By / Apr 2

Earlier this week, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (Rep.) signed a bill into law that bars instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity in kindergarten through the third grade. This bill, which has been dubbed the “Don’t Say Gay” bill by opponents, has brought about intense national controversy. This is due, in large part, to the prominent role that sexuality and gender identity play in today’s cultural conversations, as well as the influence of the LGBTQ+ movement in all aspects of our society. Even as the bill was being debated in the Florida legislature, organizations and companies across the country rallied in support or opposition of the bill.

Acting ERLC President Brent Leatherwood, speaking about the bill, said, “For years, we have asked elected officials to prioritize the protection of children and to respect families in their policy-making. In general, this new law creates a framework for just that. Mothers and fathers absolutely should be the ones surfacing complex matters with their children for the first time, not someone outside the home.” But it seems that many in our culture believe that the state should encourage and teach these controversial and divisive subjects as early as possible, essentially stripping parents of their God-given responsibilities to raise their children to become wise, virtuous people.

Cultural pressure to conform 

Because of the organization’s ties to Florida, Disney CEO Bob Chapek came under incredible scrutiny and criticism for not being vocal enough in support of the LGBTQ+ movement by publicly denouncing this bill. Other Disney executives and lead creatives expressed outrage over the bill, claiming it would further marginalize and harm children across the state, with some even asserting that their mission as a company is to spread gender ideology and teachings to children through their creative work. A few days after the signing of the bill, some in prominent roles at Disney even went as far as to say that they are intentionally seeking to add more characters and narratives that will model these alternative lifestyles and promote the sexual revolution with its committment to complete moral autonomy.

Disney is one of the most influential companies in the world, especially as their work often captures the imagination of younger generations. The company is Florida’s largest employer, and through their streaming service, Disney+, they have a massive catalog of family content providing entertainment for millions around the world. For this reason, Christians need to be mindful of what they are saying and evaluate the messages being communicated through the lens of a biblical worldview — just as we should be doing with the products and services from other prominent companies. From plans to create more transgender characters to stories highlighting same-sex families, some in leadership at Disney are clearly seeking to form the moral imagination of our children in ways that are contrary to the biblical sexuality and marriage.

The worldviews communicated by this company and others like them have the potential to leave a lasting impression on children and families for a lifetime. And that should come as no surprise since the things that we are exposed to on a daily basis, whether social media, movies, or news, deeply shape how we view ourselves, our neighbors, and the world around us. Entertainment, much like technology, subtly yet radically alters our minds, including the things we find morally acceptable or objectionable. The things we are exposed to matter. This can be clearly seen in the normalization of same-sex relationships through the 90s which ulimately culminated in the consequential Obergefell v Hodges Supreme Court decision, and in the ongoing campaigns from the private and government sectors to normalize a transgender lifestyle.

How parents can respond

For parents or children’s ministers, this can be an especially difficult and overwhelming reality to grasp. How are we to navigate these cultural issues and the onslaught of the sexual revolution with our children? How can we be salt and light in our world without withdrawing from the culture in which we’re called to be witnesses? 

First, we must see that the controversies surrounding this bill — those related to sexuality and gender — often center on a longstanding cultural tension between the rights of parents and the role of other powerful social institutions including the state, corporations, and cultural movements. Do parents have a right to know what their children are being exposed to, and do they have a say in what their children are taught, especially if those things are contrary to their religious or cultural beliefs? While businesses are free to express their beliefs in their work, parents also have the right and responsibility to raise their children in line with their deeply held beliefs — which may mean that some parents decide on other forms of entertainment and education or at least recognize the realities at play in the midst of the sexual revolution. 

Parents rightfully see the importance of raising up this next generation, but we must do so with a biblical vision of how God created every person, including our kids, in his very image. Parenting is not just simply a right to be wielded, but a responsibility to be cherished. We have been entrusted with this responsibility to nurture and train up our children in a world of competing worldviews. There is no such thing as a neutral or truly secular space, whether it be in entertainment or the public square. Everything communicates some type of worldview and every person espouses some set of moral values and beliefs.

This means that we cannot sit idly by while our children are discipled by the state, society, or even by a corporation like Disney — each with its own distinct cultural and ethical values. The worldviews that your family are exposed to each day matter because the truths we are being taught will inevitably shape every aspect of our moral framework. We must take responsibility for and think intentionally about the things that we allow our children to be exposed to — not out of fear, but out of a desire to steward our families well and raise them with a keen sense of discernment (Romans 12:2).

Second, parents must be ready to equip their children to see the beauty and freedom of the Christian sexual ethic which is rooted in the very creation of man and woman as image-bearers of the almighty God (Gen. 1:27). The cultural stories we are being exposed to each day through our entertainment choices are often contrary to the scientific and biological realities of being created as a man and a woman. Contrary to the moral autonomy championed by many today, we simply do not have the ability to choose our gender nor do we have the authority to alter God’s good design for sexuality rooted in the marriage of a man and woman. This created order is central to the Christian sexual ethic and must be part of how a parent “train[s] up a child in the way he should go” (Prov. 22:6).

Another reality of this cultural revolution is that our children will have friends or classmates struggling with these issues. Christian cultural engagement is rooted in speaking truth in grace, modeling the fact that all people are inherently valuable as created in God’s image. This type of engagement will include seeking out ways to love our neighbors regardless of their beliefs and affirming their inherent dignity, even when we disagree with them. While this will look different for each family given their circumstances, we must remind our kids (and ourselves) that people are more than simply their sexual desires or how they feel about their gender identity. Our culture often promotes the lie that your sexuality defines your core identity as a person, but the Christian ethic reminds us our identities are actually tied to who God made each of us in his image. Our sexuality is rooted in how God made us and we do not have the authority to define our own realities. This truth is actually freeing since our dignity is not tied to what we do or how we feel, but who we are. Training our children to see the dignity and value of their classmates and friends, regardless of their personal beliefs, while also speaking truth in love is one of the greatest gifts we can pass on to this next generation.

As I recently wrote, Western culture is at an interesting crossroads today, representing an especially crucial moment for our kids and families. On one hand, our society champions complete moral autonomy under the guise of throwing off all moral boundaries and pursuing our own versions of realities at all costs. On the other hand, we all recognize that truth cannot actually be relative and that our moral choices have profound consequences for us and our society. We may seek to deny objective moral truths in the name of liberation and revolution, but these false notions of reality will not and cannot last.

Parents and churches must be ready to respond to the mores of the sexual revolution that will only leave precious image-bearers — especially our children — in its wake. The sexual revolution will not be able to deliver on its grand promises of liberation, and the Church must be ready to welcome those who have been deceived with open arms of dignity, respect, love, hope, and the truth of the gospel. So while there are some at corporations like Disney that seek to capture the hearts and minds of children through the stories they create, it is our responsibility to parent our children and raise them in light of a far better and truer story. Regardless of the lies they they are sold by the sexual revolution, our Creator has a better answer. And it’s through honoring him that we will find the joy and satisfaction that we’re made for.

By / Dec 20

The Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission knew coming into 2021 that the completely misnamed Equality Act would be a priority for some segments of the culture, and as the year comes to a close, the bill remains a top legislative priority for our organization. 

This legislation represents one of the most significant threats to religious liberty we have ever encountered. If passed, the bill would punish faith-based charities for their core religious beliefs about human dignity and marriage, undermine decades of civil rights protections for women and girls, and substantially harm religious liberty protections in the United States.

We believe it is essential that a solution in the public square be crafted that protects and upholds the dignity of all people, while ensuring that religiously motivated individuals and institutions are free to live and act according to their deeply held convictions. The ERLC opposes this problematic bill and has sought to bring attention to its alarming implications through a variety of means. 

Beginning with our 2021 Public Policy Agenda laying out our policy goals at the federal level, numerous explainers equipping Christians with information about the bill and how it will change our society, and witness testimony on Capitol Hill in March, this has been our consistent focus. 

In February 2021, H.R. 5, the Equality Act, passed the U.S. House of Representatives by a vote of 224-206, and in March, the Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing on the Equality Act. This bill has rightly garnered significant coverage and controversy as it 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.

Key to the ERLC’s message in opposing the legislation is that 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.

Interestingly, 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. Currently in the Senate, Leader Schumer (D–N.Y.) used a Senate tool entitled “Rule 14” to be able to bring the bill to the floor at any time, but thus far he has not yet done so. Many analysts believe that the efforts of the ERLC and other conservative peer groups to bring attention to the disturbing aspects of the Act have stalled momentum for the legislation in the short term.

The ERLC is actively engaging lawmakers on the harms of the Equality Act as well as countering attempts to pass components of the bill’s desired policies in other legislation and will remain committed to this advocacy in the year ahead. 

Key Resources on Equality Act 

By / Sep 21

In last few weeks, there have been a number of developments concerning the availability of pornography on social media. OnlyFans, a social media service that caters to those in the sex industry and profits off the promotion of pornographic material, initially announced that it would bar sexually explicit videos beginning in October. This caused a massive conversation about the morality of pornography in the digital public square. Bloomberg reported that the service has attracted over 130 million users and experienced rapid growth during the COVID-19 pandemic, similar to the boom that Pornhub saw during the initial lockdowns in 2020. News of this move was received by many as a blow to the pornography industry — including to those who earn a living off on the platform selling access to their pornographic material.

OnlyFans originally stated that this decision was due to a strategic shift in focus to a broader platform for various artists and creators, as well as pressures from investors and payment processors who saw financing or facilitating pornography as a potential liability and deleterious to their own public image. However, OnlyFans cancelled their plans to ban sexually explicit content just a week later because of the massive public outcry, especially on social media. The company announced on Twitter that it “stands for inclusion and we will continue to provide a home for all creators.” 

This entire episode brought to light an ongoing debate in digital governance and public policy over the ubiquity of pornography online and how society should go about navigating questions of vice, free speech, and public morality.

Recognizing the moral component

Reflecting on the OnlyFans decision to reverse their proposed ban on sexually explicit material, Felix Salmon at Axios writes that many technology companies are beginning to act like a fourth branch of government given their immense power and control over our public discourse. He argues that many of these content policies end up going much further than the law actually requires in terms of the availability and distribution of pornography online. The argument goes that if the government doesn’t ban it, neither should these companies.

He highlights how these bans on explicit content, such as porn, are often driven by moralistic underpinnings based on the fact that pornography is legal, yet is “shunned by most of the business establishment.” He goes on to contend that these decisions — often based on the fact that payment processors and banks tend to shy away from financing pornography websites, especially due to the illegality of some material and the rise of sex trafficking — are contributing to a lack of U.S. alternatives to the current mainstream pornography sites, which are often based in other countries including the London-based OnlyFans. 

He also mentions some of the controversial moves by eBay and Tumblr. Each company implemented strict policies against pornography. These policies seem to fly in the face of the celebrated progress of the sexual revolution toward the mainstreaming of expressive individualism, LGBTQ+ rights, and the ridding of what are seen as outdated views of marriage and sexuality from our public conscience.

The inescapability of legislating morality

While there is much more to be said about these types of decisions, including the wisdom of banning pornography and objectionable content online, there is irony in how those in our secular age think about issues of governing and morality. Some will celebrate the technology industry making moral judgments in certain arenas, including the celebration of LGBTQ inclusion or the ever-expanding definition of hate speech that tends to describe historic Christian teaching on sexuality as unacceptable for public debate. Yet, these same groups will chastise the industry for making other policies on moral grounds, including decisions to limit or ban pornography on social media platforms. Concerning the latter, they argue that these technology companies — and the business industry itself — need to shed these outdated and moralistic attitudes since we shouldn’t be legislating or designing content policies on moral grounds. 

It is increasingly common in our society to think that we shouldn’t legislate morality, but this misses out on the fact that all laws and even digital governance policies are making inherently moral statements about what is to be promoted or celebrated in our society. They each put forth a version of the good life, which is a central facet of ethics and morality. While pornography is currently legal in the eyes of the state and an extremely lucrative business, companies that disallow pornography may be acknowledging, without even knowing it, how dehumanizing this industry is for all involved and how it tears down society. Either by giving into the public pressures to keep this material off their platforms or recognizing the ways in which being associated with this material will reflect on their brands, decisions to preclude this material from their platforms are ultimately serving a higher good in our society. 

In the digital age where technology companies hold such immense power over our public discourse, each of their content moderation policies are casting a vision for the good for our society, and it is incumbent on all of us to be involved in these debates. These companies have every right to ban or suppress pornography on their platforms, which, should be noted, is not an easy decision in light of the financial incentives and public pressure. But our society is better off because decisions like these protect the vulnerable and innocent among us and uphold public virtue and the centrality of the family.

The OnlyFans situation and continued debate over moralistic attitudes in our public discourse is yet another reminder of the moral incongruence of expressive individualism and how much of our modern public ethic based in the pursuit of vice is simply untenable. When you build public morality off of carnal desire rather than transcendent principles, you will be left with a system that is not only unable to stand under its own weight but also one that will not produce the type of virtue desired for society. While there may be legitimate debate within the Christian community over the wisdom of government bans, private companies choosing to exclude pornographic content from their platforms is a clear win for public morality and the common good.

Learn more about ERLC’s work in the digital public square and sign up to receive articles like this at ERLC.com/digital

By / Aug 11

Sandra grew up in a Christian home. She was a good girl in church — read the Bible, prayed, did her quiet time. She was homeschooled by solid parents. She never snuck out or did anything crazy. She’d never even been to a high school prom. On the outside, it looked like Sandra had a sheltered and safe Christian childhood, but on the inside, there was a lot more going on.

During her freshman year of college, Sandra met June, a girl who quickly became her best friend. They spent hours each day together, and, over time, their worlds began to revolve around each other. Their emotional closeness became codependent and inappropriately physical. One day it happened, and they freaked out. They cried and prayed and asked God to help nothing like that happen again. But it did. And Sandra and June never told anyone. They even promised one another they’d never tell their future husbands.

A kid like Sandra should feel safe confessing her sins to Christian parents and her church community. But there’s understandable shame for a kid confessing same-sex attraction or transgender feelings, especially if that child has grown up around coarse gay jokes or politically charged opinions about the LGBTQ movement. It’s understandable for a kid who grows up in that context to fear losing friendships if they allow their struggles to become public knowledge.

What can a parent or a church leader do in the face of such shame? What does it look like to show love and compassion for a child who experiences the discord of gender confusion or same-sex attraction?

First, cultivate empathy. If we’re honest, we know kids’ fears about confessing disordered desires are not unfounded. Many parents don’t react well. Some parents’ first instincts are to run from the situation and ignore it. Some become overwhelmed emotionally and get angry, whether with God or with their child: “How can this be happening? You were raised better than this!” These kinds of responses only create more distance between parents and their children. Like the Pharisees, many Christian communities sometimes teach true doctrine all the while judging and marginalizing those who publicly confess sin that makes us particularly uncomfortable or is socially unacceptable (Luke 18:9–14). We must remember that those who experience gender confusion or same-sex attraction are not unique in battling brokenness or sinful desires. Cooper Pinson asks:

Can you relate to a student who wants to follow Christ, but finds strong, competing, sinful tendencies within himself that moves him in destructive directions?1Cooper Pinson, Helping Students with Same-Sex Attraction: Guidance for Parents and Youth Leaders, (Greensboro: New Growth, 2017), 8.

If so, you’re more like your child than you may have originally thought. When we acknowledge what we have in common and move toward kids who struggle rather than away from them, we reflect the kind of love with which Jesus loved us (1 John 4:19).

Second, acknowledge the courage it took to be honest.2Adapted from Tim Geiger, Your Child Says, “I’m Gay, (Greensboro: New Growth, 2013), 8–9. Even if your child’s confession is hard to hear, thank them for being honest enough to tell you the truth. Acknowledge how hard it must have been for your child to speak this secret and get it out in the open. Thank them for trusting you, reaffirm your love for them, and assure them that your relationship will not end because of this confession. Affirming your love for your child and expressing gratitude for their truthfulness will help you cultivate an ongoing relationship that is built on authenticity.

Third, listen before you speak or act. If your child begins the conversation, respect their initiative by allowing the dialogue to be about what you can learn from them and not what you feel they need to hear from you. When seeking to understand, the most important thing is to ask comfortable open-ended questions.3Brian Hambrick, “Talking to My Boys after the Transgender Talk at Their Public School” (May 16, 2016), accessed online at http://bradhambrick.com/talking-to-my-boys-after-the-transgender-talk-at-their-public-school/. If your child says, “I’m gay,” “lesbian,” or “I want to transition,” for instance, it’s important to understand what they mean by that. Ask your child how they came to this understanding, how long they have been considering this, how certain they feel it is true, and why. Ask whether or not your child is content with this expressed identity, or if this is something they don’t want. Don’t assume your child or their friends understand these terms in the same way you do. 

It may be that your child is confessing a sinful experiment with a new gender identity or same-sex sexual intimacy in the same way a cheating husband who wants to turn away from unfaithfulness confesses, “I’m an adulterer.” When a Christian owns his or her identity as a sinner in this way, it should never be discouraged (1 Tim. 1:15). Your child is most likely describing an ongoing battle in which they feel oppressed and helpless. As Tim Geiger observes, “He might really be saying, ‘I’ve been struggling with these feelings for years, and the only reasonable conclusion I can draw is that I must be gay.’”4Geiger, Your Child Says, “I’m Gay,21.

Fourth, acknowledge your child’s suffering. Kids who struggle with gender confusion or same-sex attraction may have heard many times from the church that homosexuality is wrong. But rarely have we acknowledged their unique form of suffering and intense temptations. Students who experience same-sex attraction “often contend with intense loneliness, confusion, fear, and even despair as they wrestle with something that seems as if it’s an essential part of who they are.”5Pinson, Helping Students with Same-Sex Attraction, 14. The same is true for kids who experience gender dysphoria.

Having disordered desires, whether these desires consist in same-sex sexual lust or gender confusion, is not the same thing as giving in to these sinful desires, that is, dwelling on those desires and acting upon them. Both are sinful, but the kind of repentance required and the kind of change we can expect is different. We must turn from all sinful behavior. But where we can repent and refrain from sinful actions related to sexual temptation, disordered desires — while they should be resisted, confessed, and put to death — may nevertheless remain throughout our lives. Sharing your own struggles — how you may not always feel at home or comfortable in your own body, or, as appropriate, your own ongoing battles with lust and temptation — will demonstrate that brokenness and sexual sin is not unique to your child.

Fifth, pray for your child. We can educate our children as much as we want, have conversations, and teach them the biblical point of view. But in the end, their hearts must be in submission to God or these words will fall on deaf ears. A child’s repentance ultimately depends on the Holy Spirit’s work in their heart and not on a parent’s actions. Some things only come out by prayer (Mark 9:29). So, as parents, we must appeal to God to act on behalf of our children. 

The parents of Sandra or June may be in for a long journey. Sometimes it seems that we do and say all the right things, but our hearts break because our children continue to choose the wrong path. In these times, one of the best ways to care for our children is to advocate for them while on our knees.

Finally, gently communicate what it looks like to follow Jesus. By adopting an empathetic posture and listening carefully, you set the stage for speaking redemptive truth. If your child is determined to pursue an intimate same-gender, sexual relationship or transition their gender, there may be no way of avoiding defensiveness on their part. Remember that it’s God’s kindness that leads us to repentance (Rom. 2:4). Your child needs kindness too. It’s doubtful that arguments will convince your child their perspective is wrong. But if they are open to dialogue, share sensitively a biblical and compassionate perspective on suffering with sexual brokenness. We can encourage a child who experiences besetting and persistent trials with the truth that all Christians are called to suffer. As Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone wants to follow after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life because of me will find it” (Matt. 16:24–25).

Following Christ while enduring gender dysphoria or same-sex attraction will involve taking up crosses. It will mean rejecting impulses that run counter to God’s created design. It may mean that your child remains single and celibate into adulthood or resists temptation while their psychological distress increases. You should never gloss over or minimize these hard realities, but you can remind your children that they have a high priest who can sympathize with them in their weaknesses (Heb. 4:15). As Andrew Walker observes, “No one ever experienced greater dysphoria than the perfect Son of God being treated as a sinner.”6Walker, God and the Transgender Debate, 89. “He himself bore our sins in his body on the cross so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness” (1 Pet. 2:24).

As you encourage your child to persevere, keep in mind that this most likely will be a long journey. Change is slow. A girl like Sandra, whose story I told above, may gain confidence to confess her sins and grow both to live a life in obedience to the Bible’s commands and even to disciple others who experience same-sex attraction. But that same girl may still struggle to discern whether or not missing one of her girlfriends who is out of town is just a normal part of friendship or evidence that she’s still battling a sinful pull toward codependence. As Chris Torchia writes:

We all appreciate the success stories of someone coming to Christ and experiencing complete freedom from ingrained sin patterns, but God doesn’t always work that way. A more accurate picture of repentance is a gradual process of turning away from sin and turning to God more and more, usually with many bumps along the way.Chris Torchia, “Coming Out as Gay or Transgender: Five things parents must do—part 4,” The Student Outreach, (Sept. 21, 2017), accessed online at http://thestudentoutreach.org/2017/09/21/coming-gay-transgender-five-things-parents-must-part-4/.

Parents, you should find the kind of support network that will stick with you through the long haul. Don’t hide your weakness from your Christian friends. And don’t be afraid to reach out for help from your pastors and biblical counselors like those at Harvest USA (www.harvestusa.org).

We can be confident that Christ is ready, willing, and waiting to meet us even where brokenness seems profound and irreparable. We can persevere with faith, knowing that we share in Christ’s sufferings so we may also share in his glory (Rom. 8:17). For those who do not shrink back, God has prepared a great reward. We do not belong to those who shrink back to destruction but to those who persevere and are saved (Heb. 10:36-39).

This article was adapted from A Parent’s Guide to Teaching Your Children About Gender: Helping Kids Navigate a Confusing Culture.

  • 1
    Cooper Pinson, Helping Students with Same-Sex Attraction: Guidance for Parents and Youth Leaders, (Greensboro: New Growth, 2017), 8.
  • 2
    Adapted from Tim Geiger, Your Child Says, “I’m Gay, (Greensboro: New Growth, 2013), 8–9.
  • 3
    Brian Hambrick, “Talking to My Boys after the Transgender Talk at Their Public School” (May 16, 2016), accessed online at http://bradhambrick.com/talking-to-my-boys-after-the-transgender-talk-at-their-public-school/.
  • 4
    Geiger, Your Child Says, “I’m Gay,21.
  • 5
    Pinson, Helping Students with Same-Sex Attraction, 14.
  • 6
    Walker, God and the Transgender Debate, 89.
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 / May 12

This week, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced that the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) will interpret and enforce the Affordable Care Act and Title IX’s nondiscrimination provision and expand the definition of “sex” to include “sexual orientation” and “gender identity.” 

Section 1557 of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) is the nondiscrimination provision of the ACA prohibiting discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, age, or disability under any federally funded health program or activity, executive agency, or entity under Title I of the ACA. 

How have other administrations interpreted Section 1557?

Under the Obama administration, new regulations were issued that expanded the scope of section 1557’s nondiscrimination by redefining “sex” to include sexual orientation and gender identity. The regulations raised a number of significant religious liberty and pro-life issues. For instance, physicians would be required to provide gender reassignment surgeries and administer hormones to facilitate gender reassignment, including to children. They even required medical professionals to perform abortions in violation of the consciences. 

In response to the issuance of these new regulations, on Aug. 23, 2016, five states and three private health care providers filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas challenging the final rules in the case Franciscan Alliance v. Burwell. The District Court held that HHS erroneously interpreted “sex” under Title IX, that the final rule was arbitrary and capricious when Title IX “unambiguously refers to the biological and anatomical differences between male and female students as determined at their birth.” The District Court further ruled that the Final Rule’s failure to include religious exemptions likely violated the Religious Freedom and Restoration Act (RFRA) and the Administrative Procedure Act (APA).

In 2020, the Trump Administration finalized a rule reversing the Obama administration’s regulations on Section 1557, and narrowed the definition of “sex.” Days after the Trump Administration finalized their rule, in a 6-3 ruling authored by Justice Gorsuch and styled Bostock v. Clayton County, the Supreme Court expanded the definition of “sex” to include “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” for the purposes of employment discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The Office of Civil Rights used the Bostock decision as a justification for it’s redefinition of “sex.”

What’s next?

The HHS Office of Civil Rights could begin bringing enforcement actions based on this new interpretation of Section 1557 at any time. While the notice states that HHS will comply with the Religious Freedom Restoration Act and all applicable court orders that have been issued in litigation involving the Section 1557 regulations, it is unclear what this means for religious healthcare providers and professionals. Medical professionals and providers who serve everyone would be forced to administer gender reassignment treatments if they provide the same underlying treatments for other conditions. That is, if a physician performs hysterectomies for cancer patients or hormone therapy for patients with hormone imbalances, HHS may force her to administer those same treatments for patients seeking gender reassignments.

The ERLC will continue promoting and defending the human dignity and religious liberty of all people and religious organizations with the Administration, on Capitol Hill, and throughout the public square.

By / Mar 29

Amidst the constant distractions and shallowness on social media, reading a book can serve as a reprieve from the onslaught of information and as a way to challenge yourself to go deeper than 280 characters. Social media draws us in because it leads us to think we are staying connected with others, keeping up with what is going on around the world, and often takes less concentration than picking up a book. But these tools are constantly discipling us to seek expediency over the long process of learning and variety over sustained concentration. And with each click, scroll, or flick of the thumb, we are usually only being exposed to ideas that fit our preconceived beliefs about the world.

However, picking up a book that you know you will disagree with can help you understand another’s perspective and clarify why you hold to another position. This doesn’t mean that you run to just any book, but as you grow more comfortable with ideas, you can expose yourself to contrary positions in order to strengthen your own.

Understanding your neighbor

As part of my doctoral program in ethics, I recently picked up a copy of Peter Singer’s classic work Practical Ethics. This was the first time I read Singer’s work myself, but I was familiar with his line of argument for a particular form of ethical evaluation called preference utilitarianism. Singer has made waves in ethical and philosophical circles for decades, often making controversial claims about the nature of personhood and abortion, animal rights, and embryo experimentation. Originally published in 1979, the work has been reprinted countless times. Singer released two updated editions in 1993 and 2011. The book has become a staple in ethics courses across academic disciplines and has influenced countless readers, shaping their approach to ethics and morality.

As one who hopes to teach and continue to study in this field, I am behooved to be aware of these classic works and to be intimately familiar with their arguments. In so doing, I am able to better understand those around me and the true nature of the debates surrounding complex ethical decisions about the rise of technology, medicine, economics, and other social issues. Regardless of whether or not you plan to specialize in a field of study, being exposed to seminal works across a variety of disciplines can open up a world of ideas and a comprehension of your neighbors that is more than worth the time and effort.

One of the most devastating effects of the culture wars happening all around us, especially on online platforms like social media, is that we are often told that we need to be protected from the world of ideas or that reading something outside of our own beliefs might lead us down a path of destruction. While this is understandable to some extent, this siloing effect is dangerous to the life of the mind and treats the very concept of understanding our neighbors as a bridge too far.

Do we really think so little of our ability to think and reason that we cannot engage divergent positions or even allow them in the public square? Frequent examples of this are seen in our society such as Amazon delisting a book on transgenderism because it deviates from the secular orthodoxy on sexuality and the derision of entire concepts out of fear of being brainwashed. This happens on both sides of the political aisle. But one of the simplest things we can to ratchet down the tensions with our neighbors and seek to love them as ourselves is to put down our phones, pick up a book, and have an honest and humble conversation with someone who disagrees with our position on a particular topic. Living in a constant cycle of outrage shapes us into more cynical people and prevents us from growing in our faith. I am not saying that all ideas are equally valid, but regardless of what you take away from a book, it is worth the time and effort to comprehend your neighbor’s beliefs and engage them on their own terms.

Understand why you disagree

One of the joys of reading is growing in knowledge about the world around us, including those to whom we are called to minister and share the hope of the gospel with. But a second and extremely important reason behind reading things we disagree agree with is for our own personal growth. Over the years, I have found that I grow more by reading books outside of my own tribe than only reading those with whom I mostly agree. This is because when we are challenged in our own beliefs, we often dig deeper as we wrestle with various ideas and beliefs.

When reading or engaging the world of ideas, I am often reminded of the words of the Apostle Peter in 1 Peter 3:14-16 (emphasis mine):

“But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame.”

Reading books that you do not agree with or believe to be true can help sharpen your own ability to “make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you.” Not only will it push you to understand your own beliefs better, but it will also equip you to engage those around you in good conscience and faith.

Recently, I was reading a work by evangelical scholar Carl F.H. Henry and was struck by how he talked about divergent ideas. Henry was quick to give credit to various thinkers when they picked up a thread of truth. In his classic work, Christian Personal Ethics, he wrote that the “world did not need to wait for Utilitarianism to assert that benevolence is good, that whatever imperiled the public good was not virtuous, that true morality tends to the welfare of the social whole. The revealed morality of the Bible had affirmed all of this.” As I read his examinations of those ideas, it became clear that he was not afraid to engage ideas contrary to his own. Not only did this equip him to better understand the world around him, but it clearly helped strengthen his own convictions about the nature of truth, morality, and even the gospel itself.

So go grab a book, a cup of coffee, and a friend to dialogue with as you engage the world of ideas and grow in your ability to interact with contrary positions, all for the sake of loving others and sharing the transformative truth of the gospel message with your neighbor.

Subscribe here to receive ERLC’s WeeklyTech newsletter, a Monday morning briefing on technology and ethics from Jason Thacker.

By / Mar 24

[Note: In light of the subject matter of this post, I feel obligated to warn that the content and language is intended for a mature audience. My goal is not to offend, but only to edify, encourage, and proclaim the sometimes-all-too-frank biblical truth. Though I acknowledge the ever-growing porn addiction among women, I will be speaking as a man to other men simply because the problem of porn runs all the more rampant among men.]

The problem of porn has been crippling churches for years. I’m not here to pick up my stones and throw them. In the vein of what Jesus said to the Pharisees, I couldn’t begin to lob the first one. This article is for myself, my best friends, the pastors in my life, my mentors, and you, because what we’re seeing in the porn industry is unprecedented. I am writing in hopes the Spirit might prick the heart of a calloused generation and extend grace to the wounded and weary sinner. I am writing so that broken men might see the reasons why their habits will break others. I am writing because the problem of porn has led so many men astray from the assurance of God’s love.

Let’s begin with some statistics on porn. At the time of writing, Covenant Eyes reports that over 90% of teens and young adults are “either encouraging, accepting, or neutral” when they talk about porn with their friends. Of adults 25 and older, only 55% have a moral concern with the use of pornography. Even more dire are the numbers inside the church: Covenant Eyes also reports that one in five youth pastors and one in seven senior pastors use porn on a regular basis. Sixty-four percent of Christian men watch porn monthly, while 15% of Christian women do the same. 

There’s no sugar-coating it—these numbers are unnerving. What we are facing is no longer just a struggle with holiness; we are in the midst of a cultural crisis. We are in the middle of an age where secularism and church culture are often indistinguishable. Sin is seeping into our congregations, and it poses a future-shattering question that we need to address before it’s too late: “What does an entire generation of fathers and pastors raised on porn look like?”

The Church needs to face this new reality head on. Humankind has contended with the sins of adultery and lust ever since the Fall, but Paul never had to urge Timothy to stay off of PornHub or give up his smartphone. We’ve never had this kind of access before. And it is precisely because this is such a new problem that we cannot fail to consider what the long-term effects may be. I want to share three with you.

1. The sterilization of the faculties of love and imagination

C.S. Lewis lived 33 years before the internet, and he still foresaw the effects of the porn culture. In a 1956 letter written to Keith Masson, Lewis discusses the “harem of imaginary brides” in the mind of the man who seeks to selfishly satisfy his lust.1This letter is found in volume 3 of The Collected Letters of C.S. Lewis. This harem “is always accessible, always subservient, calls for no sacrifices or adjustments, and can be endowed with erotic and psychological attractions which no real woman can rival.” Today, this harem has become digital. 

The man who habitually looks to porn for his affirmation, satisfaction, or fulfillment commits severe offenses against God and violates the imago Dei. In his pleasure-seeking, man takes his portion of love and wastes it on his own selfishness. 

According to James 4:4, taking heed to the passions that are at war within us turns us into a spiritually “adulterous people.” Pornography not only ruins a man’s ability to love well; it beckons toward the formation of an adulterous heart. Like an artist with clay, over time porn has the capability of repurposing the very form of our love.

Romans 1:28–31 talks about the man who sees his vain self-pleasure as preferable to God. Paul says that these people have a “debased mind.” We ruin the mind with our sinful pursuits. Like a drug, pornography rewires the mind, turning it into a machine seeking pleasure no matter the cost.2For more on this, see Norman Doidge’s The Brain That Changes Itself: Stories of Personal Triumph from the Frontiers of Brain Science, especially pp. 102–104. See also Steven Pace, “Acquiring Tastes through Online Activity: Neuroplasticity and the Flow Experiences of Web Users,” M/C Journal, 17(1).

In order to fight porn, we must understand and believe the fundamental doctrine of the imago Dei, because regular porn consumption reorients the male posture toward a diminished view of women’s dignity. In consuming pornography, we take one of God’s creations and sinfully abuse it. Matt Chandler reminds us of this in a sermon on the image of God:

“Pornography is the degradation of the performers as not having souls, as not having any real value, and it is consuming their emptiness and despair for our own pleasure. It is deplorable and wicked. No little girl dreams of that growing up. If we had any idea of the horrific backgrounds we were dealing with, there’s no way we would watch and be aroused. We would be heartbroken. We’d be devastated at the molestation, at the rape, at the horrific abuse so many have endured. This is an imago Dei issue.”3From “A Beautiful Design (Part 2) – In His Image,” available here: https://youtu.be/2NOjzdPkefw

These girls are often slaves by vocation, underpaid and forced into their circumstances.4See Catharine A. MacKinnon, Pornography as Trafficking, 26 Michigan Journal of International Law, 993 (2005). The effects the industry has on women reaches as far as PTSD.5Corita R. Grudzen, Ryan, G., Margold, W., Torres, J., & Gelberg, L., “Pathways to health risk exposure in adult film performers.” Journal of Urban Health: Bulletin of the New York Academy of Medicine, 86:1 (2009), 67–78. It endangers them. If you want to protect women, look inward: rid yourself of your porn addiction, no matter what it may take. Confess to your spouse, your pastor, or your brother. Put safeguards in place to aid you in moments of weakness or temptation. Reinforce the walls of your heart that are about to cave in on themselves. For the honor of God’s creation, for the celebration of the justice he so ferociously seeks, and for the sake of the vulnerable, we should be fighting vigilantly against the problem of porn.

2. The capitulation to hyper-sexualism

Pornography chips away at the conscience. There are a whole host of tangential sins related to porn use—something I have referred to in private conversations and counsel as a breed of “hyper-sexualism.”

University of Texas professor Mark Regnerus analyzed the results of the Relationships in America survey in this article titled, “Tracking Christian Sexual Morality in a Same-Sex Future.” From this survey, we can track a trajectory for the Church as it decides how to handle the problem of porn, and it doesn’t look pretty. The survey compares trends in sexuality, comparing varying views on same-sex marriage (SSM). 

When it comes to pornography, there is a significant difference between Christians who oppose SSM and Christians who support SSM — a whopping 28.8% increase in support for pornography among Christians who affirm SSM. Additionally, an increase in affirmation of porn correlates with a decrease in faithful marriage. Churchgoing Christians who oppose SSM are 2.3 times more likely to stay together when married with kids than those who affirm SSM. And they are almost 11 times less likely to take part in what the survey calls “marital infidelity.” In other words, one’s approval of porn use tells a story about one’s larger moral system; this has major implications when it comes to marriage and one’s sexual behavior. 

Personally, I have often found that among people with persistent sexual sins of all kinds (porn use, marital infidelity, homosexuality, masturbatory habits, regular sex outside of the marriage covenant, etc.), the root of their sin is not merely an attraction to a certain person or the thrill of a specific pleasure; rather, it’s a commitment to hyper-sexualism—a desire for sexual pleasure that trumps other concerns or moral commitments. 

Regular porn consumption is a dangerous game, and it cultivates a dangerous heart.

3. The cheapening of grace

More than anything else, the problem of porn cheapens the grace of God. Dietrich Bonhoeffer calls cheap grace the “justification of sin without the justification of the sinner.” By the biblical definition, this “cheap grace” cannot exist. God’s grace is costly: It required the death of a perfect man—a man whose submission to the will of his Father was greater than the sorrows of his human nature; a man who didn’t deserve anything but the greatest glorification for his perfect righteousness. God’s grace is expensive, and using it to excuse the sins you commit while surfing porn websites is wicked.

When we abuse the grace of God, we not only mock the work of Jesus on the cross but hinder our communion with him as well. To abuse God’s grace is to misunderstand it. If I have a misconstrued view of grace, I can’t rightly be joined to the Church, or grasp the significance of my baptism, or appreciate the conscience-checking boundary of the communion table. 

It’s impossible for us to understand what God wants from us if we misconstrue what Christ did for us. If we are truly Christians, we can’t cheapen the grace of God. To do so is contrary to both the character of his disciples and the purpose for the grace he gave to us. Grace does more than save us from hell; grace is a means of God’s everlasting arms reaching out to embrace us, rescuing us from our captivity to sin, and reminding us to find our identity in him.

Grace exists for the porn addict. Grace exists for sinful men. And grace alone can save us. But it is absolutely costly. We should refuse to mock it. Christian men must combat the problem of porn until its spark can no longer light the kindle of our sinful hearts.

The redeeming hope of the cross

God didn’t leave us to fight this battle on our own. He sent his Son for our sake. The Creator of the universe cares about the problem of porn. Sinning against God — whether contemplating murder or lustfully clicking our way to a porn site — is an act of what R.C. Sproul calls “cosmic treason.” Even still, he gives us grace for even our most shameful, despicable sins. The redeeming hope of the cross is that we can’t sin our way out of God’s love. There is forgiveness in the man Jesus Christ—and his forgiveness sets us free.

John Owen wrote, “Be killing sin or it will be killing you,” and he couldn’t have been more right. The problem of porn will not go away on its own. We have to fight it. We have to put on the whole armor of God. We have to mortify our sin. 

This article was originally published on April 6, 2015.

  • 1
    This letter is found in volume 3 of The Collected Letters of C.S. Lewis.
  • 2
    For more on this, see Norman Doidge’s The Brain That Changes Itself: Stories of Personal Triumph from the Frontiers of Brain Science, especially pp. 102–104. See also Steven Pace, “Acquiring Tastes through Online Activity: Neuroplasticity and the Flow Experiences of Web Users,” M/C Journal, 17(1).
  • 3
    From “A Beautiful Design (Part 2) – In His Image,” available here: https://youtu.be/2NOjzdPkefw
  • 4
    See Catharine A. MacKinnon, Pornography as Trafficking, 26 Michigan Journal of International Law, 993 (2005).
  • 5
    Corita R. Grudzen, Ryan, G., Margold, W., Torres, J., & Gelberg, L., “Pathways to health risk exposure in adult film performers.” Journal of Urban Health: Bulletin of the New York Academy of Medicine, 86:1 (2009), 67–78.
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 17

Today, March 17, the Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing on H.R. 5, the Equality Act and the ERLC submitted written testimony for the hearing’s official public record.

This legislation seeks to expand the definition of “sex” to include “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” (SOGI) by revising every title of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to add these categories as new protected classes in the federal code. The ERLC has often referred to the Equality Act as misleadingly named because it seeks to achieve its aims by undermining fundamental freedoms of conscience and religious liberty and the biological distinctions of sex. H.R. 5 is out of step with the basic American ideal of tolerance — where neighbors can respect one another and work together toward the common good, even when they disagree. 

Since it was first introduced in the last Congress, the ERLC has actively engaged with lawmakers on the harms this bill would create. 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. 

Today’s Senate hearing was an important marker in the public debate. Judiciary Chairman Dick Durbin (D–Ill.) and Ranking Member Chuck Grassley (R–Iowa) hosted a number of witnesses, including the following two that are highlighted in this piece: Mary Rice Hasson, the Kate O’Beirne Fellow in Catholic Studies at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, and Abigail Shrier, an independent journalist and author. The following are key quotes from the Congressional members and these two witnesses.

For more on this bill and its troubling implications, see this explainer as well as this helpful resource page with articles, podcast episodes, and our policy brief. 

Sen. James Lankford (R–Okla.): No person should be discriminated against in America.

Mary Rice Hasson: Unjust discrimination is always wrong.

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R–Iowa): What will happen to Catholic or Methodist affiliated hospitals which provide excellent service to the public if this bill is enacted? In some areas these facilities may be the only hospitals for miles around. If a faith-based organization has partnered with a community to provide very needed social services that would otherwise not exist, like a soup kitchen, or an adoption agency for the hard to adopt special-need kids, what happens to the people who relied most heavily on those services? To whom do they turn?

Sen. James Lankford (R–OK): For those of us that believe a baby is not just a medical condition, for the people that believe children of any age, or size, or degree of development are worthy of life, we’re not bigots. We’re people who live by our genuine faith and see a child as a child. I believe that we can respect each other, we can have real dialogue over these issues that are complicated and difficult, and we can find a way to be able to pass something that honors every American but doesn’t discriminate against people of faith.

Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R–Tenn.): Women’s safety is fundamental to the fight for women’s rights. . . . Women should never have to fear for their safety because they’re forced to share spaces with men.

Rep. Vicki Hartzler (R-MO-04): [H.R. 5] threatens to halt federal assistance for students at single sex colleges and universities … and the same applies to sororities and fraternities.

Rep. Vicki Hartzler (R-MO-04): [H.R. 5] … endangers women’s safety in locker rooms, bathrooms, dorm rooms, and homeless shelters.

Abigail Shrier: The great American, Allison Felix, ran the 400 meter in 49.26 seconds. In 2018, nearly 300 high school boys could beat her. So [if H.R. 5 had been law] America would never know the name Allison Felix.

Abigail Shrier: No one who wrote [H.R. 5] appears to consider what it would mean for women and girls. By enshrining gender identity as a protected category, this bill would make it impossible ever to legally distinguish between a woman and a biological male who claims a female identity—for whatever amount of time and for whatever reason or purpose.

Abigail Shrier: Should a female abuse survivor at a domestic violence shelter be forced to sleep and undress next to a biological male? The plain truth is that it is not sensible, not safe and certainly not just to end these hard-won protections for women and girls in the name of equality.

Mary Rice Hasson: Biological sex matters in law, medicine, and for many of us, in the pracitce of our faith.

Mary Rice Hasson: [H.R. 5] threatens serious harm to religious believers and organizations. It strips away crucial protections provided by the Religious Freedom Restoration Act and attacks First Amendment rights as well—tipping the scales against religious believers. 

Mary Rice Hasson: [H.R. 5] seeks to coerce religious believers to exit the public square unless they’re willing to trade their religious beliefs for today’s reigning ideology.

Mary Rice Hasson: [H.R. 5] also reaches far beyond Bostock, which pertained to the workplace, by expanding public accommodations to mean wherever Americans gather—even virtually. Churches, synagogues, temples, faith-based schools, soup kitchens, women’s shelters, will be subject to government coercion. Compromise your religious beliefs or risk endless litigation.

Mary Rice Hasson: Religious liberty is not just the right to believe, but freedom of action … We have a robust civil society of people of all faiths, whether they are Muslim or Jewish or Christian or Catholic, that contribute to caring for the most vulnerable because their faith inspires them to do so.

Mary Rice Hasson: [H.R. 5] by stripping [Religious Freedom Restoration Act] protections, puts the thumb on the scale against people of faith. 

Mary Rice Hasson: [H.R. 5] tips the scale and says to people of faith “you’re not welcome” … which is unnecessary. We can protect the vulnerable without telling people of faith that there’s no place for them.

Mary Rice Hasson: Any religious, house of worship, faith based charity that abides by restrictions based on biological sex … is going to be subject to a discrimination lawsuit. [H.R. 5] is a complete and radical change for the rights of religious Americans.

Mary Rice Hasson: Anything that a church is doing that is opened up to the public, you are going to have discrimination claims brought [if H.R. 5 becomes law].

What happens next?

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D–N.Y.) used a Senate rule called “Rule 14” that allows a bill to bypass a Senate committee and be placed directly on the Senate Calendar of Business. This means that, even though the Judiciary Committee held a hearing today, Leader Schumer could bring H.R. 5 to the floor at any point. As the ERLC works to inform members of the U.S. Senate on the harms of the Equality Act, we will also work against attempts to pass components of the Equality Act in other places.