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House passes Equality Act, which bishops warned would ‘punish’ religious groups

By Matt Hadro for CNA

(Image: Andy Feliciotti/

Washington D.C., Feb 25, 2021 / 03:00 pm (CNA).- The House on Thursday passed the Equality Act, a bill that the U.S. bishops have warned would trample religious freedom protections while codifying gender ideology in federal law.

By a vote of 224 to 206, the House passed the Equality Act only six days after it was introduced on Feb. 18. The legislation, sponsored by Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.), recognizes sexual orientation and gender identity as protected classes under civil rights law and forbids discrimination on the basis of those classes in a number of areas.

The U.S. bishops’ conference (USCCB) has opposed the legislation, saying it upholds gender ideology and the redefinition of marriage and frames gender as simply a “social construct.” Furthermore, it would “punish” religious groups opposed to these beliefs, the conference warned.

Through the bill, Congress is forcing “novel and divisive viewpoints regarding ‘gender’ on individuals and organizations,” stated a Feb. 23 letter by five USCCB committee chairs to members of Congress.

The bishops were Bishop Michael Barber, S.J., of Oakland, chair of the USCCB education committee; Archbishop Paul Coakley of Oklahoma City, chair of the USCCB domestic justice committee; Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York, chair of the bishops’ religious liberty committee; Bishop David Konderla of Tulsa, chair of the marriage subcommittee; and Archbishop Joseph Naumann of Kansas City, chair of the USCCB pro-life committee.

The act, they said, “includes dismissing sexual difference and falsely presenting ‘gender’ as only a social construct.”

They warned that the bill could force church halls to “host functions that violate their beliefs.” Women would have to share shelters, sports, and locker rooms with biological males identifying as transgender females. Religious adoption agencies would have to match children with same-sex couples or possibly face closure.

The legislation prevents religious freedom claims from being made by individuals and groups under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. The landmark 1993 law has been invoked by many as a defense against various government mandates, but the Equality Act would override those religious freedom protections.

During House debate over the legislation, Rep. Vicky Hartzler (R-Mo.) said the bill “dismantles Title IX” protections for girls’ sports. Religious adoption agencies in several states have already been shut down because of mandates that they place children with same-sex couples, she said.

“The Equality Act stipulates that religious beliefs and faith no longer matter in the Democrats’ new world order,” Hartzler said.

The bill would override conscience protections for health care workers, said Rep. Yvette Herrell (R-N.M.). The act would “force both people and organizations in everyday life and work settings to speak and act in support of gender transitions, including health care workers and licensed counselors, even when it’s against their professional judgement,” she said.

Under the act, “it is Washington, D.C., that ultimately decides the morality of our children and our churches,” Herrell said.

Pro-life groups have also warned that the legislation could expand taxpayer-funded abortion, as it amends civil rights law to forbid “pregnancy” discrimination. Thus, they say that women seeking abortions under the law could claim discrimination if they are denied an abortion.

“Tragically, this Act can also be construed to include an abortion mandate, a violation of precious rights to life and conscience,” the bishops wrote in their Feb. 23 letter.

The pro-life Susan B. Anthony List called the bill a “Trojan horse” that upholds “a ‘right’ to abortion,” as it “equates abortion with pregnancy and childbirth.”

The president of a Catholic college also warned that, under the legislation, professors could be censored for teaching the truth about marriage and sexuality.

“It doesn’t ensure equality for our faculty, who would not be allowed to proclaim the truth about human dignity and sexuality,” Father Dave Pivonka, TOR, president of the Franciscan University of Steubenville, said of the act.

President Biden promised to sign the act within his first 100 days in office. The bill now moves to the Senate for consideration.

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  1. It is not just that the bishops preferred Biden. Bishops and priests alike are pro-Democrat, as are a majority of the laity.
    Except the Democrats of today are not the ones of 50 years ago. And the Church just might get what it has wanted, good and hard.

    • Catholic Vote did a survey a few months ago and found Dems and Republicans were 50/50 which was an improvement from their last survey.

    • No doubt this comment will be moderated, because the USSCB is directly responsible for the present Administration of Biden/Harris. Their early stated agenda was / is to increase the killing of the unborn, pass anti-Christian legislation, and huge immoral, wasteful stimulus bills funding more anti-family, anti-Christian programs. The power within the USCCB could have been vocal and strong regarding the evil that was inevitable, but they chose to be “quiet”. The bishops and all who neglected to oppose this evil will regret their cowardice. Perhaps, as the anti-Christian bias grows, some will have the fortune to be martyred for the Faith, but tremendous suffering always accompanies persecutions and martyrdom.

    • It are forces within the Church, not outside, that is allowing these things to happen. Seriously, what we are dealing with is a Church tripping over itself to look JUST LIKE the world at large. This erosion is coming much quicker than many of us ever expected.

  2. The authors of a 2019 study which claimed so-called gender-transition surgery may improve the long-term mental health of recipients issued a CORRECTION, nearly a year after publication. The authors of the study—Richard Bränström, Ph.D., and John E. Pachankis, Ph.D.—now report that: “the results demonstrated no advantage of surgery in relation to subsequent mood or anxiety disorder-related health care.”

    So much for the zeitgeist’s mandatory “social [de]constructs.”

  3. If church-run institutions went along with ANY of the insanity suggested in this law; allowing transgenders to teach in Catholic schools, forcing adoption agencies to place children with same sex couples, renting out parish halls to such groups, it would be the death of the church as we know it. All the truly faithful and active members would leave and take their wallets with them. Just because the govt passes a law, does NOT mean the church has to obey it. ( Like the recent Australian effort to force priests to break the seal of the Confessional.They passe a law??? SO WHAT??). It is time for the Bishops and pastors to understand that laws such as this which are clearly INTENDED to hurt the church, must be PHYSICALLY opposed. First inform the laity of exactly what is happening. And that their vote for such extreme liberals is in fact a sin, in opposition to the teachings of the church. Remove the church from generally secular functions like hospitals and adoption agencies. TELL the govt they will not comply with hiring and renting practices which are in opposition to their religious teachings. And let the chips fall where they may. Given how easily the Bishops caved to the shut down demands of govt for covid, which now enters year two with massive damage to the church, I dont hold out much hope this will happen.Elevating concern for the body over the concern for the soul was a grave error by the church and its Bishops. I am not convinced they have yet learned that lesson.

  4. Biden has promised to sign this and he still calls himself a ‘catholic’ and he still gets Communion when he goes to Church.

    Something doesn’t add up here. What could it be?

  5. Fake News – or DoubleSpeak Matt? “bishops warned”? –

    The bishops and many in the Church got Biden elected out of fear, or for the money the administration doles out. Perhaps a better title for your article would have been “Mueller, Burke, Vigano, etc. warned us.”

    Shortly after Obama was elected, Pope Benedict (Ratzinger) reminded us we should avail ourselves of the sacrament of Penance, before receiving Communion again, when we knowingly vote pro-abortion, and there is another option.

    Until the Bishops apologize, do public penance, and call on all Catholics that voted against a “Pro-Life” candidate to repent, and go to Confession before receiving the Eucharist, they are not sincere.

    Only action proves sincerity!

    Rick from Oregon

  6. I can’t believe only a couple of Bishops have spoken out against Biden. Shame on them. They should be giving interviews to newspapers against Biden’s stand on abortion, etc. so the public sees the Church Militant in action. Could it be the Democrats donate too much money to the church that this silence is kept?

  7. It’s going to get disgusting likely infuriating. For parents with girls for believing Catholics the entire spectrum of life. Already discussed among Catholic cognoscenti [Robert Royal Msgr Gerald Murray on World Over] the quasi, and our the bishops is that the Equality Act is a dyed in the wool watershed for suppression of freedom of speech, freedom of religion, perhaps freedom of practice, right reason, and on and on. Reason is, that if unnatural sexual behavior, specifically ‘gender preference’ is legislated as a legal classification, consequently w proviso of full protection under the law a new right is declared that, by its nature as antithetical to biological gender will blanket and smother any claim for protection of their rights by those who hold that biological gender is a necessary functional standard. Granting deviants unlimited freedom to impose upon and assault the sacred. Uncle Joe Biden the egalitarian equalizer. His benevolence is so overwhelming in his commitment to equality that he’s prepared to suffocate Am Justice, and figuratively, if he could as a “devout faux Catholic”, the Apostles responsible for a Tradition that denies licentious equality to sexual deviants.

  8. The majority members of USCG(lobalist)B first support the likes of Mr. Biden, then after the cows are out of the barn, they put forth the objection to his administration’s policies. What a farce. Most of these prelates knew the histories of each member’s stance in this administration on important matters, yet they favor Mr. Biden and Mrs. Harris to hold their high influential positions in our Republic. It is clear that the primary focus of leadership in the Catholic Church’s hierarchy is not to be the salt of the earth, rather, it is to support:
    -the globalist agenda
    -aid illegal immigration
    -endorse climate change ideology
    -look the other way on crimes against humanity –eg:

    Most of our prelates must have forgotten the use of the Gifts of the Holy Spirit they received at Confirmation. Why else would these “Generals” place so much store in monetary acquisition, as well as, personal and collegial power? Indeed the foot soldiers have been all but abandoned, while the “Generals” march lock step to the global political drumbeat. Indeed, the salt has lost its savor.

  9. I find these comments rather harsh toward the bishops. As one bishop quoted by Francis Maier in his article in First Things says, “We’re generals without armies and the civil authorities know it”. I wonder where the bishops are supposed to find their armies?

    • I am available to line up behind the two or three actually Catholic bishops. Unfortunately the one for our diocese is still in hiding being very afraid of COVID. Madison, WI and Tyler, TX look good. Sure there are a couple more.

  10. Let’s get real. Support within the Church for sexual deviancy is because sexual deviancy is rampant within the Church – at the highest levels of Church hierarchy, and despite all the hollow promises of “reform”, parishioners paying up the wazoo for heinous previous misconduct, and plunging Church participation worldwide. The Church is losing the moral high ground at an exponential rate and there appears to be NO moral high wall to stop it. There, I said it!

  11. I think the problem with most Catholics is to blame politicians of what is happening in their own homes. I do not recall reading anyway that Biden or Harris have children who identify as gay etc. So who is to blame if these individuals are part of our society? We have gay children, brothers, neighbours, strangers, etc in every society from the creation of the universe. The reality is even among our clergy including in the Bible as we read about Sodom and Gomorrah gender ideologiesandidentification has always existed in humans. Be angry but do not sin, do not let the sun go down on your anger.”Ephesians 4:26. Such arrangements exists all over Europe nowadays. You visit England most schools and Shopping Malls have those neutral gender arrangements. Just don’t use them. Home school your kids. Teach them their Catholic Faith and read the Holy Bible and please do remember to use our weapon, praying unceasingly. Sin will not come near your house read Psalm 91 daily and above all believe in God. Believe that God’s decisions are irrevocable. He created Pharoah! Hitler etc . Remember this is the season of Lent and let us carry our Crosses with prayers and stop moaning about the inevitable. Trust in the Lord and those who are tested, like Jesus was, and remain steadfast, like Jesus and all our Saints, will have their crown in Heaven not here on earth. Focus and look up to the Lord and leave this distractions to unbelievers. Why spend your time thinking of mere human beings like Biden or Trump? Stay focused and vigilant. Remember you have home, a Father who is waiting for you in Heaven.

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