Retrieving Liberty

Gender identity laws unjustifiably force people to abandon their religious beliefs and conform to a new morality, which goes against the historic principles of the U.S. of affirming liberty of conscience and religious liberty.

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In light of recent debates about gender identity laws,The U.S. Commission of Civil Rights published a statement condemning recent state laws targeting the LGBTQ+ community, claiming that any law requiring men and women to use bathrooms that correspond to their biological sex, “jeopardizes not only the dignity, but also the actual physical safety, of transgender people whose appearances may not match societal expectations of the sex specified on their identification documents.” The commission also spoke out against religious exemptions, saying, “[they] significantly infringe upon civil rights.”

Therefore, the commission supports sexual orientation and gender identity non-discrimination laws. Essentially, these laws would add “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” to every Federal civil rights law that protects on the basis of race.

Proponents of these new civil rights laws claim that these laws would end a history of unjust discrimination and oppression.. Some states and cities have placed themselves at the forefront of this new movement by enacting these laws. Looking at their effects will help us get a picture of what it is like to enforce them. For one thing, it would be unlawful for bakers, photographers, florists, and any other business owner to refuse service to a same sex or couple, even if such work would go against their conscience. Such punishment has been put in place through fines, like for a small family bakery in Oregon, which was fined 135,000 dollars after refusing to bake a wedding cake celebrating a same-sex marriage. They refused because they believed that marriage is an institution between one man and woman. This belief is common to traditional Evagelicals, Orthoodox, and Catholics who affirm in the Manhattan Declaration, “Marriage is a covenantal union of husband and wife.” Thus, participating in something that goes against that vision of human life is disobeying a holy and just God. y.

These laws would also prevent discrimination by adoption agencies based on the applicant’s sexual orientation. Catholic adoption agencies like the Catholic Charities of Bostons because they believe that children should have the care of a married mother and father, and as such discriminate based on sexual orientation.

With respect to transgender, gender fluid, and queer individuals, it would be unlawful to refuse to use a person’s preferred name or pronoun, or to not allow individuals to use single-sex facilities and programs consistent with their gender. Such a law is already in place in New York City, and is being considered in other cities. It also renders serious privacy and safety concerns of adults, who believe that they have a right to use facilities that only people of their biolgoical sex use, irrelevant and bigoted. Proponents of these laws would be fine with this consequences because they believe that If it is unlawful to discriminate based on race, it should be unlawful to discriminate based on sexual orientation and gender. Yet this comparison to race has several problems. Race is an objective and immutable attribute. Sexual orientation and gender identity are more subjective, ambiguous and changing. The American Psycriatric Association states, “to date there are no replicated scientific studies supporting any specific biological etiology for homosexuality”. Moreover, sexual orientation is used in reference to actions, which are subject to moral evaluation. The APA also states, “Sexual orientation also refers to a person’s sense of identity based on those attractions, related behaviors, and membership in a community of others who share those attractions.” Race implies nothing about a person’s actions whereas being gay connotes not just experiencing same-sex attraction, but also voluntarily engaging in intercourse with other men. Transgender is used not simply to describe someone who experiences distress at his biological sex, but a biological male who voluntarily presents himself to the world and identifies as a female.

All this to say, these laws unreasonably endanger religious liberty and freedom of speech.s in the U.S.. In effect, they unjustifiably force citizens to accept a new morality, a new vision of human purpose and design that goes against their deepest convictions.

This treatment of religious liberty not as the first freedom of America, but as a problem to be overcome and conformed to, goes against the U.S.’s founding principles. The Constitution, as espoused in the first amendment, envisions a constructive relationship between religion and state that balances a citizen’s dual allegiances to God and man, without forcing him to abandon his primarily allegiance to God. This view recognizes the right of individuals and institutions to believe and act in response toward transcendent ends. This bedrock birthright of every human being is the foundation of limited government since liberty of conscience demands that government recognize it is unjust to coerce someone to do something that goes against his conscience. It is unjust coerce a Quaker to compulsory military service.Similarly, would it not be unjust to force people to abandon their sincerest religious beliefs: their most intimate contact with God’s holy presence?The price of not protecting religious liberty is a repudiation of our Constitution’s founding principles and the essential buffers against the overweening authority of the state. The result is a road toward despotism, in which government is the sole arbitrator of morality.

The choice for politicians, policy makers, and even students of Stuyvesant is clear. Regardless of whether or not we agree on controversial issues of sexuality and gender identity, we should not marginalize competing beliefs. Either we decide that liberty and freedom of conscience should govern our discourse or succumb to the terrifying reality of morality governed by mob rule. For if I am not free to believe and practice my most sincere religious beliefs, what am I free to do?