Campus Reform | US House passes 'Equality Act.' Religious conservatives warn it's 'conscience-crushing.'

US House passes 'Equality Act.' Religious conservatives warn it's 'conscience-crushing.'

Members of Congress officially reintroduced the “Equality Act” on February 18.

The Equality Act elevates LGBTQ+ identity to the level of race under the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

The Democratic-controlled U.S. House of Representatives passed the “Equality Act” — a piece of legislation that critics say poses a threat to Christian universities.

The Equality Act seeks to “prohibit discrimination on the basis of sex, gender identity, and sexual orientation” by providing the “full range of remedies available under the Civil Rights Act of 1964.” 

Effectively, it seeks to apply nondiscrimination protections to people identifying as LGBTQ+. The bill passed the House of Representatives on Thursday by a vote of 224-206.

The Council for Christian Colleges and Universities, which represents dozens of Christian higher education institutions around the country, said the bill "fails to provide essential religious liberty protections that would allow a diverse group of social service and civic institutions to continue to thrive." "In particular," the CCCU said, "as it relates to the sector of faith-based higher education that has religious convictions around marriage, human sexuality, and gender, the Equality Act would put at risk their ability to hire and operate in accordance with their religious beliefs and missions."

Even more important, the CCCU added, "the Equality Act would restrict student choice in an unprecedented way by preventing middle- and low-income students from being able to take their federal student aid to these institutions." 

Upon the legislation’s reintroduction, the Alliance Defending Freedom — a legal nonprofit that seeks to protect religious freedom — released a statement calling the bill “conscience-crushing” to religious schools.

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“Our nation’s laws should respect the constitutionally guaranteed freedoms of every American citizen,” wrote ADF counsel Kristen Waggoner in the press release. “All of us — regardless of sex or any other classification — deserve better than the profound inequality that the conscience-crushing, deceptively titled 'Equality Act' reintroduced by Congress today promises.”

Waggoner explained that the legislation “punishes and marginalizes people who hold decent and honorable beliefs about marriage or dare to believe the scientific evidence regarding the physical differences between men and women.” 

The Equality Act would likewise “deny female athletes fair competition in sports, ignore women’s unique health needs, and force vulnerable girls to share intimate spaces with men who identify as female.”

“Unfortunately, the Equality Act criminalizes these fundamental beliefs held by major faith groups since the dawn of time and, instead, demands absolute uniformity of thought,” she added.

Alliance Defending Freedom senior counsel Greg Baylor told Campus Reform that “the deceptively named ‘Equality Act’ threatens people of faith and religious institutions alike.”

“The so-called Equality Act could revoke tuition assistance for deserving students simply because they choose to attend a religious school,” he explained. “It also threatens to strip religious institutions of their religious identity by forcing them to violate their beliefs. This legislation is a constitutional landmine and we hope that Congress will seriously consider its destructive consequences for people of faith.”

An earlier article from the Heritage Foundation explained that the bill would “stigmatize any and all opposition” to transgender ideology in the context of education.

In December, Campus Reform reported that an LGBTQ+ activist group recommended that President Joe Biden deny accreditation to religious colleges that do not have “nondiscrimination policies and science-based curricula.”

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Albert Mohler — President of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary — called the policies “sinister” on his personal blog, explaining that Christian colleges would be compelled to contradict their consciences on matters of sexual ethics.

Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @BenZeisloft