The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints opposes a national nondiscrimination bill making its way through Congress, saying it would remove religious freedom protections. In a statement, church leaders wrote that the Equality Act lacks balance and does not meet the “standard of fairness for all.”
“The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is deeply concerned that the ongoing conflicts between religious liberty and LGBT rights are poisoning our civil discourse, eroding the free exercise of religion and preventing diverse Americans of good will from living together in respect and peace,” church leaders wrote in a statement. “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,” the statement continued.
“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.
“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.”
Other religious organizations oppose the measure, including the Southern Baptist Convention and the Roman Catholic Church.
The bill seeks to add “gender identity and sexual orientation” to existing federal nondiscrimination laws covering such things as employment, housing, education, and public spaces and services. It has widespread Democratic support and will likely pass the U.S. House, but faces serious opposition in the Republican-controlled Senate.
Both Utah senators Mitt Romney and Mike Lee, who are both members of the LDS Church and Republicans, oppose the legislation.
Lee released a statement calling the bill “seriously flawed” and that it would “dangerously undermine the First Amendment and the freedoms it was designed to protect.” Romney has told media outlets that the bill doesn’t contain “essential” strong religious liberty protections.