Michael Brown on Does the So-Called Equality Act Actually Protect Religious Freedom?

One of the strongest arguments against the so-called Equality Act is that it will completely undermine religious freedoms in America. But according to Maggie Siddiqi, a hijab-wearing, progressive Muslim woman, who is also an LGBTQ ally, the reverse is true. Is she right?

Writing for The Hill, Siddiqi claims that “the Equality Act does more than protect LGBTQ Americans; it also expands existing civil rights protections for people of faith, as well as for women, people of color, immigrants and more.”

Indeed, she argues, “We can’t allow the opponents of the Equality Act to misrepresent it as an attack on religious freedom. As a Muslim woman who has spent a large part of my career fighting for religious freedom, I know this is the opposite of reality.”

An Opposite Understanding of the Equality Act

In stark contrast, the Heritage Foundation claims:

The Equality Act guts the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) and threatens constitutional freedoms by eliminating conscience protections from the Civil Rights Act. If enacted, H.R. 5 would force employers, medical professionals, educators, and religious organizations to allow men into women’s shelters, pay for or perform sex-change operations, and engage in speech that violates their consciences. Faith-based adoption and foster care agencies would be forced to violate their belief that every child deserves a mother and a father. Section 2(a)(2) of the bill refers to the belief that marriage is between a man and a woman as a “sex stereotype.” This stigmatizes the beliefs of hundreds of millions of Americans, including Catholics, Evangelicals, Jews, Mormons, and Muslims.

How can there be such different interpretations of the same bill? How can they come to such polar opposite conclusions?

First, we should note that Siddiqi is the senior director of the Faith and Progressive Policy Initiative at the Center for American Progress. Issues of importance to this organization “include economic inequality, reproductive justice, religious liberty, racial justice, climate change, LGBT equality, immigration reform, and more.”

Accordingly, although she chooses to wear a hijab, she rejects traditional Islamic teaching on LGBT (and related) issues. In that respect, Siddiqi and her organization are decidedly liberal. Her starting point, then, is quite different than that of multiplied tens of millions of Americans who oppose the Equality Act because of their religious convictions.

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SOURCE: Stream.org, Michael Brown