Passed by the House of Representatives in 2019, and again last month, the Equality Act—which President Biden has promised to sign—must still pass the senate. This bill extends basic civil-rights protections to homosexuals and transsexuals, protecting them from discrimination much as existing law protects women and racial minorities from discrimination. But it does more than that, especially insofar as it is written so as to prevent any exemptions on religious grounds. It is possible, for instance, that the act would allow a suit against a Catholic church or Orthodox synagogue for choosing not to hire a gay priest or rabbi. R. Albert Mohler, Jr. argues that it poses a distinct danger to freedom of religion:
Put plainly, the legislation includes no acknowledgement of the right of Christian colleges and schools, for example, to hire teachers in accord with the school’s stated religious convictions. The same would be extended to all other dimensions of operation covered by the bill—and almost nothing would escape that coverage. Individual believers and their private businesses would be covered, as would any institutional entity.
Furthermore, the text of the Equality Act specifically precludes any claims of religious liberty based on the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which was adopted by Congress in 1993 with overwhelming bipartisan support. This bill would actually put Congress in the position of denying in advance defenses made on the basis of its own previous action.
When he was asked about the threat the act would present to religious institutions and their right to operate by their own religious convictions, [one of the bill’s sponsors, Congressman David] Cicilline, offered these chilling words: “The determination would have to be made as to whether or not the decisions they are making are connected to their religious teachings and to their core functions as a religious organization,” he explained, “or is it a pretext to discriminate?”
With those words, every religious congregation, denomination, and institution is put on notice: the government will determine if your hiring and housing and student-conduct and employee policies are truly “connected” to your religious teachings, or if you are merely using a claim of religious conviction as a “pretext to discriminate.” These words mean [that] the burden of proof will now fall to each religious institution to prove to the government’s satisfaction that its convictions are authentic.
Read more on Public Discourse: https://www.thepublicdiscourse.com/2021/03/74750/