Opinion: LGBTQ+ petition initiative threatens religious freedom

William Wagner

A new petition initiative aims to add sexual lifestyle protections to Michigan’s anti-discrimination law.

Sadly, the proposal also intentionally seeks to relegate religious conscience into irrelevance. Purportedly in the name of civil rights, proponents seek special preference for classifications concerning sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression. Revealing their actual political agenda though, the proposal cruelly dilutes existing protection for religion, defining it so narrowly as to provide virtually no protection at all.

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State and local governments frequently wield so-called anti-discrimination initiatives as a weapon to oppress religious people, Wagner writes.

Grounded in misrepresentation, this left-leaning political agenda is armed with the full enforcement power of the state. Those who believe that biology and anatomy are more than a social construct should not have to risk litigation and financial ruin to protect their daughters from men invading their bathrooms or showers. Moreover, the law ought not cloak men with the full enforcement power of the state to enter these most private of places.

State and local governments frequently wield so-called anti-discrimination initiatives as a weapon to oppress religious people. The exponential expansion of government actions interfering with an individual’s exercise of religious conscience is especially prevalent in cases involving small and family-owned businesses. Recent cases against bakers, printers, and bed and breakfast proprietors illustrate the point.

Even more troubling, in a deliberate abuse of power, Michigan authorities now investigate Christian business owners for violating the provisions of this petition initiative, even before its proponents have obtained a single signature. Lawyers at the Great Lakes Justice Center somberly represent these citizens at no charge. 

Elsewhere, government authorities in Houston, Texas, issued subpoenas to Christian pastors. The subpoenas ordered the pastors to give copies of their speeches and sermons related to “homosexuality, or gender identity” to the government for its review.

The subpoenas further demanded the pastors produce their e-mails, instant messages, text messages, and diaries, as well as communications to members of their congregation and legal counsel.

Soon after Houston subpoenaed the pastors, a city in Idaho threatened criminal prosecution of other Christian pastors for not performing same sex weddings in violation of their sincerely held religious conscience.

Ironically trying to justify their hostile attacks in the name of civil rights, activists focus their ire on a mostly Christian minority. Merely defending viewpoints grounded in religious conscience is enough to validate their outrage — especially when those viewpoints threaten “personal autonomy” mantras or remonstrate against forced civil acceptance of all of sexual behavior.

The fierceness of the opposition to religious conscience makes clear that such attacks are not about civil rights as the activists falsely suggest. It is, rather, about their desire for political power to censure, by force of law and punishment, any idea informed by sacred tenets that might interfere with their anti-faith political agenda.

Christian people know that every person has inherent value, made in the very image of God. Christians would, therefore, never discriminate against a person based upon who they are. Christian people will, though, never concede their First Amendment freedom of conscience.

Professor William Wagner is president of the Great Lakes Justice Center.