On Sunday, Bethel, a Redding mega-church, used their social media accounts to share a statement in opposition to the Equality Act, also known as H.R. 5, saying that the bill does not create equality for all. The statement asks followers to read the bill for themselves and directs them to a related website which offers a script for callers to use when contacting their legislators in opposition to the bill.
The Equality Act is a federal bill that would ban discrimination against individuals based on their sexual orientation or gender identity. The bill also substantially expands the areas in which discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, and sex (including sexual orientation and gender identity) applies, to include public accommodation, federally funded programs, credit and jury service.
The statement shared by Bethel expresses concerns about the Equality Act’s affects on both women’s protections and religious freedom, highlighting concerns that the bill dismisses “the scientific and biblical reality of the differences between male and female.” Posts with the statement bear the dual taglines of Moral Revolution, a ministry of Kris Vallotton, Bethel’s Associate Senior Leader, and Changed, a closely connected ministry.
Moral Revolution refers to itself as “a company of radicals helping to define healthy sexuality,” and says its mission is to see God’s principles “taught, understood and embraced by every individual in the world.” This mission correlates closely with Bethel Church's teaching regarding the “Seven Mountains Mandate,” which advocates that Christians infiltrate all aspects of society to bring them under the dominion of God’s kingdom principles.
Staff members of Moral Revolution include Ken Williams and Elizabeth Woning, who are also co-founders of the ministries Equipped to Love and Changed, both of which provide support and community to those “who have chosen identity in Christ over their LGBTQ+ identity.”
Woning and Williams started Changed after publishing a book in response to a proposed California Assembly Bill intended to ban sexual orientation change efforts, often referred to as conversion therapy. Their book, titled “Changed: Oncegay Stories” was shared with legislators at the Sacramento Capitol. The bill they opposed, AB 2943, died before being brought to a vote. Woning and William’s advocacy efforts related to the bill morphed into a ministry featuring the stories of “once-gay” Christians and offering prayer and lay counseling.
Several slides accompany the statements shared by Bethel. “The Equality Act seeks to create equality by erasing gender, but God created them male and female and said that it is good,” reads one slide, with four accompanying Bible verse references. Another reads, “real equality celebrates the differences between men and women and empowers them both.”
“The Equality Act will threaten these safe and protected spaces” reads the third, with references to potential future adverse affects to women's safety in female lockers and dressing rooms.
A study from the Police Foundation, an independent, non-partisan, non-profit dedicated to advancing policing, which looked at public access restrooms in locations where non-discrimination laws have already been enacted, found no evidence of sexual assaults in which men, under the guise of being women or transgender, entered restrooms and sexually assaulted women.
Bethel’s statement also specifically references concerns that the Equality Act will “remove protections that adults and doctors provide to children who are questioning their gender,” stating that “studies show “85+% of children change their mind and align to their birth sex after a period of confusion.” No study was cited either on the social media post or the related website.
According to a 2015 survey by the National Center for Transgender Equality, the most common reason adult transgender respondents report detransitioning, which was often temporary, was pressure from a parent, with only 0.4% detransitioning because they realized transitioning wasn’t right for them. The survey also indicates that unsupportive families are correlated with a higher incidence of suicide attempts in transgender people.
The statement shared by Bethel also says that suicide rates are “19x higher after gender reassignment surgery.” Again, no sources are given either in the post or on the associated website. However, a study from UCLA’s Williams Institute indicates that 98% of transgender adult respondents who had experienced four incidents of discrimination or violence in the past year, experienced suicidal thoughts, and 51% of those attempted suicide. The study provides comparison with transgender adults who had not experienced discrimination in the past year and notes that transgender rates of suicide are higher than among the cisgender population for a variety of reasons, often connected to social and income inequality, including discrimination.
Further slides focus on the effects of the Equality Act on the Christian church in America, saying that the bill will “give the government power to dictate how a Christian organization, church or university applies its beliefs” and that it will “impact how a church will minister to LGBTQ identifying people.” Bethel Church is known to offer prayer ministry focused on sexual orientation change, also known as conversion therapy, but did not immediately respond to request for comment confirming that they offer these services.
Many churches are concerned about the Equality Act which expressly states that its provisions trump the 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), which provides an additional level of legal protection in cases where religious freedoms might be infringed upon.
A Supreme Court ruling in June of 2020, Bostock v. Clayton County, set precedent in it's determination that the 1964 Civil Rights Act protections on the basis of sex extend to discrimination towards lesbian, gay and transgender Americans. The Equality Act, which would set into law protections already supported by that Supreme Court’s ruling, passed in the US House of Representatives in February and now awaits a vote in the Senate.
You can read more details about Bethel’s opposition to the bill on the Changed site. Changed is raising $25,000 to to visit Washington D.C. again in June. They plan to meet with congressional leaders, cultural influencers, and key conservative organizations during their "Changed D.C. tour."
Naomi Pierce contributed research for this story.
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