Equality Act: ‘A Pinch of Incense to False Gods’

News: US News
by William Mahoney, Ph.D.  •  ChurchMilitant.com  •  March 25, 2021   

Academics push bishops to compromise

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DETROIT (ChurchMilitant.com) - Professors at Catholic universities are encouraging American bishops to compromise on LGBT legislation.

Thomas Berg and Rick Garnett

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) opposes the Equality Act, which purports to protect people in the LGBT community, but a report published Wednesday reveals academics are criticizing the bishops for not supporting alternative legislation.

"We do not and should not assume that adopting an anti-discrimination law implies agreement with the behavior that it may protect," said Thomas Berg, a professor of law at the University of St. Thomas. 

"Does protecting against religious discrimination imply indifference about religion and about religious truth?" he continued. "No. It implies that there is a characteristic here that is deep-seated enough in a person that they are significantly harmed by being excluded from the market and from public aspects of life."

One reason the USCCB rejects the Equality Act is that it "exempts itself from the bipartisan Religious Freedom Restoration Act, (RFRA)" which protects religious freedom, Berg said.

Rick Garnett, a professor of law at Notre Dame, said "RFRA contains, within itself, the 'compelling interest' test. That is, RFRA does not provide that religious claimants always win."

"Instead, it requires close judicial scrutiny in cases where religious liberty is burdened, to be sure that burden is warranted," Garnett continued. "There is no need to categorically exempt an entire class of significant burdens on religious exercise from judicial review."

'Fairness for All'

Critics of the bishops claim another proposed bill — known as the Fairness for All Act — provides protection for religious freedom. They spotlight the bill would allow bishops to keep federal funding even though the Church defines marriage differently than the government. 

Berg, for example, said Fairness for All provides "very significant provisions for religious freedom claims."

The bishops responded to Fairness for All in 2019, explaining in a letter that "the ends (securing the included religious freedom protections) do not justify the means (establishing gender ideology as a basis for a national policy, further undermining the anthropological basis of the family)."

The Equality Act would change the federal definition of "sex," resulting in damaging consequences

As to the notion that adopting LGBTQ legislation does not imply approval of the behavior, Michael Hichborn of Lepanto Institute explained to Church Militant there is nothing substantially new here.

"Toss these professors back 2,000 years, and they would be asking if offering a pinch of incense to false gods implies indifference about religion and religious truths," Hichborn said. "Such men were wrong then, as these are wrong today."

Definition of Terms

"The language 'LGBTQ' conflates a set of categories that are different in kind," claimed David Cloutier, a professor of theology at the Catholic University of America. "They are all different things."

"The very language isn't clear about what is included and why it's included," Cloutier continued. "I think the vagueness that is generated by the term leads them [the bishops] to be wary about the ability of the law to make various kinds of distinctions that the bishops would want to be made."

Responding to Cloutier, Hichborn offered a traditional Catholic definition of terms.

"St. Peter Damian places all behaviors related to sexual perversion that is not complimentary between a man and a woman as sodomy," he explained. "This includes even masturbation. It is right and proper to categorize LGBTQ as 'sodomy,' which is always an abomination before God."

Compromise Truth for Religious Liberty?

Berg implies the bishops should compromise on religious belief to preserve religious freedom.

"If you say we can't support any anti-discrimination protection for sexual orientation or gender identity because such behavior or identity is wrong or flawed," Berg opined, "then it's very hard to explain to someone else why they should support religious freedom protections or traditional religion when they believe its behaviors or tenets are wrong."

"Berg actually touches on the inherent problem with pluralism and a secular society," responds Hichborn. 

Berg implies the bishops should compromise on religious belief to preserve religious freedom.

"When contradictory ideas are codified in law, one side will necessarily be oppressed. That's just logic 101," he continued. "But the Church must never compromise with evil, always fighting to maintain truth."

In fact, the USCCB elaborates on this point in the face of the Equality Act.

"Our core beliefs about the dignity of the human person and the wisdom of God's design motivate both our positions on marriage, life and sexuality, and our call to serve those most in need and the common good," reads the explanation.  

"By running roughshod over religious liberty, the Equality Act directly undermines the Church's ability to fulfill that call," conclude the bishops. 

The bishops' clarification seemingly would apply to the Equality Act, Fairness for All or any other such legislation that tries to force the Church to cease to be the Church in the name of liberty.

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