This New Reg Will Punish Churches That Use ‘Discriminatory’ Gender Practices

By Dustin Siggins Published on September 11, 2016

A draft form of gender identity regulations released by the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination says churches that hold “secular” events “open to the public” must conform to gender identity pronouns and not challenge gender identity with respect to housing, employment and restrooms.

Released earlier this month and set for implementation on October 1, the updated version of the state’s “Gender Identity Guidance” declares that “places of public accommodation may not discriminate against, or restrict a person from services because of that person’s gender identity.”

A footnote declares “all charges” of discrimination “are reviewed on a case-by-case basis,” though the regulation language says, “Even a church could be seen as a place of public accommodation if it holds a secular event, such as a spaghetti supper, that is open to the general public.”

Additionally, the “Guidance” states, “Moreover, it is a violation of the law for any individual to aid or incite another in making a distinction, discriminating against or restricting an individual from a place of public accommodation on the basis of gender identity.”

Legislators passed the law mandating the changes on July 7, according to the LGBT group MassEquality, and it was signed by the state’s Republican Governor the next day.

MassEquality Executive Director Deborah Shields, JD, MPH, said in a statement that “the guidelines are clear, fair, and protect the safety of all people in Massachusetts. Finally, transgender people have safe and secure access to all public accommodations in the state.”

A footnote explains, “Violation of the law shall be punished by a fine of not more than twenty-five hundred dollars or by imprisonment for not more than one year, or both…. In addition, the violator shall be liable to the aggrieved person for damages.”

Groups that qualify as being under the purview of the “Guidance” must take people at their word about gender identity, according to the state. “The statutory definition of gender identity does not require the individual to have gender affirming surgery or intend to undergo surgery, nor does it require evidence of past medical care or treatment.”

But the line between a religious event and a “secular” isn’t always clear cut. “Churches hold events ‘open to the general public’ all the time — it’s often how they seek new converts,” wrote Eugene Volokh at The Washington Post. “And even church ‘secular events,’ which I take it means events that don’t involve overt worship, are generally viewed by the church as part of its ministry, and certainly as a means of the church modeling what it believes to be religiously sound behavior.”

Volokh continued:

Indeed, a church might be liable even for statements by its congregants (and not just its volunteers, who are acting as agents) that are critical of transgender people. Tolerating such remarks is generally seen as allowing a “hostile environment,” and therefore “harassment.” Indeed, the statement I linked to specifically encourages people to “prohibit derogatory comments or jokes about transgender persons from employees, clients, vendors and any others, and promptly investigate and discipline persons who engage in discriminatory conduct” (emphasis added). But that’s not just encouragement; it simply reflects hostile work environment harassment law, which has long required employers to restrict derogatory speech by clients, to prevent “hostile environments.” See 29 C.F.R. § 1604.11. The same logic applies for places of public accommodation, which Massachusetts says can include churches.

PJ Media’s Tyler O’Neil commented, “Ideally, the First Amendment should uphold the religious freedom of churches, Christian schools, and other faith-based organizations even in Massachusetts,” and noted that the Supreme Court probably would get “the last word on this restrictive legislation.”

But for now? “Christian ministries need to get ready for the onslaught of lawsuits leveled against them, and it might also be acceptable for them to leave, if they believe they can effectively do their ministry elsewhere,” O’Neill said. “It could be argued, however, that Massachusetts needs them now, more than ever.”

Print Friendly
Comments ()
The Stream encourages comments, whether in agreement with the article or not. However, comments that violate our commenting rules or terms of use will be removed. Any commenter who repeatedly violates these rules and terms of use will be blocked from commenting. Comments on The Stream are hosted by Disqus, with logins available through Disqus, Facebook, Twitter or G+ accounts. You must log in to comment. Please flag any comments you see breaking the rules. More detail is available here.
  • Gary

    Churches should put a sign in their window and a notice in a newspaper that none of their events are open to the general public, and are by invitation only. That would be a first step, imo.

    • Paul

      Alternatively, post that all activities and events are an act of worship, which would be a good reminder to the congregants as well

      • Wayne Cook

        Good points, both.

    • NewcastleB

      But that runs contrary to what churches are. Churches are open to the general public, and aren’t by invitation only. Otherwise they wouldn’t be churches. Not to mention you’d have played right into their hands. That’s what they want, to isolate churches from the society. Then they can be eliminated more easily.

      • Gary

        Churches are for believers primarily. It is an assembly of believers, not an assembly of the general public. The state is trying to force churches to accept lgbtq, or shut them down. This is war.

  • Wayne Cook

    Churches had better learn unity and hire good law firms to represent them all on the places they agree, or the leftists who hate church, will tear them apart. It’s as plain as your nose.

    • Well said! These laws have very little to do with protecting the oppressed. They are really just about God-haters gaining the legal authority to destroy the Bible-believing church.

    • 6thinclass

      OT/ Few years ago – 700 Club – what happened to Kristi Watts – one of the co-hosts?

  • russell snow

    I think it is simple. All events at Churches should be open to parishioners and other people who share the same taith. So only Catholics can attend a Catholic event. We must learn to be like the Amish. We should welcome anyone person who wants to become Catholic and live according to the moral teachings of the Church. You can become Amish, but you must believe and live according to the Amish way of life. The radical secularists control the state, the economy, the society, and the culture. It is an anti-Christ enterprise, and it will fail. I think we need to preserve the Church at all costs. It does not mean we cannot preach the Gospel and Evangelize. But we need to avoid allowing these evil partisans of Satan to bankrupt us. We cannot engage them. They want to push us completely out of the marketplace. So be it. It does not mean we do not care for the salvation of souls. We simply cannot fall into the deceits and snares of the devil.

    • MaynardGKrebbs

      All very good thoughts ! However think if all catholics voted according to church and biblical teachings imagine the world we would live in. Not a perfect world, but definitely no homosexuals, abortion,or many other things. All religions differ but no God based father of Jesus, all have the same basic tenets.

  • Jeffery Grace

    I don’t think the church I attend would ever turn someone away but however we would not condone their behavior, we would minister to them but homoseuality is a sin and we would teach that, but you have to remember as a Christian I believe that we all sin almost every day, so i’m not saying my sin is less than your sin, nope in fact I don’t think about others sin at all, I have enough to keep me busy with myself, we don’t receive forgiveness from our sin by being good or righteous but only by The Grace of God

  • Dean Bruckner

    Transgender enforcers are among the meanest, emptiest and most hateful people on the planet. Pray for them.

  • Gary

    Is massachutcetts eliminating boys and girls athletic teams? No? I didn’t think so. This is about trying to force Christians to deny their beliefs.

  • Eldjr

    501c(3): That is the hook in the mouths of the Churches, which is attached to a string of regulations, the end of which terminates in the Oval Office. The Churches were already tax-exempt long before the 501c(3) regulation was added to the United States Code. By incorporating, they declared Civil government to be their Creator and are thus subservient to the Civil power.

    Why did they commit this incredibly short-sighted error?

    Because they wanted to have the government ‘cover the table’ if they ended up in a conflict.

    Well, the government has them all covered now, doesn’t it?

    SPIT OUT THE HOOK, and return to obedience to God rather than the State.

  • terrilynnmerritts

    It ONLY applies if the church is holding a secular event open to the public like a meal. It does not apply to church services or members only events where the general public is not invited.

  • disintelligentsia

    Christ stated “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit . . .” and “As You sent Me into the world, I have also sent them into the world.” The very heart of Christianity is evangelism. Therefore ALL public events are by their very nature religious in nature as they are meant as outreaches to a lost world.

    However, that does not mean that Christians can simply abdicate all expressions of holy living in the hopes of bringing in some of the general public — we are called to be lights to the world and these regulations are another method the world is trying to use to cover up the light. Paul wrote: “I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people— not at all meaning the sexually immoral of this world, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one.”

    Christians are called to live, work and be among the world in general — Christ sought out the lost. “For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon!’ The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Look at this glutton and drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and of sinners!’ But wisdom is vindicated by her actions.”

    Of course, it’s not in the least bit surprising that the world hates Christians: “I have given them Your word and the world has hated them; for they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world.” and “If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you.”

The Christians I Knew Liked Rules Too Much
David Mills
More from The Stream
Connect with Us