When Sexuality Trumps Religious Freedom—The Problem With “SOGI” Laws

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The Declaration of Independence affirms that our Creator endows each of us with rights and that it is the work of governments to keep those rights secure. The Founding Fathers added the first 10 Amendments to the U.S. Constitution to list some of those basic rights. Yet local, state and federal governments are working overtime to offer special protections to various groups based on sexual issues that are not included in these founding documents. In creating these special protections, the basic rights of other citizens are often violated.

Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity (SOGI) Laws

More than 300 states and municipalities have added "sexual orientation" and, less frequently, "gender identity" or "gender identity and expression" to non-discrimination laws that deal with education, housing, employment and public accommodations. Violation of these special protections can lead to investigations by local, state or federal human rights commissions; lawsuits; fines, legal fees; and orders to conduct or attend "re-education classes." Existing non-discrimination laws with "sexual orientation and gender identity" added are often referred to as "SOGI" laws.

Aside from state and local governments, most federal agencies have re-defined existing statutes that protect against sex discrimination to include sexual orientation and gender identity. In essence, these agencies, without Congressional approval, have redefined "sex" – being male or female – to include transgenderism and sexual attractions, behavior and identity.

"Sexual orientation" refers to a person’s attractions, thoughts, desires, intentions, actions and identity. Typically it refers to homosexuality, bisexuality and heterosexuality. But some laws include "transgenderism" in the definition, and groups with a variety of other sexual attractions and activities now claim they also should be included.

"Gender identity" refers to a person’s internal sense of gender—whether or not that identity is rooted in biological reality. Facebook now lists more than 50 gender identities for users in the U.S. and more than 70 for its European users. Some gender ideologists argue that there are an infinite number of genders, or that a person’s gender might change from day to day. Some laws also include "gender expression," which refers to how a person outwardly manifests their "internal gender identity."

Why We Oppose SOGI Laws

Our main opposition stems from the fact that these laws are fundamentally flawed, based on a skewed notion of humanity and human identity. The concepts of "sexual orientation and gender identity" conflict with Scripture and Christianity, especially our beliefs about what it means to be human, made in the image of God.

"Sexual orientation" – however defined – is not a concrete reality in a person. It is a modern, abstract concept based on romantic and sexual feelings, thoughts, desires, actions and identity. Christianity teaches that our central identity and value come from being created in the image and likeness of God, male and female. Natural law, science and other faiths also recognize that humans are sexually differentiated into male and female. So male and female are reality, while sexual orientation is subjective and changeable.

"Gender identity" is another recent abstract idea that contradicts Scripture and the church’s teaching. Rather than being created male and female, gender ideologues claim the following:

  • There are no real differences between men and women (except for incidental hormonal and reproductive ones);
  • Gender is fluid and changeable;
  • An infinite number of genders exist; and,
  • People may now create their own genders (including having no gender).

While Christians must treat those with gender identity issues with kindness and respect, there is no reason to treat such a person’s internal feelings or beliefs as true or real—especially when they contradict reality. Christianity offers hope, healing and greater wholeness for those with gender identity disorders.

SOGI laws clash with how Christians and persons of other faiths view the world. Christians believe that God created humanity male and female. Men and women are created in God’s image and likeness—distinct, but both are good and valuable. We also believe that marriage between a man and woman is God’s design, and the only place for sexual expression.

These are reasonable beliefs for people of faith, but SOGI laws cause Christian beliefs to be deemed discrimination and bigotry. They attempt to coerce people of faith to agree with ideology that is opposed to Christian teaching. Government should not use its power to coerce belief.

Freedom of Religion, Speech and Association Are Threatened

Focus on the Family opposes SOGI laws because of the way they have been used to trample on First Amendment freedoms. Human rights commissions and courts are using the protection of sexual orientation and gender identity to trump freedom of speech, religion and association. Special SOGI protections also threaten safety, privacy, and the right of parents to direct their children’s education and safeguard their children’s innocence.

Laws that include "sexual orientation" take internal sexual feelings and attractions of individuals, along with their sexual activity, and place this at the center, making it a primary identity. These laws take what a person feels and how he or she responds, and turn it into who a person is. Secularism and the sexual revolution have now elevated sexual feelings, activity and identity to the level of First Amendment freedoms.

People used to argue for the government to get out of the bedroom. Now, SOGI laws take the bedroom and put it into law, identifying people by behaviors that should remain private.

Laws that include "gender identity" take a person’s internal, subjective feelings about being male or female, and place those at the center of their identity, whether or not those feelings align with biological reality. They take gender theories and ideology and give them protected status.

When SOGI laws are enacted, they often come into conflict with basic rights numerated in the Constitution. And often, sexual orientation and gender identity are elevated above religious liberty, freedom of association and free speech. Many SOGI law activists believe that sexuality should trump religious freedom and free speech, and that people of faith should be forced to comply, even if doing so violates their religious and moral beliefs.

Our Founding Fathers argued for religious liberty as the first and most cherished right, because it was held as a national virtue and credited as being a gift from God, not government. None of the Founders argued for sexual liberty and license, or anything of the sort, as a "right." In fact, George Washington said, "Religion and morality are the essential pillars of civil society." And Alexander Hamilton noted that government was needed because "the passions of men will not conform to the dictates of reason and justice without constraint." The sexual revolution flipped that idea on its head and placed sexual passion at the center of individual lives and society, rather than reason, religion and morality.

Today’s SOGI laws are the result.