Protections for ‘sexual orientation’ and ‘gender identity’ threaten freedom: 75 Christian leaders
December 20, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) – Seventy-five Christian leaders have signed a new statement, "Preserve Freedom, Reject Coercion," that outlines their support for the freedom of individuals to "speak, teach, and live out" truths about marriage and human sexuality "in public life without fear of lawsuits or government censorship."
Released by The Colson Center for Christian Worldview, the statement has been signed by Catholic bishops, Protestant and evangelical leaders like Everett Piper, Eric Metaxas, and Jim Daly, and scholars like Ryan T. Anderson, Princeton Professor Robert P. George, and Providence College Professor Anthony Esolen.
"We write on behalf of millions of Americans who are concerned about laws that undermine the public good and diminish this freedom for individuals and organizations alike," the statement begins. "We affirm that every individual is created in the image of God and as such should be treated with love, compassion, and respect. We also affirm that people are created male and female, that this complementarity is the basis for the family centered on the marital union of a man and a woman, and that the family is the wellspring of human flourishing. We believe that it is imperative that our nation preserve the freedoms to speak, teach, and live out these truths in public life without fear of lawsuits or government censorship. In recent years, there have been efforts to add sexual orientation and gender identity as protected classifications in the law—either legislatively or through executive action."
These efforts to make sexual orientation and gender identity ("SOGI") protected classes are "unnecessary proposals" that "threaten basic freedoms of religion, conscience, speech, and association; violate privacy rights; and expose citizens to significant legal and financial liability for practicing their beliefs in the public square," the signers maintain.
In particular, they wrote, SOGI laws have been "used by the government in an attempt to compel citizens to sacrifice their deepest convictions on marriage and what it means to be male and female." Such citizens "serve everyone, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity," but cannot in good conscience "promote messages, engage in expression, or participate in events that contradict their beliefs or their organization’s guiding values," the statement explains.
"Preserve Freedom, Reject Coercion" notes that "creative professionals, wedding chapels, non-profit organizations, ministries serving the needy, adoption agencies, businesses, schools, religious colleges, and even churches have faced threats and legal action under such laws for declining to participate" in same-sex ceremonies, "maintaining policies consistent with their guiding principles," and refusing to let people access the showers, restrooms, and intimate facilities designated for the opposite sex.
As same-sex marriage and the notion of gender as based on feeling rather than biological reality have become more enshrined in laws across the United States, bakers, florists, photographers, and religious schools have all faced discrimination for refusing to comply.
"Under SOGI laws, people of good will can face personal and professional ruin, fines, and even jail time, and organizations face the loss of accreditation, licensing, grants, contracts, and tax-exemption," it continues. Such laws create a "special preference in law for categories based on morally significant choices that profoundly affect human relations and treat reasonable religious and philosophical beliefs as discriminatory." They "empower the government to use the force of law to silence or punish Americans who seek to exercise their God-given liberty to peacefully live and work consistent with their convictions" and should be rejected at federal, state, and local levels.
The right to freely live out one's beliefs is a "foundational freedom" of America, the statement says, which "[makes] possible service of the common good, social harmony, and the flourishing of all."
Joshua D. Chatraw of Center for Apologetics and Cultural Engagement at Liberty University, Philadelphia Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, Venice Bishop Frank J. Dewane, Professor Anthony Esolen, Franklin Graham of Samaritan’s Purse and the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, Baltimore Archbishop William E. Lori, Youngstown Bishop George V. Murry, S.J., are all signers.
The full statement and list of signatories can be found here. Individuals interested in adding their names to the statement may do so at the link.