Churches in the People’s Republic of Massachusetts have grave concerns about a new anti-discrimination law that could force congregations to accommodate the transgender community – under the threat of fines and jail time.
The law, which goes into effect in October, does not specifically mention churches or other houses of worship. However, the attorney general, along with the government commission assigned to enforce the law, have a different point of view.
Attorney General Maura Healey wrote that places of public accommodation include: “auditoriums, convention centers, lecture halls, houses of worship, and other places of public gathering.”
The Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination, the commission responsible for enforcing the anti-discrimination law, reinforced that interpretation in a document titled, “Gender Identity Guidance.”
“Even 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,” the document states. “All persons, regardless of gender identity, shall have the right to the full and equal accommodations, advantages, facilities and privileges of any place of public accommodation.”
The Massachusetts Family Institute has launched a petition drive to repeal the law – warning that pastors and parishioners could find themselves in serious legal trouble.
“The law bootstraps the idea of gender identity onto existing Civil Rights laws,” MFI president Andrew Beckwith tells me. “Even having a sign in your church that says “This Bathroom is for Biological Women Only” could subject the pastor of the church to up to 30 days in jail.”
Beckwith said under the law, the sign would be treated the same as if it had said, “Whites Only.”
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