- - Wednesday, February 24, 2021

The famous story of Jesus being tempted in the desert makes a point that’s relevant to our current politics, that evil always comes packaged as good, and carries a heavy price.

Satan points out to Jesus how easy it would be to use his special powers to relieve hunger. “Just turn these rocks into bread,” he urges.

Then he takes Jesus to the highest point of the temple, and suggests that he demonstrate his unique status by jumping off and letting angels catch him. Finally, Satan gets to the bottom line, offering Jesus dominion over all the world’s kingdoms, if only he’ll bow down and become a devil worshipper.

Jesus will have none of it.

Unfortunately, we humans aren’t as clear-seeing as the Lord. All too often we’re susceptible to evil ideas when they come wrapped in appealing images and comforting words. Such a deceptive proposal is House Resolution 5, a truly insidious piece of legislation known as the “Equality Act.”

This bill amends the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to protect individuals from discrimination not only on the basis of race, color, religion and sex, but “sexual orientation and gender identity.”

The name “Equality Act” is a triumph of ideological packaging. Who could possibly be against “equality?”

However, when you look beyond that label, you see that the bill spells out specifically that it covers “gender-related identity, appearance, mannerisms, or other gender-related characteristics of an individual [such as how one dresses in public], regardless of the individual’s designated sex at birth.”

It’s so thorough that it even mentions sex stereotypes, which of course, are just assumptions or attitudes about sex and the characteristics or behavior appropriate to particular genders.

Now, a lot of folks might look at this and say, “Well, how does someone’s mannerisms or gender-related characteristics affect anybody else? People shouldn’t be discriminated against for just being themselves.”

But in fact, this bill impinges on society, which is to say on all of our lives, in profoundly disturbing ways.

To begin with, it violates religious freedom — and abortion is the starting point. Since pregnancy is mentioned in the bill as a gender-related characteristic protecting someone from discrimination, no hospital or medical professional could refuse to provide or participate in abortion. Religious scruples would provide no shield.

Additionally, the bill would prohibit churches or church-related schools and institutions from setting norms of sexual comportment and gender appropriateness. Someone openly involved in a same-sex relationships, attempting to live as the opposite sex, or in some other way violating traditional sexual ethics could not be excluded in a hiring decision. Quite literally, a man in a dress could be teaching small children at a Catholic school.

Someone’s sexual relationships, gender identity, or domestic living arrangements could not be a barrier to adopting children. That means church-related social service organizations would be forced to make such placements or else close down.

Beyond religious concerns, H.R. 5 would codify equality of gender on the basis of “identity” rather than biological reality. Thus, there could be no sex-differentiation in sports, wiping out all the gains women have made in athletics. But also, there could be no separation by sex in schools, restrooms, or other programs and facilities. Forget powdering your nose in private.

The “Equality Act” would empower minor children to declare their own gender with no control afforded to parents. Kids could begin hormone treatments or arrange for “sex-affirming surgery” (genital mutilation) on their own. Mom and Dad would have nothing to say about it.

The act would criminalize nationally any sort of reparative therapy or psychological counseling that attempts to help sex-conflicted individuals come to peace with their natural-born sexuality. And there are even questions about whether churches would be able to teach a Scripture-based understanding of what it means to be male or female.

While it bears the comforting word, “equality,” in its title, this so-called “Equality Act” is actually about denying biological reality, about undermining our understanding of moral rightness, about eliminating the ability of parents to protect their children from youthful attraction to ideas that have the appeal of trendiness but are really life-destroying.

As such, it’s an attack on religious liberty. It’s an attack on the right to life. It’s an attack on all rules of decency, fair play, and health. In short, it’s an attack on society, as we understand society.

This is one of the worst pieces of legislation to come along since Roe v Wade. I strongly urge you to read the bill for yourself. Then contact your representative, and insist that House Resolution 5 be defeated.

The so-called “Equality Act” is evil — regardless of how attractively it’s been packaged. Opposing it is a moral imperative.

• Michael P. Orsi, a priest of the Diocese of Camden, New Jersey, currently serves as parochial vicar at St. Agnes Parish in Naples, Florida. He is host of “Action for Life TV,” a weekly cable television series devoted to pro-life issues, and his writings appear in numerous publications and online journals.

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