Eighty Christian leaders with deep concern for religious education and ministry, including the president of The Cardinal Newman Society, joined today in a bold plea to Christians and public policy leaders to reject all “efforts to add sexual orientation and gender identity” (abbreviated as SOGI) to nondiscrimination laws in violation of religious freedom.
“We’ve been concerned for years about efforts to enshrine these ideologies into law,” said Patrick Reilly, president of The Cardinal Newman Society. “Increasingly, Catholic schools and colleges face lawsuits from activists who disagree with Catholic teaching, and it’s important that our freedom to teach the Catholic faith is protected.”
The Cardinal Newman Society helped recruit Catholic signers to the statement, in defense of religious freedom for Catholic educators.
The public is encouraged to join the statement, which is posted online at www.colsoncenter.org/freedom. It is intended as a further development of the very successful “Manhattan Declaration,” which has more than 500,000 signatures in support of marriage, religious freedom and protection of human life.
“SOGI laws empower the government to use the force of law to silence or punish Americans who seek to exercise their God-given liberty to peacefully live and work consistent with their convictions,” reads the statement, titled “Preserve Freedom, Reject Coercion,” which is hosted by The Colson Center for Christian Worldview. It continues:
They also create special preference in law for categories based on morally significant choices that profoundly affect human relations and treat reasonable religious and philosophical beliefs as discriminatory. We therefore believe that proposed SOGI laws, including those narrowly crafted, threaten fundamental freedoms, and any ostensible protections for religious liberty appended to such laws are inherently inadequate and unstable.
Catholics believe that God’s intended orientation for human sexuality is toward marriage between a man and a woman. Catholics also believe that gender and sexuality are inseparable, and that God created humans to be male and female. The ideology that claims genders other than male and female is inconsistent with nature and Catholic teaching.
In addition to Reilly, the statement’s signers include the presidents of several faithful Catholic colleges recommended in The Newman Guide to Choosing a Catholic College: Sister Mary Sarah Galbraith, O.P., of Aquinas College (Tenn.); James Towey of Ave Maria University; Father Sean Sheridan, T.O.R., of Franciscan University of Steubenville; Dr. Derry Connolly of John Paul the Great Catholic University; and Dr. William Fahey of Thomas More College of Liberal Arts.
Four leaders of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) also signed: Archbishop Charles Chaput, chairman of the Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth; Bishop Frank Dewane, chairman of the Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development; Archbishop William Lori, chairman of the Committee for Religious Liberty; and Bishop George Murry, chairman of the Committee on Catholic Education.
Another 26 leaders of Christian colleges and schools joined the statement, together with Daniel Egeler, president of the Association of Christian School International; Mike Rouse, president of the American Association of Christian Schools; and David Goodwin, president of the Association of Classical Christian Schools.
Other prominent signers include Ryan Anderson of The Heritage Foundation, Anthony Esolen of Providence College, Thomas Farr of Georgetown University, Robert George of Princeton University, Russell Moore of the Southern Baptist Convention, Alan Sears of the Alliance Defending Freedom, John Stonestreet of the Colson Center for Christian Worldview, and George Weigel of the Ethics and Public Policy Center.
The full text of the statement is below. It can also be found, with the full list of signatures, at www.colsoncenter.org/freedom.
Preserve Freedom, Reject Coercion
As Americans, we cherish the freedom to peacefully express and live by our religious, philosophical, and political beliefs—not merely to hold them privately. We write on behalf of millions of Americans who are concerned about laws that undermine the public good and diminish this freedom for individuals and organizations alike.
We affirm that every individual is created in the image of God and as such should be treated with love, compassion, and respect. We also affirm that people are created male and female, that this complementarity is the basis for the family centered on the marital union of a man and a woman, and that the family is the wellspring of human flourishing. We believe that it is imperative that our nation preserve the freedoms to speak, teach, and live out these truths in public life without fear of lawsuits or government censorship.
In recent years, there have been efforts to add sexual orientation and gender identity as protected classifications in the law—either legislatively or through executive action. These unnecessary proposals, often referred to as SOGI policies, threaten basic freedoms of religion, conscience, speech, and association; violate privacy rights; and expose citizens to significant legal and financial liability for practicing their beliefs in the public square. In recent years, we have seen in particular how these laws are used by the government in an attempt to compel citizens to sacrifice their deepest convictions on marriage and what it means to be male and female—people who serve everyone, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity, but who cannot promote messages, engage in expression, or participate in events that contradict their beliefs or their organization’s guiding values.
Creative professionals, wedding chapels, non-profit organizations, ministries serving the needy, adoption agencies, businesses, schools, religious colleges, and even churches have faced threats and legal action under such laws for declining to participate in a same-sex wedding ceremony; for maintaining policies consistent with their guiding principles; and for seeking to protect privacy by ensuring persons of the opposite sex do not share showers, locker rooms, restrooms, and other intimate facilities. Under SOGI laws, people of good will can face personal and professional ruin, fines, and even jail time, and organizations face the loss of accreditation, licensing, grants, contracts, and tax-exemption.
SOGI laws empower the government to use the force of law to silence or punish Americans who seek to exercise their God-given liberty to peacefully live and work consistent with their convictions. They also create special preference in law for categories based on morally significant choices that profoundly affect human relations and treat reasonable religious and philosophical beliefs as discriminatory. We therefore believe that proposed SOGI laws, including those narrowly crafted, threaten fundamental freedoms, and any ostensible protections for religious liberty appended to such laws are inherently inadequate and unstable.
SOGI laws in all these forms, at the federal, state, and local levels, should be rejected. We join together in signing this letter because of the serious threat that SOGI laws pose to fundamental freedoms guaranteed to every person.
America has stood as a beacon of liberty to the world because our Constitution protects people’s freedom to peacefully—and publicly—work and live according to their convictions. We represent diverse efforts to contribute to the flourishing of our neighbors, communities, nation, and world. We remain committed to preserving in law and stewarding in action the foundational freedoms that make possible service of the common good, social harmony, and the flourishing of all.