As a religious leader, I have a response to Rep. Chris Stewart’s discourse regarding The Fairness for All Act, the GOP rebuke to the recently passed Equality Act.
We do indeed have a right to religious freedom in the United States. However, that freedom does not extend to infringing on someone else’s rights, forcing your values on other people or to making their life harder to keep you comfortable.
Discrimination is not a Christian value. In the Gospels of the New Testament, repeatedly, Jesus included the outcast, the different, people considered nothing more than property. Jesus spoke clearly to the alleged “good people” who excluded anyone different than themselves and proclaimed that in God’s kingdom those whom they wanted to exclude would be first.
Jesus demanded that we look out for the welfare of all people, but we particularly care for and seek justice for those whom society oppressed, marginalized and excluded.
Theology and religion aside, the inclusion of all people, but particularly LBGTQIA+ people, is a justice issue. People come in all shapes, sizes, colors, personalities, sexual orientations, abilities, hormone levels, and the list goes on, all created in the image of God/the Divine.
To assert that one small sliver of the population doesn’t deserve equity and justice is not the principle of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness our country was founded on.
To speak directly to the “controversy” of transgender athletes participating in women’s sports. (Isn’t interesting that this is only about women’s sports? Misogyny abounds.) There are already differences in women competing. There are already women who do not identify as transgender who have testosterone levels higher than the average woman. There are already women who are built more like a male. This isn’t new. Just as there are men who are built and have physiology that are more female, but they identify as male.
The issue isn’t differences, they already exist. The difference is prejudice, fear and hate. Sports already have class/weight and other divisions to handle the differences in athletes. This argument against transgender athletes, rings of the racial segregation of sports leagues in the 20th century, when prejudice spread the misconception that people who are Black couldn’t and shouldn’t compete with white folks.
It is time as a nation and as a world, that we live up to our highest ideals of justice, decency and human flourishing. It is time that we stop all divisions, prejudice, hate and fear. It is time for us to decide that all people are created to live up to their highest and best potential. While it is not perfect, the Equality Act is a step in the right direction to ensure that we live into what we claim to be true: that all people in this land truly are equal and do indeed matter.
Rev. Brigette Weier is pastor of Our Saviour’s Lutheran Church, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Holladay.