It’s baaccckkk! That horrendously mislabeled Equality Act from 2019 has re-appeared but this time there are Democratic majorities in both chambers of Congress and a Democrat in the Oval Office.
There are two keys to understanding why this proposal is such a threat to the First Amendment’s guarantee of religious assembly and practice without interference from Congress.
First, as with so much else that appears under the rubric of “social justice,” this proposal absolutizes the concept of equality into a battering ram against the rights of unfavored groups. That’s precisely the outcome the Founders hoped to prevent.
Here’s how that works: If the secular progressive understanding of equality as equal outcomes — rather than equal opportunities — is combined with moral relativity — the idea that “truth” is whatever any individual decides it is for them — then every other societal value must be totally subordinated, including freedom of political expression and religious freedom, the two bulwarks of American liberty.
That is why the “social justice” movement is the source of the Cancel Culture that is steadily suffocating creativity, individuality, privacy, and everything and everybody else refusing to conform. It absolutized equality and moral relativity become the basis of law, anything that even remotely conflicts with them must be suppressed, the Bill of Rights be damned.
Second, the Equality Act essentially rewrites the definition of what constitutes a public accommodation in America so that its reach can encompass whatever federal bureaucrats, lawyers and politicians decide it is.
Doing that will strike a lethal blow against the idea of privacy of individuals. And when there is no realm of privacy into which the government cannot inject itself, the ultimate politicization of everything will be a reality, just as it always is in every totalitarian regime.
House Democrats passed the Equality Act in 2019, but the proposal died in the Republican Senate. During his 2020 presidential campaign, Biden promised to make passage a top priority of his first 100 days. One of his first Executive Orders applied the Equality Act to federal housing policies and programs.
The Supreme Court’s 2020 decision in Bostock v. Clayton County, Georgia, held that sexual orientation and gender identity cannot be used to justify terminating an employee from a business or a non-profit.
But Biden seeks to go beyond even what the high Court ruled by essentially giving free rein to government to apply the public accommodation label as widely as possible.
The Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) has a great deal of experience defending cases that are warning signs of what is ahead if the Equality Act becomes law. Several landmark victories have been won by ADF in recent years, including Masterpiece Cakeshop.
But such cases as Masterpiece require tons of money and time-consuming litigation. If the Equality Act becomes law, there will be a flood of such cases and superb religious freedom groups like ADF will be overwhelmed.
As ADF explained in a recent missive:
The deceptively named “Equality Act” would add “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” as protected classes to existing laws banning discrimination in places of public accommodation, employment, housing, and by recipients of federal financial assistance.
And while its name may sound nice to some, the “Equality Act” actually poses devastating and unprecedented threats to religious freedom. We’ve already seen examples of these threats where similar legislation has been passed at the state and local levels.
Now, let’s take a look at what the “Equality Act” would mean for churches and religious schools:
“n Massachusetts, state officials declared that churches are subject to state public accommodation laws. That meant if churches host public activities – something as simple as a spaghetti supper – they would be forced to open women’s private changing areas and restrooms to biological men. If a church refused, it would face crippling fines and even jail time.
This impacted people like Pastor Esteban Carrasco and House of Destiny Ministries. Esteban and his church wanted to open a women’s shelter for survivors of domestic violence. But according to this interpretation of the law, they would be forced to allow men who identify as female to use the same changing rooms, restrooms, and living facilities as these vulnerable women.
Once the bureaucrats and politicians can tell a church, private school, or faith-based non-profit what they must do, it will be a short step to their being told what they can and cannot teach. That will be the final nail in the First Amendment’s coffin.
Mark Tapscott is an award-winning investigative journalist who covers Congress for The Epoch Times, and he is founder and editor of HillFaith, an apologetics ministry sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ with congressional aides on Capitol Hill.