Democrats and Republicans slugged it out for nearly two hours this week as they debated H.R. 5, the dishonestly titled “Equality Act” that is one of the top priorities of President Joe Biden, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).
Essentially, the debate came down to two elements: First, the Republicans mainly argued from the text of the proposed law and how it changes current law, particularly the “public accommodation” definition in the Civil Rights Act of 1964; the status of existing laws protecting religious freedom; and the 1972 Title IX regulations that guarantee women’s sports in public education.
The second element was the main argument presented in response by the Democrats, which can be summarized thusly: “Republicans are bigots, homophobes and liars.” This contrast was seen most vividly in the early stages of the debate when Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (D-N.Y.) addressed Republicans in the House chamber:
“I was thinking about my kids as I walked onto the floor today and I ask just one question of those who today with their vote would seek to perpetuate legal discrimination against millions of American families, including mine.
Why are they afraid to just say what they really believe, why do they hide behind the ridiculous, embarrassing, easily debunked arguments, falsehoods, and fear-mongering about locker rooms and women’s sports, and religious practices that will never be harmed?
Why not just say what they really mean? So I’ll tell you what, Madame Speaker, I’ll say it for them: Their real argument, their only honest argument is that they believe LGBTQ people are morally inferior and that firing us should be permitted.
They argue that the longstanding protections we already provide in the civil rights laws for religious practices for some reason aren’t good enough. Here, they demand more capacity to hate on gay people than they would ever claim as a religious right to discriminate on the basis of race.”
Maloney’s angry outburst prompted this response from Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), who managed the opposition presentation during the debate:
I’ll read from the bill, Madame Chairman, page 25 of their legislation. The previous speaker [Maloney] was just flat-out wrong. Here’s what it says: ‘The Religious Freedom Restoration Act [RFRA, of 1993] shall not, shall not, provide a claim or a defense to a claim under the legislation [H.R.5], or provide a basis for challenging the application of this bill.”
They put it in the bill. You can’t use the standard set forth in RFRA that was passed and you can’t even use that as a defense, it’s spelled out in the legislation. As my colleague from Louisiana [Rep. Mike Johnson] said, the very first right spelled out in the very first amendment to the Constitution, the very first amendment of the Bill of Rights, is your right to practice your faith the way you see fit.
And they put it in their legislation, “No You Can’t.'”
So there you have it:
Maloney — Vote for this bill because Republicans are bad people.
Jordan — Vote against this bill because the text of the Democrats’ bill says X.
Let it be noted here that shortly after Jordan spoke, Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), who was managing the bill proponents’ presentations, pointed out that he was a co-sponsor of RFRA, then declared that H.R. 5 “does not contradict religious freedom, but it does enshrine equality, and that’s what they seem to be afraid of.”
Nadler could have offered a knowledgeable refutation of Jordan’s argument from the text, but instead, he simply reiterated Maloney’s stereotypical slandering of the Republican opponents. Nadler is chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, on which Jordan is the ranking minority member.
The bill was approved, of course, supported by 221 Democrats and three Republicans, with opposition coming from 206 Republicans. There are currently three vacancies in the House.
Passage in the Senate is by no means a sure thing, thanks to the 50-50 party split that leaves Vice-President Kamala Harris as the tie-breaker. But, as is so often the case, there are a few “moderate” Republicans who may support the proposal and maybe one or two Democrats who won’t.
If the proposal does make it past the Senate and gets to Biden’s desk, he will sign it. At that point, it will be Katy-bar-the-door, as the old maxim puts it, for advocates of the First Amendment’s guarantee of religious freedom.
As Liberty Counsel’s Mat Staver explained shortly before the House debate: “The so-called ‘Equality Act’ is not at all about equality. If it was, the bill would not include houses of worship and eliminate religious freedom as a claim or defense. The bill is a massive expansion of the federal government into every corner of our lives.”
“The reach of the bill combined with its vagueness and the repeal of the federal religious freedom law will result in a torrent of harassing and frivolous lawsuits,” he added. “If this bill becomes law, the consequences are staggering.”
Staggering indeed. Expect LGBTQ advocates to surge forward filing litigation challenging the tax-exemptions of churches that don’t perform gay weddings, hire openly gay and/or transgendered individuals for church positions, or appoint them to the pastoral and teaching functions they demand. To say no will be considered an admission of guilt.
There will be no defense based on the First Amendment, RFRA or the Civil Rights Act of 1964, or any other state or federal statute guaranteeing the independence of religious practice. In the woke age, you either submit and conform or you pay the penalty, which, incidentally, will become progressively more severe as, hopefully, growing numbers of Americans refuse.
Don’t be surprised if the next step after that threshold is reached is an effort to put federal “observers” in the churches to ensure compliance. At that point, churches will be reduced to mere relics because the faithful will respond by only worshipping privately.
Christians and other lovers of individual liberty should recognize that persecution is a genuine possibility in the days ahead. Pray, preach, and prepare, brothers and sisters.