Back in July of 2020, I responded to M.I.T professor Devin Michelle Bunten’s New York Times op-ed article “Sex Does Not Mean Gender. Equating Them Erases Trans Lives.” In my response, I noted that the worldview of transgender activists entails bringing the external world into conformity with a transgender person’s internal sense of gender, and then requiring others to think and talk the same way.
This same worldview is behind the Equality Act—a piece of legislation passed by the House of Representatives by a vote of 224–206 on February 25, 2021.
What is the Equality Act?
Placing the identities of sex, sexual orientation, and the entire array of LGBTQ+ rights alongside those of race and gender, the Equality Act amends the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to ensure that there is no discrimination in employment, education, and public funding on these bases.
I find the Equality Act troublesome for a number of reasons.
First, the name is misleading. Under the guise of non-discrimination, the Equality Act discriminates against conservative Christians, Jews, and Muslims. For this reason, George Weigel rightly called the Equality Act a “Newspeak misnomer” on par with George Orwell’s dystopian novel 1984. This is about compelling adherence to gender ideology, not equality.
Second, it presents a threat to religious liberty. As currently written, the Equality Act includes no provisions respecting religious liberty. In fact, it explicitly denies citizens the right to appeal to the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA)—a bill passed by Congress and signed into law under President Bill Clinton in 1993. The RFRA was designed to protect people of all faiths by requiring the government to do all it can to avoid over-burdening religious people. The Equality Act does not do that.
Third, it gives the government too much power. When a reporter asked Democratic Representative David Cicilline of Rhode Island if the Equality Act would curtail religious liberty, he responded: “The determination would have to be made as to whether or not the decisions they [that is, religious institutions] are making are connected to their religious teachings and to their core functions as a religious organization, or as a pretext to discriminate.” Not to be outdone, Democratic Congressman Jamie Raskin of Maryland defended the Equality Act by claiming that “every scoundrel in American history has tried to dress up his or her opposition to other people’s civil rights in religious garb.”
Note carefully: The Equality Act gives the government the right to decide if a Christian organization’s policies are connected to their doctrine or simply a “pretext to discriminate.” Al Mohler summarized the matter well: “Religious liberty disappears if the state is going to tell Christians what Christianity is.” After all, the whole point of Christianity is to interpret everything in accordance with our religious teachings.
But not only does the bill threaten religious liberty, it also imperils the rights of conscience for those in the medical profession. As currently written, the Equality Act carves out no exceptions for physicians who decline to give hormone blockers to, or perform mastectomies on, young girls.
Furthermore, it does not protect women. As currently written, female prisoners will be required to share cells with men claiming to be women. Moreover, female victims of domestic abuse will be required to live with biological men self-identifying as women in domestic abuse shelters.
Fourth, the worldview undergirding the Equality Act rejects the created order. In the world constructed by the writers of the Equality Act, gender, marriage, and family, are products of the human will. This renders the goods of gender, marriage, and family as achievements, rather than gifts. But in the Christian worldview, maleness and femaleness are gifts from God, not something we declare ourselves to be. Secondly, in the Christian worldview marriage is grounded in the created order, as one man and one woman leave their family of origin and unite in the covenant of marriage to form a new family. Please note carefully what this means: The government does not define marriage. Thirdly, in the Christian worldview the offspring from the marital union are gifts from God and one of the goods of marriage. Again, the role of the government is to recognize this reality. Conceiving of marriage and family as products of the human will means that they rest, at least in part, on the goodwill of the state. If the government grants these rights, then they can revoke them as well.
In tandem with my fourth point, we should also note that the ideology undergirding the Equality Act is out of step with the Christian worldview. As Carl Trueman superbly documents in his most recent publication The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self (get your copy before Amazon delists it) three revolutionary ideas had to take hold in the human psyche in order for a piece of legislation like this to make sense: 1) the self must be psychologized, 2) psychology must be sexualized, and 3) sex must be politicized. Trueman takes 400-plus pages to explain how this happened, but we must highlight four contributing factors: Identity politics, intersectionality, critical theory, and cultural Marxism. Briefly, after the proletariat failed to follow through on its assigned role in the wake of the Bolshevik Revolution, some left wing theorists built on the ideas of Italian Communist Antonio Gramsci and invented a new proletarian class. This class was “the oppressed,” defined as those excluded from cultural power. Have I lost you? If so, here’s the point: In the world constructed by the authors of the Equality Act, Christian theology and morality represent oppressive bourgeois ideology, and in their view it must be torn down.
So what do we make of all this? Well, what we have here is an inevitable clash of worldviews. And for Christians committed to the teaching of Holy Scripture, we cannot—we will not—submit to the government if they foist this upon us.
Will Christians be able to practice their faith free from government interference much longer? I can’t say for sure, but I keep coming back to Representative Cicilline’s words: “It will have to be determined.” Buckle your seatbelts, church. It’s gut check time.
The following words from the Puritan John Flavel (d. 1691) have been a tremendous comfort to me as of late:
“If you estimate the happiness of the church by its worldly ease, splendour and prosperity, then such times of affliction will appear to be unfavourable; but if you reckon its glory to consist of its humility, faith, and heavenly-mindedness, no condition so abounds with advantages for these as an afflicted condition. . . . There is no reason to fear the ruin of that people who thrive by their losses and multiply by being diminished. . . . For above eighteen hundred years the Christian church has been in affliction, and yet it is not consumed; many a wave of persecution has gone over it, yet it is not drowned; many devices have been formed against it, hitherto none of them has prospered. This is not the first time that Hamans and Ahithophels have plotted its ruin; that a Herod has stretched out his hand to vex it; still it has been preserved from, supported under, or delivered out of all its troubles.”
 Douglas Farrow perceptively notes, “In both countries [Canada and the United States], courts and legislatures increasingly hold that respect for autonomy and dignity requires the recognition of a man as a woman and a woman as a man, simply on the say-so of the person in question. Which is absurd. And for the sake of that absurdity, the law is busy evacuating itself of the body and of identity based upon the body. As it does so, identity becomes a legal fiction, and law becomes lawless, beholden to no objective reality. For there can be no real law, and no real justice, where the subjects of the law and justice are entirely self-determining—where they are the lawgivers and high priests of their own existence, and able, as it were, to transubstantiate themselves by the mere declaration, haec est persona mea” (Theological Negotiations: Proposals in Soteriology and Anthropology [Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2018], 191n72, 192).
 Carl R. Trueman, The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self: Cultural Amnesia, Expressive Individualism, and the Road to the Sexual Revolution (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2020), 221.
 Ibid., 89, 279. On Amazon delisting books, see Ryan T. Anderson, “Amazon Won’t Let You Read My Book,” Wall Street Journal (March 17, 2021): A17, and John Holdenried, “Big Tech Censors Religion, Too,” Wall Street Journal (March 29, 2021): A17.
 John Flavel, Keeping the Heart: How to Maintain Your Love for God (Scotland: Christian Heritage, 1999), 51–52, 54.