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U.S. Bishops Denounce ‘Equality Act’ in Letter to Congress

WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 22: L.G.B.T. activists from the National Center for Transgender Equality, partner organizations and their supporters hold a 'We Will Not Be Erased' rally in front of the White House October 22, 2018 in Washington, DC. Members of the L.G.B.T. community and their supporters across the country …
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THOMAS D. WILLIAMS, PH.D.

Three leaders of the U.S. Bishops Conference (USCCB) have written a joint letter to the members of the House of Representatives in opposition to the Equality Act, which, they say, “would impose sweeping regulations to the detriment of society as a whole.”

The Equality Act (H.R. 5 / S. 788) was introduced in Congress on March 13 and would add the new terms “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” to the definition of “sex” in federal civil rights laws. The Act would reportedly cement “gender ideology” into federal law, impacting issues such as transgender bathrooms, forced preferred pronoun use, and biological men playing women’s sports.

The chairmen of three important USCCB committees — Bishop Frank J. Dewane of Venice, Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, and Bishop James D. Conley of Lincoln — said in their letter Wednesday that the proposed legislation “does not accomplish what its supporters assert, but rather creates new difficulties” and undermines basic freedoms Americans hold dear.

The Act “has wide-reaching impacts on health care, women and girls’ legal protections, charitable services to needful populations, schools, personal privacy, athletics, free speech, religious liberties, and potentially parental rights,” the USCCB website noted.

“The Act’s definitions alone would remove women and girls from protected legal existence,” the bishops contend. “Furthermore, the Act also fails to recognize the difference between the person – who has dignity and is entitled to recognition of it – and the actions of a person, which have ethical and social ramifications. Conflating the two will introduce a plethora of further legal complications.”

In their letter, the bishops spell out what they see as the Act’s fatal flaws, which they sum up in six points.

In the first place, the Act would regulate “thought, belief, and speech,” the bishops note, “by requiring uniform assent to new beliefs about human identity that are contrary to those held by many – believers of diverse faiths and non-believers alike.”

Secondly, the Act proposes to exempt itself from the bipartisan Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993, which the bishops call “an unprecedented move,” and therefore represents an “explicit departure” from freedom of religion.

Third, the Act would hinder quality health care by forcing many health care professionals to “perform certain treatments and procedures associated with “gender transition” against their best medical or ethical judgment with respect to a patient,” the bishops argue.

Fourth, the Act would endanger privacy in “highly personal sex-segregated spaces such as restrooms and locker rooms,” especially from those “who would take malicious advantage of open-door policies in these private spaces.”

Fifth, the Act would “force a multitude of charitable services to either violate their principles or shut down,” requiring shelters “to house vulnerable, sometimes traumatized, women with biological men.” Moreover, “foster care and adoption agencies would be expected to place children with same-sex partners, regardless of some birth mothers’ wishes and children’s best interests.”

Sixth, the Act would exclude people from various career paths and livelihoods, setting up people of faith and moral conviction “for destructive litigation nationwide.”

The bishops close by saying they “strongly oppose” the Equality Act while urging Congress to oppose it as well.

“We pray that wisdom will inform your deliberations on these matters and we readily stand with you, and are willing to assist you, in developing compassionate and just means to eradicate unjust discrimination and harassment from our country,” they state.

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