Legislative Update

Earlier this year, we had the opportunity to attend the AACS Legislative Conference in Washington DC.  AACS is the American Association of Christian Schools, and as members we enjoy the benefits of having a full-time staff in Washington DC dedicated to the interests of Christian schools across the country.  We are thankful for these individuals and for the hard work they do every day.
We were updated on many topics this year, but there were two topics of particular concern because of the immediate and direct impact on us.  The first issue, the Equality Act, impacts our religious liberty, while the second issue, the Education Freedom Scholarship and Opportunity Act, impacts our education.

The Equality Act

The Equality Act is a bit of a misnomer.  The bill itself has nothing to do with equality, but rather it is an attack on our religious liberty.  The bill would add sexual orientation and gender identity to the Civil Rights Act of 1964.  If passed, it would fundamentally change the ability of religious organizations to exercise their sincerely held beliefs and would require huge numbers of citizens to violate their conscience related to healthy human sexuality, psychology, and family structure. 

The Equality Act mandates a single, federally enforced sexual ideology.  While the 1st Amendment guarantees that citizens have freedom of conscience to hold differing views without fear of government suppression, the Equality Act would codify a single government-mandated ideological viewpoint of human sexuality and prohibit, by force of law, any other viewpoint.  The effects would be widespread.

  • It would penalize Americans who do not affirm new sexual norms or gender ideology. We have already seen these attacks on religious liberty in the Masterpiece Cakeshop case, along with the other cases that have since surfaced against florists, bakers, photographers, wedding venue owners, videographers, web designers, calligraphers, and public servants. 
  • It would compel speech. We have already seen a Virginia high school teacher, Peter Vleming, fired for refusing to comply with orders to use masculine pronouns in referring to a female student.  Vlaming tried to accommodate the student by using the student’s new name and refraining completely from the use of pronouns, but it was not deemed enough.  Incidents like this would unfortunately increase under the proposed federal policies of the Equality Act.
  • It is hostile to religion. Unlike virtually all state and local laws that forbid discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, the Equality Act contains no exemptions for religious organizations or others exercising their religious beliefs.  It does not even exempt houses of worship and their relationships with their clergy.  The Equality Act also partially repeals the Religious Freedom Reformation Act, cutting away at our country’s fundamental commitment to religious liberty.
  • It hurts faith-based schools. The Equality Act  alters the general principle that schools which do not accept government funding are not subjected to government regulation.  Passage of this bill would mean that Christian schools are considered a place of “public accommodation” that “provides a good, service, or program.”  Because of that, Christian schools would be forced to hire teachers and accept students who are unwilling to abide by biblical sexual ethics.  We would be forced to include puberty blockers, cross-sex hormones, and sex reassignment surgery in our employee health plans, in violation of our religious convictions and contrary to our understanding of the best medical responses to gender dysphoria.  The Equality Act would also require our schools to allow boys who identify as girls to use girls’ restrooms, locker rooms, and other appropriately sex-separated private facilities.
  • It hurts the rights of women and children. Not only would it prohibit restricting access to restrooms, locker rooms, etc. as stated above, but it would also threaten the opportunities for girls in athletics, education, and business.  Ignoring biological differences creates an unfair playing field for female athletics, undoing the gains achieved through Title IX and costing female athletes scholarship opportunities. 

Unlike the original Civil Rights Act that works to protect individuals, the Equality Act is written to be used to attack individuals and businesses and force them to adopt new ideologies about human sexuality.  It is an extreme and dangerous piece of legislation.

The bad news is that the Equality Act has already passed in the House of Representatives by a vote of 236-173.  The good news is that we are told it will not pass in the Senate.  Senate Ted Cruz (R – TX) met with us at this conference and assured us that the Equality Act will not see a vote in the Senate.  However, he cautioned that Democrats may attempt to attach it to other legislation in the future in an attempt to push it through Congress. 

Please be in prayer with us on this matter.  Pray for wisdom and guidance for those in Washington DC fighting each day for religious liberty.  Contact your representatives and let them know to not vote for the Equality Act as it stands now or as attached to any future legislation.


The Education Freedom Scholarship and Opportunity Act

The Education Freedom Scholarship and Opportunity Act (EFSOA) is a collaborative effort between the Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, Senator Ted Cruz (R – TX), and Rep. Bradly Byrne (R – AL).  It would give a dollar-for-dollar federal tax credit for donations made to scholarship granting organizations (SGOs) established by each state.  States are free to join or to abstain from the program and to determine how the state program is organized and executed.  The bill allows for up to $5 billion in tax credits for K-12 choice programs that will be divided proportionally to programs in states that participate.

This bill would require little federal regulations and would be administered by the IRS, not as another federally controlled education program housed in the Department of Education.  EFSOA would give a greater number of parents a choice in education, giving them a chance to choose a private Christian education that may otherwise be unavailable to them without a scholarship.  The practical result is the better education of many more students.  The long-term effect will be in the re-establishment of important principles of parental rights in the education of their children, and as more families participate, the greater the possibility that the uncontested power of public schools and teachers’ unions will be reduced in our society.

The EFSOA recognizes that religious schools and SGOs are an important part of providing education choice, and so it contains language that makes clear that states must honor 1st Amendment principles and may not disadvantage religious schools from participating in the programs created under the bill.  This means more families will be able to choose private Christian education for than children, and some of our current families may qualify for assistance through an SGO in the future.

Please join with us in contacting our Representatives and letting them know we support the EFSOA.  Families deserve any chance they can get to have a better voice in their children’s education.