Gender identity to become a protected class, leaving the Church unable to preach against transgenderism

Four churches and their pastors are challenging a Massachusetts law which they say could regulate their speech regarding gender identity.

“This case is about who controls Massachusetts churches,” said the churches’ legal motion to halt enforcement of the law. “Are pastors and churches still free to teach their religious beliefs and use their houses of worship to reflect and reinforce those beliefs?”

The four churches and their pastors filed the motion in U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts, Eastern Division. They have also filed a lawsuit against Massachusetts officials.

“The First Amendment forbids government intrusion into ecclesiastical matters like church teaching and administration,” the legal motion continued. “Yet Massachusetts officials have ignored these boundaries and injected themselves into what churches teach, believe, and promote. Fearing devastating financial penalties and imprisonment, Massachusetts churches and their pastors are now forced to seek judicial protection of their most basic First Amendment rights.”

In July 2016, the Massachusetts legislature added “gender identity” as a class protected under anti-discrimination law.

The Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination and Attorney General Maura Healey have interpreted the law in a way that would force churches to open their changing rooms, showers, and restrooms to someone based on their perceived gender identity, not on their biological sex.

The legal prohibition against discrimination or incitement also regulates the churches’ speech and would silence churches and pastors if their religious views on gender identity differ from those of the law, the legal group Alliance Defending Freedom said.

Each violation of the law may be punished by up to $50,000 in fines, 365 days in jail, and attorneys’ fees.

Healey, the state attorney general, is named in the lawsuit. Her spokeswoman, Jillian Fennimore, said the law is about civil rights and is “critical for people who were without full protection and equality under the law for too long.”

Massachusetts law may forbid churches to preach on transgenderism.Massachusetts law may forbid churches to preach on transgenderism (Shutterstock).

Attorneys with the legal group representing the plaintiffs were critical.

“The government shouldn’t encroach on the internal, religious practices of a church,” said Steve O’Ban, senior counsel with Alliance Defending Freedom. “Neither the commission nor the attorney general has the constitutional authority to dictate how any church uses its facility or what public statements a church can make concerning a deeply held religious belief, such as on human sexuality.”

The law applies to places of public accommodation. However, guidance from state officials said a church could be included in that definition “if it holds a secular event, such as a spaghetti supper, that is open to the general public.” )6838 *1 5-(8

According to the lawsuit, the legislature and the anti-discrimination commission failed to provide a religious exemption and failed to define what events fell under the law’s parameters.

The proposed “spaghetti supper” test, in the lawsuit’s view, was “woefully inadequate and confusing.” The guidance’s suggestion that legal charges against religious institutions would be reviewed on a case-by-case basis also drew criticism. The lawsuit said this would result in pastors, church leaders or courts guessing about the application of the law and its penalties.

“All events held at a church on its property have a religious purpose, and the government has no authority to violate the First Amendment’s guarantees of freedom of religion and speech,” said Christiana Holcomb, legal counsel with Alliance Defending Freedom. “Government officials have no business determining which church activities are religious and which ones aren’t.”

Opponents of the state law have also gathered enough signatures to place a repeal of the law on the 2018 ballot. However, the law itself appears to have significant support. A May 2016 Suffolk University/Boston Globe poll appeared to show that 53 of voters favored it while only 30 percent were opposed.




  1. Tom Rafferty Reply

    Knowledge has greatly expanded in 2000 years, but religious dogma continues to battle reality. Sex and gender are on continuums and are not binary, male vs female or masculine vs. feminine. More food for thought: there was no “First Human”, thus no “Original Sin” and the need for a Savior to “redeem” us from it. You folks have a choice: continue blindly accept unsupported dogma or accept science as the best process of understanding reality humans have.

  2. Peter Aiello Reply

    With all of the Catholics in Massachusetts, how could this happen?

      1. Peter Aiello Reply

        Tom: Biologically, most people are born with male or female body parts. Some are born mixed. Psychologically, it is more mixed.
        Is there a consensus of opinion among the non-religious as to human origins? As far as I know, there are still unknown common ancestors, missing links, and missing transitional forms in the theories of evolution. How certain are the other theories?
        Original sin is an interesting one because even though the term sounds religious, there is a consensus that humans are not presently functioning at their best. Paul, in Romans 7:14-8:2, calls it the law of sin and describes it as doing the things that we don’t want to do, and not doing the things that we should. This is reality for all of us.
        People generally try to find ways of dealing with this human weakness that we all share. Redemption is the Biblical remedy that is offered, but other religions may call it enlightenment, or evolving into a higher consciousness. Others look for solutions in economics and politics. Generally we all want to be at a better place and believe that there is a better place.

        1. Tom Rafferty Reply

          Peter, you did not address my two main points: 1) Dogma regarding looking at sex and gender as binary (male/female and masculine/feminine) has been shown by science to be false. 2) There was no “First Human” because new species are formed from GROUPS that, for many reasons, split off from another GROUP. The Catholic Church’s dogma states that Adam and Eve were not metaphorical but actual individuals who disobeyed God. Science clearly shows that this cannot happen. Now, why does the Church insist on the literal interpretation of Genesis 1? Because, if it didn’t actually happen, there would be no need for Christ, and, thus, no need for the Church. Quite a delemma, huh? You said, “Is there a consensus of opinion among the non-religious as to human origins?” The answer is as follows: Evolution is as much of a fact as gravity and all new species come from groups, not a single pair. Since Home Sapien Sapiens are just as a part of nature as any other biological species, what do you think?

          1. Peter Aiello

            Tom: When it comes to gender, I think that science would also say that there are two general categories, male and female. Any form that I have filled out that has the question, always gives you only two choices. I can’t keep up with all of the redefinitions of words that are now happening.
            If humans evolved from something else, then you would think that it would happen in groups. If humans are a special creation, then 2 are OK. The non-religious explanation are not complete enough to satisfy me. If I was going to label them scientific, I would like more complete and definitive answers. There is no “settled” science in any of this. If there was, there would be no controversy. I don’t hear any more controversy about whether the earth revolves around the sun. I think the we can all believe what we want under the circumstances; even the Church.

          2. Tom Rafferty

            Peter, you are missing the point. Yes, there ARE two categories of sex (male and female) and gender (masculine and feminine). However, both fall on continuums. The fact that the government office has not kept up with the reality of sex and gender is not recognized by science.

            So, you seem to reject evolution and accept the biblical dogma of “Special Creation” of humans. i guess you are entitled to your opinion, BUT NOT your facts. Evolution is as much of a fact as gravity, and ALL species have come from other species via changes in GROUPS. Oh, and THIS IS “settled science.” It’s your choice whether you accept it or not. If you don’t, then you are persisting in ignorance that is easily dispelled with some quick internet searches on scientific sites. Stay away from religious site on this unless you wish to present information such as I am presenting to you.


          3. Peter Aiello

            Tom: Facts are never a problem. It’s those pesky missing ones.

  3. Patrick Gannon Reply

    Aren’t these the same arguments that churches made against integration and equality for minorities? Change the word “transgender” to “African American” and then explain why the term bigotry is not applicable to these churches.
    I don’t know that freedom of speech is being abrogated. I think a preacher could still get up and preach that black people are inferior and cursed by Yahweh and be well within first amendment rights. A civilized congregation might walk out however. The preacher could not deny access to blacks though, or treat them differently than whites. They could not be refused access to white bathrooms for example, as they were in the old days. The same applies to LGBTs. This is just a matter of decency, but Christianity finds itself lacking in this category again and again, given that it is a religion based on separation and division.

Leave a Reply