Aggressive, well-funded and well-organized activists are bent on making this the next civil rights issue in our country. They have local grassroots advocates, along with media, educational and legal support. Add to all this, a passion for their mission and you have a formidable and dangerous combination.
Vulnerable children are at risk when schools implement policies allowing boys who claim to be girls in the girls’ restrooms, locker rooms and changing rooms and vice versa. Women who have been the victim of abuse are very much at risk of being re-traumatized by such policies in public places. But that doesn’t seem to stop those who care not at all for the privacy rights and the well-being of the vast majority of people.
In addition to the harm done to individuals, these policies frequently set up a direct conflict with constitutionally guaranteed freedom of religion. “Gender identity” and “gender expression” were most assuredly not protected classes of people when the Constitution was written. But the founders did understand how important religious freedom was and made sure this “first freedom” was clearly included in the Constitution. Not that that truth makes much difference these days as we watch this sad situation unfold.
Recently, the ACLU filed a lawsuit against a Catholic hospital in California because this religiously affiliated hospital refused to perform gender-reassignment surgery for a man who requested it, citing the hospital’s religious beliefs. The ACLU alleges this Catholic hospital violated California’s anti-discrimination law which does not have any religious exemptions. Fortunately, should this case make its way to federal court, the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act should offer the church some protection -- but that’s after the church and its leadership and membership are dragged through a messy court case at the state level, costing hundreds of thousands of dollars.
But that’s in California, right? That couldn’t happen here in the Midwest. No way. Really? Well, perhaps what’s going on now in Sun Prairie, Wisconsin, just outside Madison might be close enough. Recently, the Sun Prairie City Council voted on two anti-discrimination ordinances. One deals with housing, and while I think it’s a terrible ordinance, at least it does have a religious exemption and a couple of other exceptions. It does have the broadest group of protected classes I think I’ve ever seen and clearly includes “gender identity” and “gender expression.”
The second ordinance deals with public accommodations and employment. The public accommodation part is the most offensive. It basically says every business owner in that city cannot deny these protected groups in any way for any reason “the full enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages and accommodations.” That means business owners will have to let men who think they are women use the women’s restrooms and changing rooms in their places of business, regardless of what the business owners want or believe about this matter.
In addition, there is absolutely no religious exemption in this ordinance. A place of public accommodation is defined as “all establishments…which offer goods, services, accommodations and entertainment to the public. A place of public accommodation does not include any institute or club which by its nature is distinctly private.” I think under this definition any church or religious organization that advertises anywhere inviting the public to services or programs would fall under this onerous law.
I’m so hoping pastors and other ministry leaders, along with regular church-going citizens, will understand what is happening. Vulnerable and often unwitting citizens are being happily and handily sacrificed for this wrong-headed agenda; and religious freedom is being made to be outdated, bigoted, hateful, divisive, phobic, and discriminatory -- and therefore unlawful. This begs the question: what are we willing to fight for?