In just the first months of the Biden administration, Catholic educators have been confronted by serious threats to their freedom to teach and witness to the Catholic faith.
Catholics face radical attempts to erode protections for our schools, colleges, homeschooling, and all models of Catholic education to fulfill their mission to uphold the moral law and other Catholic teaching. In particular, the Biden administration seems determined to force Catholic schools and colleges—and all religious organizations—to embrace gender ideology or close their doors.
President Biden strongly supports the Equality Act, which was approved by the House of Representatives on February 25. This disastrous bill is a broad attack on religious freedom and, if passed by the Senate and signed into law, must be challenged in the courts as a violation of the First Amendment.
The bill would amend several civil rights laws concerning education, employment, housing, and more to ban discrimination related to “sexual orientation” and “gender identity.” It would expand the federal definition of “public accommodations” to include schools and colleges. Its provisions against “pregnancy discrimination” could be interpreted to force abortion and contraception in health benefits and other conflicts with Catholic teaching.
Alarmingly, the Equality Act also would exempt its provisions from the broad protections of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), which apply to every other federal law. The bill also adds “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” to the scope of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act.
For several years, Mormons and some evangelical Christians have worried that changes to nondiscrimination law are unstoppable, and therefore they have advocated a compromise bill that would change federal laws to include “gender identity” and “sexual orientation” but would explicitly exempt religious institutions.
Under the threat of the Equality Act, such a compromise—deceptively dubbed the Fairness for All Act—can seem attractive. But the reality is that, once federal nondiscrimination laws are amended, activists are not going to allow religious exemptions to stand for very long. Here’s clear evidence: The strongest opposition to Fairness for All comes from the LGBT lobby. The lobby has, so far, been willing to forgo opportunities to pass some of its most desired provisions from the Equality Act, if religious protections are included.
Aside from tactical concerns regarding the fragility of Fairness for All protections, it would be a grave betrayal of Catholic values and the truth that is the foundation of Catholic education to endorse adding “gender identity” and “sexual orientation” as protected classes in the law. Both labels are false and dangerous. They contradict Catholic teaching on sex and human nature, and there can be no faithful Catholic support for organizing society around such falsehoods.
Catholic educators can take steps quickly to ensure that courts recognize their religious sincerity and their consistency in upholding Catholic teaching. It is vitally important that Catholic schools, colleges, and other educational programs have policies in place that address a broad range of potential liabilities, clearly describe their moral expectations for students and employees, and explain why their policies are necessary to fulfill their Catholic mission.
Full story at Crisis Magazine.