Earlier this year, the Democrat-led U.S. House of Representatives passed the pro-LGBTQ bill by the narrow margin of 224-206. The controversial bill – backed by President Joe Biden, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and numerous other Democratic leaders – amends the Civil Rights Act of 1964 by including "sexual orientation" and "gender identity" in the list of protected classes in education, employment and public places.
The measure has been with the Senate Judiciary Committee since mid-March.
Rogue gov't officials put on notice
Charlie Butts (OneNewsNow.com)
Texas lawmakers have taken steps to ensure religious freedom for churches by telling rogue government officials there are limits to their power.
During the course of the pandemic, churches around the U.S., for the most part, were ordered closed or otherwise restricted, even though casinos and adult entertainment shops were allowed to stay open. Not only were church pastors and congregations ordered to turn off the lights, but many who cheered those closures claimed churches that fought being forced to remain closed were selfish for doing so and therefore were not exhibiting Christ-like behavior.
Jonathan Covey, policy director for Texas Values, explains that lawmakers in the Lone Star State took notice of the impact of the closures.
"We were also approached by some pastors in the state of Texas [who were] saying religious freedom needs to be protected and churches provide essential spiritual and mental support in times of crisis," he tells One News Now.
In addition, churches often provide for the needy and the homeless – not to mention, educational services as well.
"… Churches are essential and closing them is not an option," Covey continues. "[That] not only eliminates critical services but it also violates religious freedom rights that are guaranteed by our Constitution."
In response, the legislature passed the Freedom to Worship Act (HB 1239) and, on Monday, sent the bill to the governor.
"The whole point of this legislation," says Covey, "was to [make it clear to] government agencies [and] elected officials 'You can't abuse your authority by shutting down churches or putting restrictions in place that inhibit churches from fulfilling their mission.'"
Governor Greg Abbott is expected to sign the legislation into law – and if any government agency violates it, they could be hearing from the Texas attorney general.
Freedom of conscience would be out the window
Starr – a former federal judge and president of Baylor University from 2010-2016 – warns that the Equality Act (H.R. 5) is at the "very top" of his fears about the erosion of religious freedom in America.
"If enacted, the Equality Act would quash conscientious objections on the part of faith-based individuals," Starr told Christian Headlines. "... I view the Equality Act as a clear and present danger to something that is foundational to our constitutional order, our religious liberty – and that is freedom of conscience. The coercive powers of the government are going to be boldly expanded if the Equality Act is passed into law."
The legal expert says that it is not only imperative for laypeople to "speak into the culture effectively," but for all Americans to be aware of the legal and political battle for religious liberty that is currently being waged against the anti-Christian mandates of the Biden administration.
And should the Equality Act become law, Star argues religious liberty will become increasingly rare – as one's faith will no longer be protected in many legal matters.
"The text of the Equality Act explicitly forbids individuals from using the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 (RFRA) to sue based on claims within the Equality Act," explained Christian Headlines, which noted that senators were told that the proposed law would close or punish thousands of religious organizations. "That law – signed by President Clinton – prevents the government from 'substantially burdening a person's exercise of religion.'"
The balance: Dignity and respect
Enforcement of the pro-LGBTQ law would make it illegal for Christian business owners to deny services that compromise their faith – such as a Christian baker refusing to make an LGBTQ-themed wedding cake celebrating homosexual behavior that is condemned in the Bible as immoral.
"It would mean that individuals such as Jack Phillips, the famous Lakewood, Colorado, baker who could not in conscience create – using his artistry, his creative powers – a cake to celebrate a non-traditional wedding … it means he loses – he's out," Starr explained. "That's just a single and simple and understandable example of what it would mean for RFRA not to apply."
Starr contends that even though a series of pro-LGBT rulings have been issued over the past years by the U.S. Supreme Court, he is confident that the conservative-majority bench – thanks to three appointments by former President Donald Trump – will find the right balance and protect religious liberty … even as Biden ponders stacking the court with liberal appointments.
"It can be done – it can be done by saying, of course, every person should be treated with dignity and respect," the advocate of religious liberty assured. "And so, let's use the bakery example again – the LGBTQ customer should come in, be treated with dignity and respect just like anyone else, to be able to buy anything in the store."
However, he maintains that a Christian baker should not be compelled to create or celebrate something that runs contrary to his or her religious beliefs.
"Respect the views and dignity of all persons," Starr impressed. "Don't use the coercive powers of the government to quash the expression that is informed by freedom of conscience."
Editor's note: Sidebar added after story was originally published.