Woke “rights,” the Equality Act, and Speaker Pelosi

On February 25, 2021, the U.S. House of Representatives could have addressed any number of pressing issues. 

The nation was in its 11th month of a pandemic that had already caused enormous economic and social dislocation. Schools remained closed as evidence mounted that online learning was disserving vulnerable poor children. Civil unrest continued in cities whose local governments refused to maintain public order and protect small businesses whose owners often live a hair’s breadth from bankruptcy. The stunning work of scientists in quickly producing effective anti-COVID-19 vaccines was being thwarted as incompetent local governments botched the early phases of the vaccine rollout. The budgetary process in the House was a shambles, as usual, and the national debt was increasing exponentially. A sane immigration policy remained to be devised.

So what did the House of Representatives do on February 25? By a vote of 224-206, the House decided to criminalize Genesis 1:27 by passing the “Equality Act,” a Newspeak misnomer reminiscent of George Orwell’s dystopian novel, 1984

It remains unclear whether the Senate will take up the Equality Act. In early March, the word in Washington was that majority leader Chuck Schumer won’t bring the bill to the Senate floor unless he’s sure he has the votes to pass it. Americans who care about free speech, the rights of conscience, religious freedom, freedom of association, the integrity of women’s sports, private spaces for women and girls, the independence of charities, open professional career paths, and quality health care for people suffering from gender dysphoria – the belief that one is trapped in the wrong body – should bend every effort to ensure that Mr. Schumer never gets those votes.  

The Equality Act amends the landmark 1964 Civil Rights Act to include sexual orientation and gender identity as protected categories. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, claiming that the bill was needed “because there is discrimination against people in the LGBTQ community,” said that “it breaks my heart that it is necessary.” Well, Madame Speaker, discrimination and bullying break my heart, too. But it breaks my head to think that you don’t seem to understand what you’re doing here.

First, you are denying a truth of divine revelation (“…male and female He created them…”) to which every high school biology textbook attests in its teaching about the genotypes that determine our biological sex.  

Second, you are jeopardizing religious freedom, because the Equality Act, in a totalitarian move, exempts its strictures from challenge under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act – which the House (including you and RFRA’s original sponsor, the aforementioned Mr. Schumer) passed unanimously in 1993. That means that you are prepared to bring the full weight of civil rights law down on any religious institution – Catholic, Protestant, Jewish – that believes itself bound by Genesis 1:27. Which means that you are criminalizing biblical faith and the Catholic idea of the human person. 

(Your colleague, Rep. Jamie Raskin of Maryland, defended the Equality Act by claiming that “every scoundrel in American history has tried to dress up his or her opposition to other people’s civil rights in religious garb.” Please remind Mr. Raskin that it was Baptist ministers, supported by Jewish rabbis and Catholic priests, who, at the apogee of the classic civil rights movement in 1965, led the march across Selma’s Edmund Pettis Bridge.)

Third, you, an avowed feminist, are putting at severe risk the tremendous advances in women’s athletics made under a piece of legislation one would have imagined you to hold sacrosanct: Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972. If troubled boys can claim that they’re girls and have that claim enforced by civil rights law, the great strides made in women’s sports under Title IX are over – and that’s before we get to the legally mandatory invasion of privacy as boys who “gender identify” as girls enter spaces once reserved for girls and women. 

Fourth, you are putting the demands of the LGBTQ partisans who are major Democratic Party donors ahead of science, and indeed ahead of true compassion. There is no serious scientific evidence that “trans-gendering” promotes positive life outcomes over time. Conversely, there is ample evidence that “trans-gendering” increases the incidence of suicide among troubled young people. People afflicted with the terrible suffering of gender dysphoria deserve better. Yet the Equality Act threatens legal sanctions against physicians who refuse to supply hormone blockers to, or perform mastectomies on, young girls – or who even question them about the source and sense of their mental distress. So real help is pushed farther away from suffering people.

True compassion demands rejecting the Equality Act.


Featured Photo by Joshua Sukoff on Unsplash

COMING UP: Sin, suicide and the perfect mercy of God

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I love my hair stylist. 

She’s a devoted Christian. So, when I see her, we tend to have much deeper discussions than the usual gossipy hair stylist sessions. And, because it’s a small shop, the discussions often branch out to the other people within earshot, waiting for their appointments or waiting for their color to process. Because she tends to attract a smart and faithful clientele, the discussion is always interesting. 

Yesterday, at my bimonthly appointment, we somehow got onto the topic of suicide — specifically, the insidious way that it spreads among teenagers. One suicide often leads to another, which leads to another. I made the comment “It is demonic.” 

At that point, a woman in the waiting area chimed in. “I disagree. I’m Catholic. It used to be a mortal sin, but they changed it. It’s not any more. It’s mental illness.” 

If a nice Catholic lady at my hair salon could be confused about this, I figured perhaps some of you out there may be as well. Which made me think perhaps it’s time for a little review on the nature of sin — both in general, and specifically as it applies to suicide. 

First, sin in general. The fundamental point here is that the Catholic Church has no power to decide what is a sin and what isn’t. It’s not like there’s a committee that meets periodically to review the list of sins, and decide if any need to be promoted from venial to mortal, or demoted from mortal to venial, or dropped from the list entirely. 

Sins are sins because they are outside of God’s will. And they are outside of God’s will because they have the potential to do tremendous damage to people created in His image and likeness, whom He loves. We know they are sins because it was revealed to us in Scripture, or it has been handed down from the time of Christ in sacred tradition. Sometimes the Church must apply these timeless, God-given principles to new situations, to determine the morality of technologies undreamt of in ancient times. 

The Church has the authority to do that because she received it from Christ, her bridegroom. And once she does declare on a subject, we believe it is done through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, who is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. So the Church isn’t going to change her mind. Something can’t be a sin, and then suddenly NOT be a sin. 

“But,” you ask. “What about eating meat on Friday? That was a sin, and now it isn’t.” This is an example of a discipline of the Church. Eating meat has never, in itself, been an objectively sinful behavior — on Fridays or any other day. But the Church was calling us, as Jesus calls us, to do penance. And the Church selected that penance as something we could all, as a Church, do together. The sin was never in the ingestion of the meat. It was in disobeying the Church in this matter. This particular discipline has been dropped. But it doesn’t change our obligation to in some way do penance for our sins and the sins of the world. 

Now, on to suicide. It is obvious that something must have changed in the teachings of the Church. Because, in the olden days, a person who committed suicide couldn’t be buried with a Catholic funeral Mass. And now they can. So what gives? 

Here’s the situation. Taking innocent human life is always a grave evil. (I add the “innocent” qualifier to distinguish this discussion from one about self defense, or about the death penalty — which in a sense is self defense. But those are separate discussions.) God is the author of life, and it is He who decides when our lives will end. To usurp that power always has been, and always will be, a grave moral evil. 

But there is an important distinction we must understand. There is the objective gravity of the sin — the nature of it, and the great damage done by it. Then there is the question of the individual’s moral culpability of that sin. In other words: a great evil was done. But is the person who did it liable to judgment for it? Or were there extenuating circumstances that mean that, while the evil was indeed done, the person who did it was somehow functioning in a diminished capacity that reduces or eliminates their moral responsibility? 

For a person to be culpable for a mortal sin, three conditions must be met. First, the objective act must be gravely sinful. Second and third, the person committing the sin must do so with full knowledge of the sinfulness of the act, and full consent of the will. In the question of suicide, we have learned to much about the psychological condition of a person driven to such a horrible deed. The instinct to self preservation is strong. In order to overcome it, the mental and/or physical suffering is frequently very intense. There may even be, as my friend at the salon mentioned, mental illness involved. All of this can drastically reduce a person’s mental and intellectual capacity to make rational decisions. 

And so, while an objectively horrifying act has occurred, God may very well have tremendous mercy on that person’s soul, given the extreme states of agitation and pain that led up to the act. 

Know that I write all of this as someone who has lost one beloved relative and several friends to suicide. And I am tremendously optimistic in my hope that they are with God. Not because they didn’t do something terrible, or that what they did was somehow justified. But because the God who loves them sees their hearts, and knows that pain and suffering can drive people to acts they wouldn’t possibly consider while in their “right” minds. 

And this is why the Church offers the Rite of Christian Burial to those who die by suicide. Because they need the prayers. And their families need the comfort. And because the Church, too, believes in that the God who embodies perfect justice also embodies perfect mercy. 

And we live in great hope that they are with Him.