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HR-5 Equality Act’s Impact on Churches

Dear Clients and Friends,

I recently spoke with Adam Mayefsky, Ambassador Regional Director, with the American Defending Freedom organization or (ADF). A very productive conversation wherein we discussed the many impacts this legislation may have on our churches.

Although, as of this writing, it has only passed the House of Representatives. But if it passes the Senate President Biden will most likely sign it into law.

The Congressional Record describes this legislation as follows:

Shown Here: Passed House (02/25/2021)

Equality Act

This bill prohibits discrimination based on sex, sexual orientation, and gender identity in areas including public accommodations and facilities, education, federal funding, employment, housing, credit, and the jury system. Specifically, the bill defines and includes sex, sexual orientation, and gender identity among the prohibited categories of discrimination or segregation.

The bill expands the definition of public accommodations to include places or establishments that provide (1) exhibitions, recreation, exercise, amusement, gatherings, or displays; (2) goods, services, or programs; and (3) transportation services.

The bill allows the Department of Justice to intervene in equal protection actions in federal court on account of sexual orientation or gender identity.

The bill prohibits an individual from being denied access to a shared facility, including a restroom, a locker room, and a dressing room, that is in accordance with the individual’s gender identity.

The relevant provisions for churches according to the ADF are the following:

The Equality Act does not include any religious exemptions.

It could directly impact churches and ministries by preventing them from being able to live out biblical beliefs about marriage, sexual morality, and the distinction between the sexes. It could force churches to open sex-specific facilities to members of the opposite sex.

It could compel ministries and Christian business owners to pay for health coverage that includes procedures that go against their deeply held convictions such as “sex reassignment” surgeries. It could even forbid houses of worship from ensuring that their employees abide by their doctrines or beliefs about marriage, sexual behavior, and the distinction between the sexes.

To make matters worse, the Equality Act would not allow religious individuals and organizations to use the Religious Freedom Restoration Act to defend themselves from the threats it creates.

It would deny federal financial aid to students at faith-based colleges and universities unless the schools abandon policies and practices reflecting their sincerely held beliefs about marriage and sexuality. It may even forbid religious educational institutions from admitting only students who share the school’s beliefs. The Equality Act will also cutoff federal tuition assistance to students at single-sex institutions of higher education – and may even make such schools illegal.

It is further believed the Act would target people of faith, including photographers, videographers, floral artists, and cake artists, who willingly serve people from all backgrounds, by forcing them to promote messages and celebrate events that conflict with their religious beliefs.

Rev. John P. Joseph, Esq. CCA

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