They’ll never come after churches… until they do

The Massachusetts Commission against Discrimination issued a document last week titled “Gender Identity Guidance.” Among other things, it requires places of public accommodation to acknowledge and affirm transgender identities.

It is not difficult to see the religious liberty implications for such a policy. It means, for instance, that a Christian bookstore would have to make its sex-segregated bathrooms available to persons based on their gender identity not on their biological sex.

It also means that places of public accommodation must “Use names, pronouns, and gender-related terms appropriate to employee’s stated gender identity in communications with employee and with others.”

But here’s the kicker. The new policy even requires churches to acknowledge and affirm transgender identities in events that are open to the public. The guidelines say this:

“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. All persons, regardless of gender identity, shall have the right to the full and equal accommodations, advantages, facilities and privileges of any place of public accommodation” (emphasis mine).

Over at The Washington Post, Eugene Volokh notes the conflict with religious liberty that this will eventually provoke:

Now, churches hold events “open to the general public” all the time — it’s often how they seek new converts. 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.

My guess is that most churches would not turn someone away from a generally open spaghetti supper… But some religious leaders, as well as the church employees and volunteers, may refuse to use pronouns that they believe are inconsistent with God’s plan as revealed by anatomy.

Volokh offers an extended quotation from a blog I wrote a while back about transgender naming. In it, I wrote this:

Truth-telling is always necessary for the Christian (Eph. 4:15). We are not allowed speak in ways that are fundamentally dishonest and that undermine the truth of God’s word about how he made us and the world. Transgender ideology is fundamentally a revolt against God’s truth. It encourages people–sometimes very disturbed and hurting people–to deny who God made them to be. It traps them in a way of thinking and living that is harmful to them and that alienates them from God’s truth. We do not serve them or love them well by speaking as if transgender fictions are true. …

The practical upshot of this principle means that I must never encourage or accomodate transgender fictions with my words. In fact, I have an obligation to expose them. For me, that means that I may never refer to a biological male with pronouns that encourage him to think of himself as a female. Likewise, I may never refer to a biological female with pronouns that encourage her to think of herself as a male. In other words, I have to speak truthfully. And that includes the choice of pronouns that I use.

I have no idea how many evangelicals would agree with the conclusions I reached about transgender naming. For all I know, it may not be very many at all. Nevertheless–whether many or few–Christians ought not be compelled to speak in ways that violate their conscience, but that is precisely what this new law in Massachusetts requires.

What does this mean? It means that the activists are not going to leave churches alone. They are coming for churches to make them conform or risk sanction by the state. It’s already happening in Massachusetts. I expect it to will spread to other states as well.

This is where we are. It looks like Rod Dreher’s “law of merited impossibility” is unfolding right before our very eyes. In this case, it goes like this: “Stop being a Chicken Little. The sexual revolutionaries will never come after the churches, but when they do churches will deserve it!”

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