“The audacity is breathtaking, and the threat to America’s first liberty is all too real.” That’s how Dr. Al Mohler describes the controversial Equality Act in an article for Public Discourse. Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, is among the many Christian leaders warning that passage of the legislation will spell disaster for religious freedom in America.
The Equality Act, or H.R. 5, which passed the U.S. House last month and now heads to the Senate, amends the 1964 Civil Rights Act to include protections for sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI). President Biden supports the legislation, calling it “essential” to protecting LGBTQ+ rights. Under the Equality Act, organizations won’t be able to use the 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) to challenge or defend against claims of SOGI discrimination.
Al Mohler: ‘New Moral Regime’ Will Replace Religious Freedom in America
In his column published Monday, Mohler warns that the Equality Act, because of its vast scope, will telegraph a “clear moral message” by “normalizing virtually everything comprehended within the ever-expanding categories of LGBTQ.” Beyond its messaging, the legislation “is a draconian threat,” he adds, because it forces religious organizations, institutions, and individual believers “into compliance with the new moral regime.”
To illustrate the Equality Act’s reach, Mohler quotes its lead sponsor in the House, Rhode Island Democratic Rep. David Cicilline. When asked about potential threats the act would pose to religious entities, the openly gay congressman said, “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, or is it a pretext to discriminate?”
Those words, Mohler says, put all religious groups “on notice” that the burden of proof will shift to them. “Visible before our eyes is the threat of an anti-theological state and the end of authentic religious liberty in America,” he adds. “Don’t take my word for it—just take Congressman Cicilline at his.”
The Threat to Religious Freedom in America Is Real, Warns Al Mohler
Two landmark Supreme Court cases—Obergefell in 2015 and Bostock in 2020—have led to this legislative moment, says Mohler. When Obergefell legalized same-sex marriage, “arguments for the curtailment of religious liberty as the cost of newly declared LGBTQ rights were already widely circulated,” he writes. Bostock, which gave LGBTQ federal employees anti-discriminatory protections, resulted in even more “legal vulnerabilities for religious believers,” says Mohler, and the Equality Act would “expand the reach of the law far beyond” that decision.
“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,” writes Mohler, adding that “almost nothing would escape that coverage”—including individual Christians and their private businesses.
In a “Briefing” posted on his website Wednesday, Mohler writes that the Equality Act will “totally transform the United States as we know it” because it “represents a direct subversion of religious liberty.” Calling SOGI protections “newly invented artificial rights,” he warns that they’re “pushing out” religious freedom, which is listed first in the Constitution not only because it’s “first in priority” but “the basic freedom from which all other freedoms are eventually derived.”
Mohler writes, “If you eliminate religious freedom, if you redefine it, if you subvert it, you are subverting all authentic liberties, and all authentic rights.”