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

George Weigel

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: From rare books to online resources, archdiocesan library has long history of service to students

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National Library Week, observed this year from April 4 to April 10, is the perfect occasion to highlight the essential role of libraries and library staff in strengthening our communities – and our very own Cardinal Stafford Library at the Archdiocese of Denver is no exception.  

Since 1932, the library has served as a religious, intellectual, and cultural resource for seminarians and students at St. John Vianney Seminary in Denver.

As the library of the seminary, we are always responsible for the four dimensions of the priestly formation of our seminarians. The library is charged with being responsible to all the divisions of the Seminary: the Lay Division (Catholic Biblical School and Catholic Catechetical School), the Permanent Deacon Formation Division, and the Priestly Formation Division, said Stephen Sweeney, Library Director. 

In addition to being one of the main resources to the seminary, the Cardinal Stafford Library serves the needs of other educational programs in the Archdiocese of Denver, including the St. Francis School for Deacons, the Biblical School, the Catechetical School and the Augustine Institute. While the library is currently closed to the public due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it was previously open to anyone, giving people access to more than 150,000 books, audios, and videos. 

The Cardinal Stafford Library was named after Cardinal J. Francis Stafford, Apostolic Penitentiary at the Vatican and former Archbishop of Denver from 1986 to 1996. He was a dedicated advocate of the library and of Catholic education.

In 1932, the library was established by two seminarians, Maurice Helmann and Barry Wogan. While they were not the first seminarians to conceive the idea of establishing a library, they are considered the founders for undertaking its organization.  

Since its founding, the library has grown and compiled a fine collection of resources on Catholic theology, Church history, biblical studies, liturgy, canon law, religious art, philosophy, and literature. Special collections include over 500 rare books dating back to the early 16th century and many periodicals dating back to the 1800s. The oldest publication in the library is a book on excommunication published in 1510. The Cardinal Stafford Library is also home to various relics and holds bills personally written by some of those saints.  

Over the past few years, the library has undergone a process of beautification through various renovations that include improvements in lighting, flooring, and even furniture restoration. During these difficult times, libraries are doing their best to adapt to our changing world by expanding their digital resources to reach those who don’t have access to them from home. 

The Cardinal Stafford Library provides a community space; we subscribe to about 200 print journals and have access to literally thousands more through online resources available on campus computers, Sweeney added. “I have been the Library Director for almost 11 years. I absolutely love my work, especially participating in the intellectual formation of the faithful from all of the dioceses we serve”.  

For more information on the Cardinal Stafford Library, visit: sjvdenver.edu/library 

Featured photo by Andrew Wright