Four years ago, Franklin Graham told Decision readers that he believed God had given America a “window of opportunity to turn from our wicked ways, turn our hearts back to Him and use our freedoms for His glory.” And throughout the last four years, we have seen remarkable progress in religious liberty—both at home and abroad; an increase in pro-life legislation in many states; and an overhaul in our federal courts with the appointment of more than 220 constitutionalist judges, including three pro-life Supreme Court justices. But as the nation faces a “changing of the guard,” many wonder if that window of opportunity is on the verge of slamming shut.
It’s no secret that the Biden administration has strong ties to the abortion industry and several high-profile LGBTQ advocacy groups. So it was not surprising when the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) came out with its Blueprint for Positive Change 2020—a litany of 85 individual policy recommendations for President Joe Biden “aimed at improving the lives of LGBTQ people.”
In addition to pushing for the Department of Education to revert to an Obama-era guidance of allowing biological males who identify as transgender to compete in female sporting events, HRC took a swipe at religious schools and universities. In a “shocking demand”—as characterized by R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary—HRC encouraged the Biden administration to strip accreditation from religious institutions should they refuse to adopt “nondiscrimination policies and scientific curriculum requirements” that the group deems acceptable.
“Losing accreditation would be detrimental not only to Christian colleges and universities, but perhaps most importantly to the students who choose to attend these institutions,” Greta Hays, senior director of communications and public affairs at the Council for Christian Colleges & Universities (CCCU), told Decision. “Threats to accreditation would jeopardize federal funding, which enables many students to access a college education. One-third of CCCU students are Pell Grant recipients, meaning those students have demonstrated ‘exceptional financial need.’ Stripping accreditation would unfairly punish students and impact their futures, including employment and graduate school opportunities.”
While HRC’s proposal is just that—a proposal, with no actual legislation attached—Kim Colby, director of the Christian Legal Society’s Center for Law and Religious Freedom, believes that there “is nothing more certain than a Biden administration attempting to eliminate a number of religious exemptions that have been adopted in the past four years.”
In 2016, HRC called on the Department of Education to publish a list of colleges and universities that received a religious exemption from federal civil rights law “in order to discriminate against LGBT students.”
“HRC basically wanted to shame religious colleges because they have a protection under Title IX that exempts them from the law’s requirements regarding sex discrimination if the requirements violate the school’s religious beliefs,” Colby said.
Currently, under the Higher Education Opportunity Act, accrediting agencies are told to consistently apply and enforce “standards that respect the stated mission of the institution of higher education, including religious missions.” This allows Christian institutions to adhere to their Biblical principles in student admissions and hiring while still receiving federal financial assistance.
Colby explained that the Department of Education’s webpage containing the list of exempt schools was modified under the Trump administration in an effort to put the issue in context.
“Changes were made to reflect that this was not something bad that colleges were doing,” she said, “but that they were simply exercising their rights based on First Amendment considerations.”
Yet with a new administration in the White House, the HRC has renewed its call for the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights to provide a current list of colleges and universities that have received religious exemptions, so that LGBTQ students can “have the ability to know which schools have claimed a right to discriminate against them in advance of applying for admission,” it says.
But HRC isn’t putting all its eggs in one basket. Eyeing Congress’ role in passing laws, HRC launched an expansive social media campaign to promote the Equality Act during the 12 weeks between the bill’s introduction and its passage in the House in 2019. The organization tapped celebrities, prominent politicians and well-known LGBTQ advocates to disseminate its message, using video testimonials and the hashtag #EqualityAct to garner the support of millions across Instagram, Twitter, YouTube and Facebook.
The passage of the bill has been delayed in the Senate, thanks to a Republican majority.
Many religious conservatives considered the Senate to be the last line of defense against the progressives’ agenda. Now, the slight power shift that has occurred in the Senate could ensure the passage of the Equality Act into law.
“As currently written, the Equality Act would have a devastating impact on faith-based higher education, putting their ability to hire and operate in accordance with their religious mission at risk, and stripping federal funding away from institutions that adhere to core religious beliefs and convictions,” Hays said.
Simply put, “It would be like nuclear warfare,” Colby said.
She encourages Christians to regularly make their views known to their state legislators and members of Congress. “Just a polite email once a month or so expressing what you do and don’t agree with, along with your reasoning,” she suggested. “It’s amazing how much elected officials listen to the emails they get.”
Diversity or Religious Discrimination?
LGBTQ advocacy groups and political lobbying organizations have long attacked religious liberty in the name of “diversity.” And in the last few years, corporate America has followed suit.
In September, California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a bill into law requiring all publicly held companies headquartered in the state to have at least one minority or LGBTQ director by the end of 2021 and as many as three by the end of 2022.
Less than three months later, Nasdaq, the world’s second-largest stock exchange, proposed a “diversity rule” that would require all U.S. companies to have at least one director who is an underrepresented racial minority or who self-identifies as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or as a member of the “queer” community in order to be listed on the exchange. The rule would also require all listed U.S. companies to have at least one director who self-identifies as female, without regard to the individual’s sex at birth.
Under the proposal, Nasdaq-listed companies would be required to publicly disclose “consistent, transparent diversity statistics” about their board of directors. If the company fails to meet the diversity requirements, it would have to justify why it does not have “at least two diverse directors” in order to remain listed on the exchange.
Justin Danhof, general counsel for the National Center for Public Policy Research, as well as director of the Center’s Free Enterprise Project, called the proposal “hypocritical and absurd.”
“You cannot ask an employee his or her sexual orientation. That’s highly illegal,” he explained. “So, what is Nasdaq going to do if a company board is comprised of one female and a bunch of white males? How is Nasdaq going to figure out if the board has a gay or transgender member? Is it going to ‘out’ a bunch of people?”
The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), which is expected to vote on the “diversity rule” by March 1, has just four commissioners, following Jay Clayton’s departure from the agency at the end of 2020.
Once Biden appoints Clayton’s replacement, the SEC will likely lean liberal, with three Democrat commissioners and two Republicans. Danhof believes this will provide the perfect environment for the Nasdaq’s proposal to be approved.
What’s most concerning, Danhof said, is that the far left is pushing their ideology through a workaround. “They’re not doing this through Congress. They’re not passing a law. They’re doing it through an obscure rule-making request to the SEC that is going to fall underneath most people’s radar.”
So what are Bible-believing Christians in the marketplace to do?
“Let your light shine,” said Danhof. “If you’re not letting your light shine, how are they going to see you? They need to know that they’re offending half the country when they take the most ‘woke’ action of the day. But if no one in the boardroom is going to stand up, then of course this type of religious discrimination is going to continue, and it’s going to get worse.”
In a similar sentiment, Colby encouraged Christians to be prepared to “articulate why they are entitled to be in the marketplace and in the workplace with their religious beliefs intact.”
But anger doesn’t help persuade people, she warned. “Be informed, then speak respectfully and calmly about what you believe and why.”
And most important—pray. “We need to be praying daily for the president and vice president,” Colby said, “that they would make decisions that are in favor of religious freedom and in favor of life, even though their track record may not look good. God can work through a lot of people, and we just might be surprised by what He does.”