). 

Christians understand that sex is tied to biology and that gender is tied to sex. Our gender is not something we choose; it is tied to the biological reality of sex. And our sex, gender, and bodies are permanent features of our identities as created by God.

By / Mar 23

Below is my response to an email I received that asked the following question: “I believe church should be for all of God’s children. No exceptions. I am a gay man. My question is, would I be fully accepted with no judgment and fully welcome and able to serve at Ashland Avenue Baptist Church?”

I have changed all of the identifying information, but other than that, my response is in full below. I hope that it will be helpful to others facing similar questions.

Dear D,

Welcome home to the beautiful Bluegrass. It is great to hear from you and to hear of your previous connection with Ashland. What a ministry this church has had for almost 100 years.

As to your question, it depends on what you mean by “I am a gay man” and what you mean by “accepted completely with no judgment and fully welcome and able to serve at Ashland Avenue?”

If by “I am a gay man” you mean that you struggle with same-sex attraction, recognizing any sexual activity outside of a covenant marriage between a man and a woman is sinful and that you desire Christian discipleship to walk in line with the Gospel as you struggle with this temptation, then we would rejoice at your honesty and openness and receive you gladly at Ashland. We have faithful and accountable members right now in that very situation and attempting to live celibate lives to the glory of Christ.

Of course, this is really no different than a man who struggles with heterosexual sexually immoral desires or any of the myriads of sinful desires we all struggle with as disciples of Christ. Sin is an equal opportunity offender and something that every Christian struggles with in unique ways.

If by “I am a gay man” you mean that you embrace a lifestyle of homosexual activity and you refuse recognize it as sin no matter what the Scripture says and you are looking for a church that will affirm homosexual activity and/or same-sex marriage that would be a different matter entirely. But there is no uniqueness to homosexual sin in regard to this approach. The same would be true if a man came to us and said “I am a ‘name the sin’ man” and by that he meant he planned to keep on sinning in that way and embracing it as a lifestyle no matter what the Scripture says. There is a world of difference between struggling with a sin and embracing a sin. God saves us where we are, but loves us too much too leave us where we are. He is at work conforming his people into the image of Christ.

As far as whether or not you would “be accepted completely with no judgment and fully welcome and able to serve at Ashland Avenue” that would depend on what you mean as well. We welcome all to attend our public worship services. Consider this your invitation to worship with us. We would love to have you in attendance. If you mean that you desire help in an accountable community of faith to struggle against sin then I would say that we are a community of believers whose hope is in the finished work of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of our sins—not our goodness. We are all struggling sinners attempting to follow our Lord and Savior and encouraging one another to do so.

On the other hand, if you mean that you want a church where any behavior you participate in will be affirmed and accepted in the membership of the church then the answer would be “no.” I do not think you would want to be a part of a congregation would tolerate any behavior or action among its members.

We are all broken in our sin and are in great need of acceptance by God through the atoning work of Jesus Christ. We are all guilty sinners who have rebelled against a holy God and who desperately need to respond to Christ in repentant faith. It is the awareness of our sin that reveals our need for redemption in Christ. Self-acceptance must not replace repentance and the liberating love of Christ that delivers us from bondage to our sins. Faith, sin and repentance are Christ-directed. Self-justification is man-directed and fashions God as a sort of divine therapist who helps us to accept ourselves.

You are right that God’s gospel is about his “love, acceptance, non-judging, and forgiveness for all” but such is the fruit of believers who trust God and agree with God about their sin in repentant faith. The comfortable and convenient thing would be to do away with the notion of sin altogether but such an approach would abandon the biblical gospel and would not be a demonstration of Christian love.

The apostle Paul told the church at Corinth,

Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God (1 Cor. 6:9-11).

Paul paints a beautiful picture of love, acceptance, and forgiveness for those who come to Christ in faith and repentance of sin. If we lose Paul’s grammar, we lose his gospel. If we shift his words to the present tense and say, “And such are some of you,” we are left with no one washed, no one sanctified, and no one justified.

I hope this response provides you respectful and direct answers to your honest questions. I struggle with my own sins so I could easily remove “homosexuality” from this letter and put my sins in those spaces and apply this letter to myself. The good news is that I do not have to be defined by my sins and neither do you. We can be forgiven of our sins and have our identity rooted in Christ and his grace.

I am thankful for the dialogue and your interest in my thoughts. I hope to see you soon at Ashland.

Blessings in Christ,

David E. Prince

This article originally published June 3, 2015.

By / Mar 17

Overview

The Equality Act would curtail religious freedom protections, violate the consciences of pro-life healthcare professionals and faith-based hospitals, undermine civil rights protections for women and girls, and ultimately overrule the consciences of millions of Americans. 

The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) is an entity of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC). The ERLC is dedicated to engaging the culture with the gospel of Jesus Christ and speaking to issues in the public square to protect religious liberty and promote human flourishing. Our vision can be summed up in three words: kingdom, culture, and mission. 

The ERLC exists to help churches understand the moral demands of the gospel, apply Christian principles to moral and social problems and questions of public policy, and to promote religious liberty in cooperation with the churches and other entities of the Southern Baptist Convention.

The ERLC affirms the full dignity of every human being. At the 2018 Annual Meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention, the Messengers passed a resolution to “reaffirm the sacredness and full dignity and worthiness of respect and Christian love for every single human being, without any reservation.” The SBC’s commitment to love of neighbor is grounded in the truth that “God created man in His own image; He created Him in the image of God; He created them male and female.” (Gen. 1:26-27)

Baptists and Religious Liberty

Baptists have always defended the separation of church and state and liberty of conscience. The Equality Act threatens both of these critical American ideals. The separation of church and state means that the government is not empowered to dictate or suppress doctrine and practice. This benefits all Americans by placing clear boundaries around the state’s authority. This bill would not merely erode but dissolve those boundaries, bringing the full weight of government against religious institutions and individual Americans simply for holding fast to their fundamental beliefs about anthropology and personhood. As Russell Moore, president of the ERLC, has said, “A government in the business of running the church, or claiming the church as a mascot of the state, invariably persecutes and drives out genuine religion.” Similarly, when the government stifles the freedom to dissent, whether from religious doctrine, political ideologies, or views related to human sexuality, it abandons its constitutional duty to protect civil liberties.

John Leland, a Baptist champion of religious liberty, challenged James Madison to ensure that religion and rights of conscience would be protected under the United States Constitution. Madison subsequently introduced the Bill of Rights as amendments to the Constitution, and Baptists have been faithful and ardent supporters of these bulwarks of freedom. Pluralism is a defining feature of our nation, and Baptists have long recognized that neither ideological conformity nor religious coercion are necessary for effective government. Instead, tolerance and persuasion are the instruments of civil discourse. The freedom of expression and robust and vigorous debate are critical elements of American society. The Equality Act would not advance but eradicate these instruments and ideals.

It is difficult to describe how tragic it would be for the Senate to pass a bill that repudiates the moral center of American government. The very premise of the Bill of Rights is that human beings, simply by their nature, enjoy fundamental liberties that the government has an obligation to protect. The Equality Act does more than threaten these freedoms; if enacted, it will contradict them explicitly. No American should ever be forced to compromise his or her religion or violate conscience to avoid punishment at the hands of their government. This legislation would needlessly penalize and discriminate against millions of Americans who possess no animus toward those this bill purports to aid. As law, the Equality Act would undermine pluralism, legalize coercion, imperil religious liberty, eliminate conscience protections, and erode the very freedoms enshrined in the First Amendment.

Analysis of H.R. 5

1. If enacted, the Equality Act would bring sweeping and historic changes to religious liberty with devastating effects to this foundational freedom.

Through the Equality Act, Congress would punish faith-based charities for their core religious beliefs about human dignity and marriage. While the proposed intention of H.R. 5 is to protect individuals who identify as LGBT, the bill fails to respect people’s freedom of conscience. H.R. 5 erodes foundational constitutional freedoms in its pursuit of fleeting cultural ideas.

H.R. 5 threatens the efforts of faith-based adoption and foster care agencies. The legislation would explicitly curtail the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 which would force faith-based child welfare organizations to either abandon their deeply held religious beliefs or be shut down. The state forced closures of such agencies is especially harmful at a time when multiple societal crises increase the need for children services.

H.R. 5 hinders the work of healthcare professionals and faith-based hospitals. While religiously affiliated hospitals routinely serve patients of any background, including those who identify as LGBT, providers who hold moral or religious beliefs cannot perform every procedure a patient requests. For example, doctors and nurses who object to gender reassignment surgeries for moral, religious, or scientific reasons would be forced to provide the procedure or risk losing their jobs.

2. The Equality Act would be the most pro-abortion bill ever passed by Congress.

The Equality Act would force healthcare workers and pro-life healthcare providers to participate in and provide abortions. Central to a Christian’s understanding of government is that government exists to secure rights granted by God. One of these inalienable rights is the freedom of conscience, not to be infringed by the state. H.R. 5 would redefine the term “sex” to also include “pregnancy, childbirth, or a related medical condition.” This language would roll back federal law that protects the consciences of pro-life nurses and physicians who object to participating in abortions because of their deeply held religious or moral beliefs. These conscience protections carry decades of bipartisan consensus—a consensus that no person should be compelled to participate in an act they believe to be gravely immoral. 

H.R. 5 would also jeopardize the longstanding Hyde Amendment that protects federal taxpayer dollars from funding abortion. There is nothing equalizing about forcing Americans to fund abortion through taxpayer dollars. Preventing taxpayer dollars from abortion protects consciences, saves lives, and respects the freedom of Americans to seek to persuade one another without state-sanctioned conscience intrusion. Every person is made in the image of God, and the United States has a responsibility to reflect that truth in its laws. 

3. H.R. 5 undermines decades of hard fought civil rights protections for women and girls.

The Equality Act disregards the privacy and safety concerns that women rightly have about sharing sleeping quarters and intimate facilities with the opposite sex. Single gender spaces, such as locker rooms or shelters, would no longer be protected by law. This departure from a legal understanding of gender as male and female makes women and girls vulnerable to biological males being in their private spaces. For example, shelters for those women and girls escaping domestic abuse or homelessness would be forced to house biological men who identify as female. 

Another example of the harm this legislation poses to women and girls is in athletics and academics. Since 1972, Title IX has advanced women’s sports and scholarship in remarkable ways. If enacted, the Equality Act would threaten female competition as both areas would then be open to biological males as well.

• • • •

In sum, H.R. 5 would undermine the ability of Americans who disagree to work together for the common good. These legislative changes represent a dramatic departure from the foundations of tolerance and civil discourse. If enacted, the Equality Act would bring sweeping and historic changes to religious liberty with devastating effects to this foundational freedom. As Russell Moore often notes, “A government that can pave over the consciences of some can steamroll over dissent everywhere.”

By / Mar 16

Last month, H.R. 5, the Equality Act passed the U.S. House of Representatives by a vote of 224-206, with all Democrats and three Republicans voting in favor of the legislation. The legislation seeks to 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. This sweeping bill was voted on in the House without a hearing at the House Judiciary Committee. The bill first passed the House in the 116th Congress, but did not receive a hearing or floor vote in the Senate under a Republican majority.

For more on this problematic bill and its alarming implications, see this previous explainer from the ERLC staff as well as this helpful resource page with articles, podcast episodes, and our policy brief. 

The ERLC affirms the full dignity of every human being. At the 2018 Annual Meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention, the Messengers passed a resolution to “reaffirm the sacredness and full dignity and worthiness of respect and Christian love for every single human being, without any reservation.” However, the Equality Act does not advance the cause of human dignity. If passed, the bill would punish faith-based charities for their core religious beliefs about human dignity and marriage and would undermine decades of civil rights protections for women and girls. 

This bill would also substantially undermine religious liberty protections in the United States. America has long been a place where people with different views and beliefs have been able to live at peace with one other. This bill would undermine fundamental protections that allow Americans of good will to disagree with one another without penalizing those with dissenting beliefs.

What will happen next with the Equality Act?

The Senate Judiciary Committee will be holding a hearing on the Equality Act this Wednesday. Due to the Democrat’s narrow control of the Senate, it is possible that the Equality Act will be voted out of committee, making it eligible for a vote on the Senate floor. However, under Senate rules, 60 votes are required to overcome the filibuster when the Senate is considering new policy. In its current form, H.R. 5 would likely fall short of this threshold. 

The ERLC is actively engaging lawmakers on this issue. We will continue promoting and defending the dignity and religious liberty of all people on Capitol Hill, before the courts, and in the public square.

H.R. 5 is out of step with basic American ideals. It seeks to end debate on critical issues by using the legal system to crush ideological opponents. Equality cannot be achieved by eliminating fundamental freedoms. 

How else might the Equality Act become law?

The ERLC is closely monitoring efforts by the LGBT lobby to append components of the Equality Act to other legislation under consideration by Congress through the amendment process. This includes spending or appropriations bills as well as legislation that is focused on other aims and objectives.

These efforts would also expand the definition of sex to include gender identity and sexual orientation or create new references to “sexual and gender minorities.” Depending on the context, such language can pave the way for the government to have the power to punish faith-based agencies charged with serving our nation’s most vulnerable children or undermine hard-fought protections for women and girls.

What’s next?

As the ERLC works to inform members of the U.S. Senate on the harms of the Equality Act, we will also combat attempts to pass components of the Equality Act in other places. This week, join us in praying that members of the Senate Judiciary Committee will see clearly, perhaps for the first time, the myriad problems the Equality Act would create. 

By / Mar 9

On Friday, President Joe Biden removed the general counsel of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), an action seen by many as controversial. Sharon Gustafson was appointed by President Donald Trump in 2018 to serve as the agency’s top litigator through 2023. She recently sent a letter to President Biden on March 5 declining his request to resign. 

“I have confidently given this advice to countless embattled clients over the last 25 years: hold your head high, do your best work, and do not resign under pressure,” Gustafson wrote in her letter to the president. “In solidarity with them, I will follow that advice.”

The administration previously fired the general counsel of the National Labor Relations Board General Counsel (NRLB), another Trump appointee, who also refused to resign. President Biden’s decision to fire Gustafson may have significant implications for religious liberty protections, which would be deeply concerning for Christians.

What is the EEOC?

The EEOC is the federal agency responsible for enforcing federal laws that make it illegal to discriminate against a job applicant or an employee because of the person’s race, color, religion, national origin, age (40 or older), disability or genetic information. This also applies to sex, which includes pregnancy, sexual orientation, and transgender status.

EEOC laws apply to most employers with at least 15 employees and 20 employees in age discrimination cases. Most labor unions and employment agencies are also covered. The laws apply to all types of work situations, including hiring, firing, promotions, harassment, training, wages, and benefits.

The EEOC has such powers as the ability to litigate discrimination cases and issue regulations interpreting the law. The agency can also accepts charges of discrimination from employees, investigates those charges, and attempts to mediate settlements between employees and employers.

Can’t the president fire anyone in his administration?

It’s unclear whether the president has the authority to fire officials at the EEOC. Within the executive branch of the federal government there are certain agencies, such as the EEOC and NRLB, which are supposed to operate as independent agencies. 

The 1935 case of Humphrey’s Executor v. United States ruled that the Constitution had never given “illimitable power of removal” to the president, and that President Hoover could not remove William E. Humphrey as a commissioner of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). It is possible that this firing will lead to further litigation that expands on the Supreme Court’s recent decision in Seila Law v. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which dealt with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

In any case, it is safe to say that the Biden Administration’s action is without legal precedent and may be overturned.

What is the EEOC’s role in implementing Bostock v. Clayton County?

In June of 2020, the Supreme Court issued a 6-3 ruling in a consolidated group of cases styled Bostock v. Clayton County. With the Bostock decision, the Supreme Court expanded the definition of “sex” to include “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. 

Bostock was a sweeping decision that fundamentally redefined the legal definition of “sex” and threatened, substantially, the conscience freedoms of religious employers in the United States. Because the EEOC is tasked with enforcing federal laws against discrimination, the commission will play a critical role in implementing Bostock and investigating claims of workplace discrimination. To a large extent, the leadership of the EEOC will determine whether or not the commission wields the weight of the federal government to threaten companies with dissenting views about human sexuality. Further, should the Equality Act become law, the EEOC will also pay a significant role in the implementation of this troubling legislation.

What is the role of the general counsel?

According to the EEOC, the General Counsel is responsible for managing, coordinating, and directing the Commission’s enforcement litigation program. As the agency’s counsel, they also provide overall guidance and management to all the components of the Office of General Counsel, including field office legal units.

The General Counsel is also responsible for developing litigation strategies designed to attain maximum compliance with federal laws prohibiting discrimination in employment. 

Why did Biden fire Gustafson?

The Biden administration has not stated its official reasoning for wanting to remove Gustafson as general counsel. However, after her nomination, several LGBTQ activist groups opposed her appointment to the EEOC. They opposed her, in part, because of the “evasive and non-committal” answers she gave “regarding the rights of LGBT workers.” 

In her letter declining to resign, Gustafson noted that after Biden’s inauguration, information on her efforts to promote religious freedom were removed from the EEOC website.

What is Gustafon’s record on religious liberty for employers?

Gustafson had been seen as an advocate for religious freedom. As she pointed out in her letter to President Biden, she focused on religious discrimination in the workplace throughout her time at the EEOC. She noted that during her tenure, “a Religious Discrimination Work Group” was established “that hosted a series of Listening Sessions in which a diverse group of religious representatives — including Christians, Hindus, Jews, Muslims, and Sikhs — recommended ways the EEOC could  improve its response to employees who experience religious discrimination.” 

Additionally, rather than penalizing those with religious views, Gustafson prioritized balancing religious liberty concerns with competing claims of discrimination.

What does this mean?

Because the administration has refused to provide its rationale for seeking Gustafson’s resignation, it is unclear exactly why these actions were taken. However, there is reason to believe that this effort to interfere with an independent government agency is being done in service to the LGBT lobby. In any case, this action violates the EEOC’s autonomy and may portend further hostility toward Americans who dissent from the radical sexual orthodoxy of the progressive movement. The effort to replace Gustafson sends troubling signs about the future on these issues.

By / Feb 26

On Thursday the U.S. House of Representatives voted in favor of a controversial bill titled the Equality Act. This legislation, filed as H.R. 5, seeks to 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. (See also: What is the Equality Act? and The Equality Act: A dangerous law with a clever name

The vote was 224-206, with all Democrats and three Republicans voting in favor of the legislation. The Republicans who voted for the act were Brian K. Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania and John Katko and Tom Reed of New York. 

Last Congress, the Equality Act passed in the House, but did not come up for a vote in the Senate. When the House voted for the bill in 2019, the vote was 236-173, with 23 representatives not voting. Eight Republicans joined every Democrat to vote for passage of the legislation. The eight members of the GOP to vote for the bill were Mario Diaz-Balart of Florida, Susan Brooks of Indiana, John Katko, Tom Reed, and Elise M. Stefanik of New York, Greg Walden of Oregon, Brian K. Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania, and William Ballard Hurd of Texas. Fitzpatrick and Katko were also co-sponsors of the bill. 

In the Senate, Susan Collins of Maine was the only Republican in 2019 to co-sponsor the bill while Joe Manchin of West Virginia was the sole Democrat who was not a co-sponsor. Collins said this week she will not co-sponsor the legislation in the U.S. Senate this year. “There were certain provisions of the Equality Act which needed revision,” said Collins. “Unfortunately the commitments that were made to me were not [given] last year.” 

Manchin also said in 2019 he would not support the legislation without changes. “I strongly support equality for all people and do not tolerate discrimination of any kind. No one should be afraid of losing their job or losing their housing because of their sexual orientation,” said Manchin. “I am not convinced that the Equality Act as written provides sufficient guidance to the local officials who will be responsible for implementing it, particularly with respect to students transitioning between genders in public schools.”

When the bill was introduced in the Senate in 2019, the GOP held the majority (53 seats) and Majority Leader Mitch McConnell refused to allow the bill to be voted on. President Trump was also expected to veto the legislation had it passed. This year the Senate is evenly divided, with 50 Republicans, 48 Democrats, and 2 Independents (Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Angus King of Maine) who caucus with the Democrats. If the Senate voted on the measure and Collins voted in favor while Manchin opposed, the result would be a 50-50 tie, which would be broken by Vice President Kamala Harris. 

But before the bill would even come up for a vote, the bill would have to overcome a filibuster, an attempt to block or delay Senate action on a bill or other matter. The only formal procedure that Senate rules provide for breaking a filibuster is invoking Rule 22, which requires 60 members to end debate on most topics and move to a vote. This Senate rule is the reason almost all partisan legislation in the Senate, with a few notable exceptions, requires 60 votes rather than a 51 vote majority. 

Senate Democrats wanting to stop the filibuster from being used to prevent passage of the Equality Act and other parts of their agenda have two main options. The first is to formally change the text of Senate Rule 22. But that would require support of two-thirds of the Senators present and voting. The second way is sometimes called the “nuclear option”—and more formally as “reform by ruling”—requires only a simple majority. This method was used in 2013 and 2017 to prevent filibusters of presidential nominees, including Supreme Court nominations.

However, this “nuclear option” is currently unlikely because at least two Democratic Senators—Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona—oppose ending the filibuster. 

Democrats wanting to pass the Equality Act are likely going to have to wait until after the midterm elections in 2022. Eight Republican senators are running for reelection, while four others have announced they are not seeking reelection. Ten Democratic senators are running for reelection, while no Democratic senators have announced plans for retirement. The Democrats would need to hold on to their ten seats and pick up at least one from the 12 seats currently held by Republicans. 

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.