The Equality Act Through the Eyes of a Christian College President

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Why Houghton College’s Shirley Mullen thinks the legislation endangers religious freedom and dialogue as it tries to protect sexual minorities.

Last month, the House of Representatives voted to approve the Equality Act. If passed, the bill would amend the Civil Rights Act to add sex, sexual orientation, and gender identity to its list of protected classes. The bill has broad implications on the rules for employment, housing, education, nonprofit groups that receive federal funds, and other areas.

Many Christian leaders have opposed the bill but say they support expanding federal protections against discrimination. One example is Shirley Hoogstra, the president of the Council of Christian Colleges and Universities. She told The Washington Post this week “I have come to see that LGBTQ people should have the same ease of movement about their lives. They shouldn’t run into unexpected, dignity-dismissing episodes.”

But Hoogstra and others are concerned that the Equality Act offers few protections for religious organizations and institutions that hold to traditional views of marriage and oppose things like gender reassignment surgeries.

In fact, the Equality Act specifically says that the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993, a federal law written to directly protect religious freedom, can’t be used to challenge the Equality Act’s rules on sexuality.

This week, as the bill went before the Senate Judiciary Committee, dozens of black Christian leaders published an open letter concerned that the bill would allow “LGBT rights to be used as a sword against faith institutions rather than a shield to protect the vulnerable.” Among the signers of that letter are the international religious freedom ambassador under the Obama administration, Suzan Johnson Cook and CT board member Claude Alexander.

Shirley Mullen is president of Houghton …

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