We are excited to announce another writer that is joining the existing pool of writers for the RFPA blog. Aaron Cleveland is a member of Hope Protestant Reformed Church in Grand Rapids, Michigan. In his writing for the blog Aaron will bring a perspective from the pew. This is his first blog post.
"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." This is the opening sentence of a recent news opinion article by Todd Starnes of Fox News.
The new law, that went into effect in October of this year, "does not specifically mention churches or other houses of worship" as places of "public accommodation." However, according to Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healy, places of public accommodation include: "auditoriums, convention centers, lecture halls, houses of worship, and other places of public gathering." Further, the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination—"the commission responsible for enforcing the anti-discrimination law,"—has written that "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." Further, they write, "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."
One does not need that vivid of an imagination to see where laws like this are headed. No doubt similar laws are going to appear in more and more states and their scope will become broader as we near the end. The LGBT juggernaut is becoming very effective in lobbying legislatures to further their agenda and silence those who would speak against their way of life.
Laws like this will have ramifications for our churches. What events will the government consider to be "secular"? Do the words "visitors welcome" on a church sign expose a church to litigation if they do not have "accommodations" for transgenders?
And what about events held at our Protestant Reformed schools? I think particularly of interscholastic sporting events held in our gymnasiums. Certainly, the government will classify these events as "secular", especially when the games are with teams of public schools. We will be required to "accommodate" the fans of these schools or else.
The handwriting is on the wall. Hard choices will have to be made. Will we accommodate?