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Boards back SOGI compromise

Major Christian groups endorse framework to expand LGBT rights in exchange for religious protections

Boards back SOGI compromise

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Two major evangelical organizations have formally endorsed principles that would add sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) to federal nondiscrimination law. 

The boards of the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities (CCCU) and the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE) quietly passed similar motions in recent months, advancing a multiyear effort they say is necessary to preserve religious freedom. 

“As Christian higher educators, we are increasingly persuaded that the most viable political strategy is for comprehensive religious freedom protections to be combined with explicit support for basic human rights for members of the LGBT community,” Houghton College President Shirley Mullen—one of several people who sit on both boards—wrote in a position paper provided to NAE board members. 

CCCU President Shirley Hoogstra announced her board’s vote to member presidents in August, but did not publicly announce the move. 

The NAE motion—obtained by WORLD—unanimously passed in October. It’s titled “Fairness for All” and calls on Congress to consider federal legislation consistent with three principles: 

• We believe that God created human beings in his image as male or female and that sexual relations be reserved for the marriage of one man and one woman.

We support long-standing civil rights laws and First Amendment guarantees that protect free religious exercise.

• No one should face violence, harassment, or unjust discrimination on the basis of sex, sexual orientation, or gender identity.

“Fairness for All” is a concept based on the “Utah Compromise”—a SOGI law with religious exemptions. The 2015 legislation remains the only statewide SOGI law enacted over the last seven years. 

WORLD contacted a dozen of NAE’s 106 board members for comment, but most either did not respond or declined to speak on the record. Communications director Sarah Kropp Brown said NAE is “involved in various conversations on how to address legal conflicts that arise between religious freedom and civil rights,” but the board has not endorsed “specific legislation.” 

The board actions come two years after Hoogstra and NAE President Leith Anderson held a series of informational events about Fairness for All at locations around the country. In response, more than 75 Christian leaders signed an opposition statement titled “Preserve Freedom, Reject Coercion.” 

Pastor Samuel Rodriguez, president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, is the only NAE board member who signed the opposition statement, but 17 signers are affiliated with CCCU institutions. 

In a statement provided to WORLD, the CCCU said its strategies are “not meant to represent the specific positions of our individual campuses, but rather reflect the wisdom of our board of directors as determined to be in the best interest of advancing Christian higher education in the public square.” 

David Dockery, president of Trinity International University, is a former CCCU board chair and one of those who signed the opposition statement. His opinion has not changed, although he said securing rights for all Americans is a laudable goal. 

“I commend the intentions of those who have proposed the FFA initiative,” Dockery wrote in an email. “I think that they believe they have touched all of the bases with this proposal, but I and many others think that the proposal, though well intentioned, falls short of that outcome.”

Russell Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, called Fairness for All counterproductive: “Placing sexual orientation and gender identity as protected classes in this kind of legislation would have harmful unintended consequences, and make the situation worse in this country, both in terms of religious freedom and in terms of finding ways for Americans who disagree to work together for the common good.”

Critics argue that any legislation in the mold of Fairness for All would protect explicitly religious entities, such as churches and Christian schools, but not Christians in the secular marketplace—including florists, bakers, and other professionals who have faced litigation and fines under SOGI laws. 

Supporters say those conclusions are premature. Johnnie Moore, president of the KAIROS Company and an NAE board member, told me he backs the motion because it puts down markers in an important conversation.

“I haven’t found any board member that I’ve interacted with that was willing to give an inch on religious freedom protections,” Moore said. “It would be myopic to say because members of the board are willing to have this conversation they are slipping away from orthodoxy.”

Moore praised NAE for moving at the pace of its board and said those “hyperventilating” need to calm down: “Don’t jump to a conclusion until we have a document.” 

Critics say the effort is poorly timed, given that the current administration and Supreme Court are more friendly toward religious freedom. But supporters argue the opposite is true.  

“The fact that these basic human rights for the LGBT community are already secured for nearly 60 percent of the country at either the state or local level suggests that the window for this exchange of protections at the national level is narrow,” wrote Houghton president Mullen. “There is an opportunity in this moment that is not likely to last.”

Supporters believe either the courts or Congress will eventually settle the issue—and courts more often uphold religious protections in legislation over those derived from the First Amendment.

No lawmaker has introduced federal Fairness for All legislation, but talks are reaching a new stage. The CCCU has distributed a provision-by-provision analysis of potential legislation and supporters have drafted documents—reviewed by WORLD—to launch two coalitions in support of it. One is called “Faith Together for Freedom”; another is “Alliance for Lasting Liberty.” 

According to the NAE website, its board is meeting today to discuss Fairness for All for the third time in three weeks: “We anticipate that the content on each call will be different as we provide up-to-date information regarding coalition and legislative progress.”

J.C. Derrick

J.C. Derrick

J.C. is WORLD Radio’s managing editor. He spent 10 years covering sports, higher education, and politics for the Longview News-Journal and other newspapers in Texas before joining WORLD in 2012 and eventually becoming WORLD’s Washington Bureau chief. Follow J.C. on Twitter @jcderrick1.

Comments

  • Nat Manzanita
    Posted: Wed, 12/12/2018 07:45 pm

    I think the "Fairness for All" motion is a good strategic move. The kind of laws it asks for are the best we can hope to get in the current social climate, and we'd be very unwise to hold out for even better. I fear that religious freedom is likely to suffer severely in an anti-Trump political backlash within the next few years -- one of the reasons I didn't vote for Trump.

  • SAWGUNNER
    Posted: Wed, 12/12/2018 09:29 pm

    This is another example of the government trying to prune away objectionable tenets of a generic JudeoChristian world view. "You can still do anti poverty mission work among the urban underclass, just dial back on all that stuff upholding the primacy of hetero monogamy in marriage"  "You can still run an adoption service just dial back on or deny your core view of sexual expression" Are we all that far removed from "You can still come inside this church and worship as you wish just make sure the Nazi swastika is hanging above the crucifix behind the pulpit" 

  • Just Me 999
    Posted: Wed, 12/12/2018 10:09 pm

    But the article clearly said "Critics argue that any legislation in the mold of Fairness for All would protect explicitly religious entities, such as churches and Christian schools, but not Christians in the secular marketplace—including florists, bakers, and other professionals who have faced litigation and fines under SOGI laws. " We've already seen these as perfect examples. There is no "fairness for all" this is just another wolf in sheep's clothing. It's too bad our pussyfooted Christian leadership has absolutely no spine whatsoever.

  • One of Many
    Posted: Thu, 12/13/2018 08:36 am

    Big sigh...  Boards and committees, intellectual big wigs and pre-emptive political negotiations.  And the voice of the Lord ? ... Not a Scripture reference to be found.   We are lost.

  • CA
    Posted: Thu, 12/13/2018 09:07 am

    "No one should face violence, harassment, or unjust discrimination on the basis of sex, sexual orientation, or gender identity." Does that mean someone should face violence, harassment, and unjust discrimination for other reasons? Why shouldn't it just stop with "No one should face violence, harassment or unjust discrimination" period? As long as gender identity is included here, there will be situations where you cannot preserve both religious freedom and "unjust discrimination" from the perspective of someone who has gender disphoria. So which one is going to give? You can bet it will be religious freedom.

  • follower
    Posted: Thu, 12/13/2018 02:07 pm

    You do not even need to bet, some things in our current political environment are assured.

  • JACKIE PARFET
    Posted: Thu, 12/13/2018 10:24 am

    Gender Identity and Sexual Orientation are preferences. Individual choices. Not intrinsic rights. How have basic logic and reasoning become so lost? What Do they teach in schools these days??

  • follower
    Posted: Thu, 12/13/2018 12:07 pm

    Why should the LBGTQ lobby compromise?  They are already winning.  Only when people stand up and say no, will there be a reason to compromise.  The LBGTQ side must be pushed back before they sense the need to compromise. 

    Are our organizations willing to protect themselves while letting individual Christians be hurt?  This article makes it clear that this compromise is to protect the organizations, not to support Christ. If this does nothing to protect the baker or photographer or ordinary citizen then we must realize our organizations are abandoning us.  Shame on them. Worse, realize there may be no need to support our religious organizations if they are willing to compromise Christ to stay in existence.  To quote W. Edward  Deming, '' Existence is not a necessity.''

    I look to China to see how Christians should act against authority that is abusing their God-given right to rule.  What right do I have to complain about Lauren Daigle's compromise when my religious organizations are compromising even more than she did.

    This action sounds like king Hezekiah's pulling the gold off the temple doors to give it to King Sennacherib.  The compromise failed.  Salvation came only when God acted and defeated King Sennacherib and the Assyrians, 2 Kings 18.  We need a greater fear of God and a lesser fear of the powerful LBGTQ lobby.  Please, God, act for we are cowards!