The Equality Act and Christian Education
Christian educators believe in treating everyone with dignity and respect. Most faith-based schools routinely serve students who don’t share or live by our convictions. These students are given the same level of care and consideration as any others. So why would Christian school leaders have concerns about The Equality Act?
On the surface, it sounds so nice. All people should be treated equally. But the devil lurks in the details. And the details are especially bad for women and for religious liberty.
The 1964 Civil Rights Act prohibited discrimination based on race, color, religion, national origin, and sex. But the Equality Act expands the term “sex” to “sex (including sexual orientation and gender identity).” In practice, this means gender identity trumps biological sex if the two disagree.
Sports & Misgendering
It becomes discriminatory to deny a biological male access to a women’s sports team or locker room if he identifies as female. The former gives teenage boys an unfair advantage. The latter poses all kinds of privacy and abuse concerns.
In the 2018 girls state championship in Connecticut, sophomores Terry Miller and Andraya Yearwood came in first and second place, respectively, in the 100-meter race. A small detail: Miller and Yearwood were born male. But they identified as females. Their athletic conference allowed them to compete with girls based on their gender identity. The pair won awards that should have gone to women. Men beating women in high school sports means fewer sports-based college scholarships for women.
But that could happen anywhere. What about Christian schools in particular? You’re going to have more cases of teachers coming under pressure for “misgendering” students. That’s what got high school French teacher Peter Vlaming fired by The West Point School Board in 2018.
Mr. Vlaming, a Christian, refused to use a transgender student’s new pronouns. The student was female while enrolled in Mr. Vlaming’s class. That summer, she transitioned to male, and took a new (male) name. The next school year, Mr. Vlaming was willing to address the student with the new name, but not with male pronouns. Vlaming agreed not to use female pronouns either. The teacher cited his Christian faith by way of explanation. The Board voted unanimously to toss him. Something similar happened that year to philosophy professor Dr. Nicholas Meriwether — also a Christian — at Shawnee State University in Ohio.
For now, Christian schools can discriminate in their hiring practices to best support their mission. Employees are expected to believe and practice the Christian faith. For example, there’s an implied restriction against sex outside of a male-female marriage. Also implied is an acceptance of one’s biological sex. What happens when a job candidate claims discrimination, under the Equality Act, due to their sexual orientation or gender identity? Or a male employee wishes to publicly transition to female? Historically, a religious employer might appeal to the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) of 1993. But the Equality Act is unique in that it explicitly forbids the use of RFRA to defend “discrimination.”
Christians believe in the goodness of the material world and of the human body. Our bodies are created by God with purpose. “So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them” (Genesis 1:27). It is God who makes us male and female. We’re not to reject this most basic message from our own bodies. Nor can we in good conscience label a man as a woman or a woman as a man.
We recognize, and grieve, that some have gender dysphoria. But the path of love towards such persons is not to tell them lies or to mutilate their genitalia. It’s to graciously help them love their bodies. That’s also the path that will best promote their long-term mental and physical health.
Even Grade Schools?
The Equality Act would cover all federally funded programs. Could the Equality Act forbid students from using their federal tuition assistance at colleges and universities that forbid homosexual activity in their code of conduct? Or that disallow biological males from competing on women’s sports teams? Or might such colleges lose the ability to secure federal research grants?
We’re not just talking about young men and women. It’s boys and girls too. Do you remember when President Biden fielded a question from a mother at a townhall meeting last Fall? Mom said her 8-year-old was transgender. At 8 years of age, what does that even mean? Unless its encouraged socially or assisted medically, we can reasonably expect such children to accept their biological gender by mid-to-late adolescence. In contrast, teens who have taken medical steps to transition often come to regret it later.
But under the Equality Act, some fear that even Christian grade schools could be pressured to act against their beliefs. For example, allowing 8-year-olds to choose their own gender pronoun.
We have good reason to be concerned with the Equality Act. In the end, it’s not about equality. It’s about weaponizing gender identity, minimizing biological distinctions, and punishing dissent. And our schools and children are directly in the crosshairs.
Dr. Alex Chediak (Ph.D., U.C. Berkeley) is a professor and the author of Thriving at College (Tyndale House, 2011), a roadmap for how students can best navigate the challenges of their college years. His latest book is Beating the College Debt Trap. Learn more about him at www.alexchediak.com or follow him on Twitter (@chediak).