The Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s most prominent LGBTQ-rights organizations, shared their wish list for President-Elect Joe Biden’s administration. There are policy priorities for different U.S. executive agencies.
I want to highlight just a few of the more alarming requests. They want the incoming Biden Administration to restrict religious liberty anytime it comes into conflict with perceived LGBTQ rights.
Federal Restrictions on Conversion Therapy
There are several points in the document that deals with conversion therapy.
They want the U.S. Department of Education to prohibit pupil services personnel from engaging in conversion therapy or referring students to conversion therapy.
They define conversion therapy as “a range of harmful and discredited practices that seek to change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity.”
However, most bans also include talk therapy, which is a common practice among counselors. It also disregards the patient’s goal for treatment.
They write, “Currently, there is no federal law or regulation that prohibits pupil services personnel, including school counselors, social workers, and other school-based mental health professionals, from providing or referring students to providers of conversion therapy.”
I have to question how much of a problem this is with public schools. I can’t imagine it happens much, if at all.
A faith-based school that receives a U.S. Department of Education grant could be impacted if they provide counseling services.
They offer a similar policy preference under the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. They state that the Biden Administration should prohibit mental health professionals in federally funded foster care institutions and programs from engaging in conversion therapy or referring minors to conversion therapy. They say the same for any federally-funded juvenile justice facility under the U.S. Department of Justice.
If a faith-based institution receives HHS or DOJ funding, they cannot allow anything deemed conversion therapy or make a referral.
They also want the Federal Trade Commission to prohibit conversion therapy as a fraudulent business practice.
Any federal conversion therapy ban that is so broad as to include talk therapy will likely not survive a court challenge. A three-judge panel decision in the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals struck down two Florida ordinances.
“We understand and appreciate that the therapy is highly controversial. But the First Amendment has no carveout for controversial speech. We hold that the challenged ordinances violate the First Amendment because they are content-based regulations of speech that cannot survive strict scrutiny,” they wrote.
Restrictions for Faith-Based Organizations Receiving Federal Funding
Several policy proposals impact faith-based organizations who receive federal funding through grants or as a contractor.
Human Rights Campaign first addresses Charitable Choice.
They write, “In recent years, the federal government has increasingly turned to religious organizations to provide vital services to vulnerable populations. These include substance abuse treatment, early childhood education, food and nutrition assistance, job training, and homeless shelters. Faith-based groups often have expertise in these areas as well as strong ties to the communities they serve.”
“The Charitable Choice regulations guide how religious organizations operate and engage with federally funded services and programs. Initially adopted in 2004, these regulations were revised in 2015 to provide greater protections for beneficiaries from discrimination on the basis of religion, including requiring organizations to notify beneficiaries of their rights,” they added.
Having worked for a non-profit organization that received federal funding during the Bush and Obama administrations, we served everyone. Most faith-based organizations who engage in social outreach, federal funding or not, serve everyone.
It’s how they want to force faith-based organizations receiving federal funding to hire LGBTQ persons, even if it conflicts with their mission.
They want a DOJ to rescind a memo that provides religious liberty protections for federal grantees.
“In a 2007 memo, the Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) at the Department of Justice (DOJ) stated that a religiously affiliated employer could discriminate against employees on the basis of religion under the protections of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act,” they wrote. “This opinion is far reaching and has opened the door to more expansive discrimination under the guise of religious liberty since its publication more than a decade ago. DOJ should rescind this opinion and any subsequent guidance applying the opinion to specific federal programs.”
They also want similar guidance issued by the U.S. Department of Labor rescinded.
Threaten to Strip Accreditation of Religious Schools If They Don’t Conform to LGBTQ Agenda
In their most insidious suggestion, Human Rights Campaign wants the U.S. Department of Education to “ensure nondiscrimination policies and science-based curricula are not undermined by religious exemptions to accreditation standards.”
They write, “Language regarding accreditation of religious institutions of higher education in the Higher Education Opportunity Act could be interpreted to require accrediting bodies to accredit religious institutions that discriminate or that do not meet science-based curricula standards. The Department of Education should issue a regulation clarifying that this provision, which requires accreditation agencies to ‘respect the stated mission’ of religious institutions, does not require the accreditation of religious institutions that do not meet neutral accreditation standards, including nondiscrimination policies and scientific curriculum requirements.”
So if a Christian school requires students and faculty to abide by biblical standards for marriage and sexuality, the Human Rights Campaign believes those institutions of higher learning should be denied accreditation. If the school contradicts “science-based” curriculum standards (whatever that means and whoever sets those), they could also lose accreditation.
They also want to use Title IX to force colleges to include transgender “women” to utilize housing, facilities, and athletic programs designated for biological women. For Christian universities, this contradicts the truth that God creates human beings as male and female. (It also neuters the purpose of Title IX.)
Barring all that, at the very least, HRC wants Christian universities who apply for a religious exemption mandated to post a public notice.
“Students should have the ability to know which schools have claimed a right to discriminate against them in advance of applying for admission,” they write.
Typically these schools already have a covenant or lifestyle agreement for students, but apparently, that is not enough.