Why The Christian and Missionary Alliance Cares About the “Equality Act.”
This article appears on The Christian and Missionary Alliance website and I felt it was important for us to hear a Christian perspective on this issue.
If passed, how could the Act impact Alliance churches, schools, and parachurch institutions? How should Alliance church leaders view reintroduction of the Equality Act?
Christians are sounding the alarm that the Act poses a “severe threat” to religious freedom and the ability of a local church to teach and act according to its beliefs. Is this true? How do we respond?
The Act will impose a sexual ideology dogma contrary to traditional Christian beliefs and restrict religiously based objections to those beliefs. If passed it may have an immediate impact on our Alliance schools, retirement communities, camps, and other parachurch institutions. Local Alliance churches will experience far less impact and will not be kept from teaching and operating according to Alliance doctrine, polity, and values.
The Equality Act is a sweeping piece of legislation that would amend the Civil Rights Act of 1964 as well as other federal laws to include sexual orientation and gender identity as a protected class along with race, color, religion, sex, disability, and national origin. Specifically, the Act would prohibit discrimination in employment, housing, public accommodations, public education, federal funding, credit, and the jury system. The Equality Act would significantly expand on recent United States Supreme Court cases that redefined “sex” in federal legislation to include sexual orientation and gender identity.
Two parts of the Act are particularly concerning. The term “public accommodation” broadly refers to places that are open to the general public and are subject to the imposition of government imposed anti-discrimination restrictions. Because of religious liberty protections, churches and other religious institutions have historically been exempt from this designation. However, the scope of “public accommodation” is greatly expanded under the Equality Act to include institutions such as Christian schools, camps, and retirement communities. Local churches would still be exempt. What this means is that our schools, camps, and retirement communities may lose the ability to hire and house people based on our Christian views of sexuality, gender, and other biblical beliefs.
Another area of concern is that the Equality Act specifically prohibits use of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), which provides specific protections for religious liberty when deeply held religious beliefs are challenged.
If passed, the Equality Act would likely have an immediate impact on our Alliance para-church institutions. Our schools, retirement communities, and camps, may be required to employ, house, and offer bathroom access based on individual preferences rather than our Alliance biblical beliefs. Sources of government funding for education and medical care will also be at risk.
Implementation of the Act will come under judicial scrutiny. The United States constitutional and judicial history of religious liberty is well-established and currently the strongest it’s ever been. Working out the application of the Act in relationship to those liberties will certainly be challenged in court and could take many years to resolve.
As local churches, we are called to carry out a dual role in situations of this nature. It seems appropriate to pray fervently that this legislation will not pass and to contact our Senators in a respectful manner to make sure our Christian perspective on this issue is heard. (This bill was passed in the House on February 25, 2021 but has yet to pass in the Senate.)
We are to use our influence to be salt and light in this world. At the same time, the Church of Jesus Christ is always to be marked by our love for people in every segment of society. Our disciplemaking mission sends us to people who are involved on all sorts of sinful and immoral behaviors as we once were (1 Corinthians 6:11). We are called to relate to them with redemptive hope (1 Corinthians 5:9-10). While we take our stand for righteousness, we must never lose sight of our mission in this world.