Liberty is a universal value. As the conclusion of our Pledge of Allegiance reminds us, it is available “for all.” Yet there is growing pressure to pass laws that are fundamentally unjust and unconstitutional—limiting Americans’ liberty.
Laws that add sexual orientation and gender identity as new classifications under the law (called “SOGI” laws) raise profound concerns about how these laws empower the government to override basic freedoms of conscience, religion, speech, and other liberties. If you’ve followed our work here at ADF, you’re likely familiar with how SOGI laws have been used against churches and creative professionals, threatening their very livelihoods if they do not violate their conscience and embrace the government’s demands.
Surprisingly, some Christian organizations, including the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities and the National Association of Evangelicals, are now supporting the adoption of new SOGI laws. Their principal argument is that a tactical retreat is the only means of preserving religious freedom for some.
Supporters of a new SOGI bill, peddled as so-called “Fairness for All” (FFA), claim that it balances the concerns of the LGBT community and the religious community. But the problem is, this SOGI proposal – and indeed, SOGI laws in any form – cannot achieve that balance. As Ryan T. Anderson and Robert P. George explain:
[These laws] favor one side of a cultural debate—the culturally and politically powerful LGBT lobby—at the expense of citizens of goodwill who believe that we are created male and female and that marriage unites a man and a woman. While these bills have some superficially appealing aspects, they would only increase cultural tensions, further empower an already powerful special-interest lobby, and impose unjustly on [Americans] of many different faiths and all walks of life. All citizens should oppose unjust discrimination, but SOGI laws are not the way to do that.
At its core, FFA proposals surrender essential, constitutionally guaranteed individual and institutional freedoms and empower the government to discriminate against its citizens in exchange for narrow carve-outs for religious freedom and perhaps other protections of uncertain scope.
While FFA supporters have not published a proposed federal bill text or otherwise provided a sufficiently substantive description of its content, it appears that its exemptions will be limited to explicitly religious organizations, withholding the same protections from individuals who strive to live out their convictions about marriage, for example, in the world of commerce. One can surely understand why a Christian florist or Jewish photographer who cannot celebrate a same-sex wedding might not consider such a tradeoff to be fair.
As Christians, we are called to honor God in all we do, not only in overtly religious roles. But these laws almost certainly will give some people of faith an ultimatum: Leave your faith at home or face government punishment.
Just ask the florist, the cake artist, or the filmmakers how that has worked out. Or, you can even ask the farmer, the latest in a list of people told that they can’t express their religious views if the government disapproves.
As other SOGI law have, this new type of SOGI will also restrict who enjoys First Amendment protections and will fail to adequately protect all Americans who wish to peacefully live out their convictions in their various callings without fear of government punishment. And that should concern us all.
The bottom line is that all laws must respect freedom and promote justice for every citizen, no matter who they are. After all, a society that protects everyone’s freedom to peacefully live according to their beliefs promotes an environment of mutual respect among Americans from all walks of life.
But that is not what SOGI laws do. Instead, they threaten Americans’ fundamental liberties. And that is not a compromise we can make.
This is the fourth post in a series on sexual orientation gender identity laws. To learn more and read the previous posts in this series, visit the links below: