Christian leaders defend religious liberty while rejecting gender identity laws

Christian leaders defend religious liberty while rejecting gender identity laws

More than 20 leaders of Southern Baptist institutions — including Timothy George, founding dean of Beeson Divinity School at Samford University in Birmingham — have endorsed a new statement that defends religious freedom by rejecting sexual orientation and gender identity laws.

The document “Preserve Freedom, Reject Coercion” says even “narrowly crafted” sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) measures “threaten fundamental freedoms and any ostensible protections for religious liberty appended to such laws are inherently inadequate and unstable.” The Colson Center for Christian Worldview released the statement Dec. 14 with 79 original signatories.

SOGI policies seek to add sexual orientation (including homosexuality) and gender identity (how a person perceives himself regardless of his biology at birth) to the classifications protected in civil rights law. The new statement says such measures at the national, state or local level are unnecessary and endanger the livelihoods of individuals and the accreditation, licensing and tax-exemption of organizations.

Also among the document’s signers is Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission President Russell Moore.

Moore said, “Every person bears the image of God and thus is deserving of dignity, respect and just treatment.

“At the same time, many of these legislative attempts at fairness actually end up implicating the consciences of believers in participating in actions we believe to be wrong,” he said. “We must not negotiate away our convictions in the name of fairness, especially when the result is the incarceration of the conscience.”

Bakers, florists

SOGI policies have especially affected professionals who serve at weddings — such as bakers, florists and photographers who disagree with same-sex “marriage.”

Adoption agencies, religious colleges, ministries for the needy and churches are among the organizations that have faced legal action for their commitment to marriage as a male-female institution, their determination to maintain policies in keeping with their beliefs and their willingness to protect privacy by preventing people of one sex from using restrooms and locker rooms of the opposite sex.

Some evangelical leaders have sought to find a way to protect both sexual orientation/gender identity and religious liberty by including religious exemptions in SOGI laws. The new statement serves as a rejection of that approach.

“SOGI laws empower the government to use the force of law to silence or punish Americans who seek to exercise their God-given liberty to peacefully live and work consistent with their convictions,” the statement reads.

The signers affirm in the statement every person is made in the image of God and should be treated “with love, compassion and respect.” The statement may be read here.  (Baptist Press)