by Paul Dupont
Two months ago, a major controversy erupted in Iowa over religious liberty and “gender identity” when the state’s Civil Rights Commission put forward guidelines threatening churches which did not conform to the new transgender ideology. According to the Commission, all “non-religious activities” occurring at a church are subject to a new interpretation of Iowa’s Civil Rights Act, which includes a mandate that bathrooms and other public facilities be open to individuals based on their “gender identification” as well as a ban on conduct which would make “persons of any particular…gender identity” feel “unwelcome.”
While the Commission later slightly revised the guidelines in question, it has continued to defend its contention that churches are not fully exempt, a contention which is currently being challenged in federal court. Hearings for the case began last week.
And now, Iowa churches are no longer the only ones under attack. A new “Gender Identity Guidence” released last Thursday by the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination (MCAD) also puts churches squarely in the crosshairs when it comes to implementing new transgender rules.
As MCAD’s guidance notes, all Massachusetts places of public accommodation will be prohibited, as of October 1, from “restrict[ing] a person from services because of that person’s gender identity”:
This means that a movie theater that has restrooms designated as “Men’s Restroom” and “Women’s Restroom” must allow its patrons to use the restroom which is consistent with their gender identity. A health club with locker rooms designated as male and female must grant all persons full enjoyment of the locker room consistent with their gender identity. A public swimming pool with changing rooms designated male and female must allow the public to use the changing room consistent with their gender identity.
And, most controversially, MCAD’s guidance asserts that “[e]ven a church could be seen as a place of public accommodation if it holds a secular event, such as a spaghetti supper, that is open to the general public.”
How will MCAD determine what constitutes a “secular event”? The guidance doesn’t say. But the fact that a Massachusetts governmental agency has appropriated to itself the power to determine what activities are and are not “religious” should give every American chills.
These cases in Iowa and Massachusetts are no outliers, however. They represent just the latest attempts by leftist bureaucrats to restrict the scope of religious freedom to an extremely narrow “freedom of worship,” a freedom that no longer even protects everything that happens within the walls of a church.
There can be no denying it any longer: the First Amendment is under serious assault, and only a vigorous defense — on both the legal and political level — will save it from complete annihilation.
Paul Dupont is the managing editor for ThePulse2016.com.