Latter-day Saint church speaks out in opposition of Equality Act

SALT LAKE CITY — The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints released a statement Monday in opposition to House Resolution 5, also known as the Equality Act.

H.R. 5 is a bill "to prohibit discrimination on the basis of sex, gender identity, and sexual orientation, and for other purposes," according to the bill's description.

"While providing extremely broad protections for LGBT rights, the Equality Act provides no protections for religious freedom. It would instead repeal long-standing religious rights under the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act, threaten religious employment standards, devastate religious education, defund numerous religious charities and impose secular standards on religious activities and properties," the statement from the Latter-day Saint church said, in part. (Scroll down to read the entire statement.)

By way of example, Latter-day Saint church employees are required to adhere to "the standards of conduct consistent with qualifying for temple privileges," according to a statement on the Human Resources website for Brigham Young University.

"Identifying as gay, lesbian, or bisexual or experiencing same-sex attraction is not a sin and does not prohibit one from participating in the Church, holding callings, or attending the temple," a statement on the Latter-day Saint church's website says.

But homosexual behavior is considered sinful and would disqualify a member from temple privileges, and therefore employment at a church-owned business.

Although the Latter-day Saint church explicitly opposes homosexual behavior, according to a handbook published in March 2019 [PDF], the Equality Act doesn't make the distinction between attraction and behavior.

The bill, which Rep. David N. Cicilline (D-Rhode Island) introduced in March, is co-sponsored by Utah representative Ben McAdams, an active member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

"I believe we can protect the free exercise of religion and protect the basic rights of LGBTQ Americans to be treated fairly under the law and have an equal opportunity to succeed and live full lives," a statement from McAdams said, in part. (Scroll down for his entire statement.) "The Equality Act is another step in the direction we need to take, but we still have much to do. I have been a voice for religious values in this discussion, introducing an amendment clarifying protections under existing law for houses of worship and my letter to the bill’s sponsor calling for dialogue on the questions and concerns from some religious organizations."

Read the entire statement from the Latter-day Saint church:

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is deeply concerned that the ongoing conflicts between religious liberty and LGBT rights is poisoning our civil discourse, eroding the free exercise of religion and preventing diverse Americans of good will from living together in respect and peace. Lawmakers across the nation, including members of Congress, are working to enact or strengthen laws that ensure LGBT persons fair access to important rights, such as nondiscrimination in areas like housing, employment and appropriate public accommodations. The Church is on record favoring reasonable measures that secure such rights.

At the same time, we urgently need laws that protect the rights of individuals and faith communities to freely gather, speak out publicly, serve faithfully and live openly according to their religious beliefs without discrimination or retaliation, even when those beliefs may be unpopular. This includes the right of religious organizations and religious schools to establish faith-based employment and admissions standards and to preserve the religious nature of their activities and properties.

This does not represent a change or shift in Church doctrine regarding marriage or chastity. It does represent a desire to bring people together, to protect the rights of all, and to encourage mutually respectful dialogue and outcomes in this highly polarized national debate.

Conflicts between rights are common and nothing new. When conflicts arise between religious freedom and LGBT rights, the Church advocates a balanced “fairness for all” approach that protects the most important rights for everyone while seeking reasonable, respectful compromises in areas of conflict. The Church affirms this as the best way to overcome sharp divisions over these issues. The Church supported the 2015 "fairness for all" legislation in the Utah Legislature that successfully protected both religious freedom and LGBT rights in employment and housing and that has helped facilitate greater understanding and respect.

The Equality Act now before Congress is not balanced and does not meet the standard of fairness for all. While providing extremely broad protections for LGBT rights, the Equality Act provides no protections for religious freedom. It would instead repeal long-standing religious rights under the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act, threaten religious employment standards, devastate religious education, defund numerous religious charities and impose secular standards on religious activities and properties. The Church joins other religious organizations that also strongly oppose the Equality Act as unbalanced, fundamentally unfair and a path to further conflict.

The Church calls upon members of Congress to pass legislation that vigorously protects religious freedom while also protecting basic civil rights for LGBT persons. It is time for wise policymakers to end this destructive conflict and protect the rights of all Americans.

Read the entire statement from Rep. Ben McAdams:

“Utah has shown a great example securing legal protections against discrimination in housing and employment for LGBTQ families and individuals while also protecting constitutional rights guaranteeing the free exercise of religion.

As an active member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and someone who believes that protections for individuals and families with backgrounds and life circumstances different than mine is a core American and Christian value, I believe we must continue at the federal level the bridge building dialogue we started in Utah. As Utahns, we believe someone willing to work hard to provide for themselves and their family should be able to do so without fear of discrimination based on their individual or family circumstances or the religious faith they practice. I believe we can protect the free exercise of religion and protect the basic rights of LGBTQ Americans to be treated fairly under the law and have an equal opportunity to succeed and live full lives.

The Equality Act is another step in the direction we need to take, but we still have much to do. I have been a voice for religious values in this discussion, introducing an amendment clarifying protections under existing law for houses of worship and my letter to the bill’s sponsor calling for dialogue on the questions and concerns from some religious organizations. I plan to add my perspective and experiences working to build these bridges in Utah to the national dialogue as a person of faith and as a supporter of fairness and equality for our LGBTQ neighbors, friends and families. I hope Congress, and our country can learn something from our Utah experience.”

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