In a diverse, multi-cultural world, these guiding principles must inform our actions and guide our public policy decisions. In particular, we must urge Congress to balance these rights as they enter into debate on the Equality Act.
Out of respect for the worth of every individual, Catholics reject all forms of wrongful discrimination in health care, housing, employment, and other areas essential for living a dignified life. Our nation has made great strides in this area and must continue to do so.
Through the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, we as a society have also respected religious rights – the free exercise of religion and the freedom from the government favoring one religion over another.
Over the past few decades, the world has become more secularized. Policymakers have addressed the growing challenge of balancing the need to address wrongful discrimination of individuals and groups AND to protect religious freedom by overwhelmingly enacting bipartisan legislation. The Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), for instance, helps define the parameters of these respective rights in the modern world.
No one takes balancing these rights lightly since they are so fundamental to the core of people in all segments of society. As such, the courts have repeatedly held the RFRA and other religious and conscience protections are only applicable when the government is imposing a “substantial” burden on individuals and faith-based institutions.
Sadly, the Equality Act specifically nullifies the RFRA and threatens to punish faith-based health care, schools, charities, and other ministries whose religious beliefs conflict with certain gender-transition services, adoption and foster care programs, emergency shelters for battered spouses, and other services offered openly to the public by the charitable ministries.
Please urge Congress to oppose the Equality Act. Society needs to balance rights, not eliminate them.