Equality Act, HR 5, was reintroduced in 2021 after failing to obtain Senate approval in 2019. It proposes profound and far-reaching changes to the Civil Rights Act that would directly threaten religious liberty, free speech, freedom of conscience, the sanctity of life, parental rights, and the privacy and safety of women and girls. The proposed changes to the Civil Rights law under HR 5 would erase biological reality and actually reduce, not expand, protections against discrimination, contrary to the original intent of Congress.
H.R. 5 has passed in the United States House of Representatives. Joe Biden and Kamala Harris have made clear their intent to pass this bill. It is now pending in the United States Senate, where it must now be stopped. If passed, here is what it would do:
- Redefine Gender (Male and Female) to Include “Sexual Orientation” and “Gender Identity”
HR 5 would add “sexual orientation and gender identity” to the term “sex” throughout the Civil Rights Act. Therefore, “sex” would no longer be defined as it has for millennia as the objective biological reality of being male or female. Instead, it would include the societally derived concepts of sexual orientation or gender identity as being equal to and interchangeable with the term “sex,” thereby overriding the very nature of “sex” in the law.
- Require Owners of All Establishments Open to The Public to Comply
HR 5 would expand the definition of “public accommodations” required to comply with this new definition of “sex” to include: a “stadium or other place of or establishment that provides . . . recreation, exercise, amusement, public gathering, or public display.” This would readily include facilities faith-based organizations use for public gatherings or for sports or recreational activities for children. It would also include: “any establishment that provides goods, services, or program, including a store, shopping center, online retailer or service provider, salon, bank, gas station, food bank, service or care center, shelter, travel agency, or funeral parlor, or establishment that provides health care, accounting, or legal services.”
- Force Faith-Based Organizations to Hire Employees Who Do Not Share Their Beliefs
Owners and employers of virtually all establishments open to the public would have to ensure that hiring policies, dress codes, codes of conduct, promotions, and disciplinary actions do not treat someone differently because they are or are perceived to be lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender. That includes churches and faith-based non-profits having to hire people who do not share their beliefs. In addition, property owners would have to ensure that all users of their property comply with these rules.
Faith-based organizations would be able to continue to rely on the “ministerial” exception for employment decisions, but that offers only limited protection. Most importantly, because the ministerial exception would apply only to employees regarded as ministers, it would not insulate churches from hiring decisions related to other staff. Without the protection of RFRA (see below), therefore, faith-based organizations would still be required to adopt LGBT-friendly employment policies.
- Threaten Religious Freedom and Free Speech
Evincing a blatant hostility toward religion, HR 5 would explicitly remove the protections of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act as a defense to a claim covered by HR 5 or as a basis for challenging its enforcement. Faith-based organizations would be compelled to, e.g., adjust their programs, open up their privacy facilities to transgender (opposite-sex) persons, and revise employment policies, or be subject to liability.
- Require All Organizations Open to the Public to Open Up Their Bathrooms
Women and children who use these facilities would surrender their right to privacy and be placed at increased risk for harassment or assault by men who claim to identify as women.
- Undermine Parental Rights and Instruction
By requiring that all private facilities in schools be open to members of the opposite sex if they self-identify as another gender. Children would be required to accept that their female classmates are actually male or male classmates are actually female, contradicting their parents’ instruction concerning the binary nature of one’s sex. HR 5 would also likely lead to universal instruction about sexual orientation and gender identity as normative, further contradicting parental teaching about the created nature of men and women and human sexuality.
- Force Health Care Providers to Provide Abortions, Gender Transition Treatments
Individuals and organizations who provide health care would be prohibited from refusing to perform abortions, “gender-affirming” surgeries, or any procedures requested by LGBT patients on the basis that it violates the provider’s religious beliefs.
- Jeopardize Girls’ and Women’s Athletic and Educational Opportunities
- Inevitably Threaten Tax-Exempt Status for Faith-Based Organizations
While not explicitly included in HR 5, faith-based organizations that refuse to comply with its redefinition of sex/gender could face the loss of their tax-exempt status.
We are clearly instructed by God to align ourselves with His word and stand in opposition to sin. This assault is particularly targeted at our children and grandchildren. In Matthew 18:5-6 (NIV), Jesus said, “And whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me. If anyone causes one of these little ones—those who believe in me—to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea.” We must uphold what the Lord has declared to be right and righteous, and we must do more than just pray. We must pray and act on behalf of our nation’s children. He will save them as we do our part.
CALL TO ACTION
The U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing on HR 5 on March 17, 2021. Leaders in the Senate have declared their intent to move this bill to a full Senate vote quickly. It is imperative that pastors and faith leaders take immediate strategic action to stop its passage.
Here is what you should do:
- Call your senators! The Senate switchboard number is: (202) 224-3121.
- Numbers matter to politicians. Leaders of all churches, pastor associations, or faith-based movements should contact your U.S. Senators and request a meeting to discuss the threat HR 5 poses to your organization and to parents, students, medical professionals, and business owners within your community.