Christian Universities Speak Up
Part 4 of an investigative series by CC Magazine on the pending “Equality Act” (HR 5).
Story by Christmas Beeler
Evangelical leaders like Franklin Graham and James Dobson have warned that the Equality Act threatens the freedom of Christian believers, ministers, educators, students, and health practitioners. Calvary Chapel pastors and educators agree: HR 5 jeopardizes Christian education for students of all ages.
The Equality Act seeks to annihilate biblical, Christian education on the grounds that biblical male/female roles are discriminatory; furthermore, the proposed law explicitly revokes believers’ legal rights protected under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.
Christian Universities at Risk
Educational leaders from accredited Christian institutions like Calvary Chapel-affiliated Horizon University in Indianapolis, IN, and the nation’s largest nonprofit university, Liberty University in Lynchburg, VA, strongly oppose the bill. They urge believers to pray and to call their U.S. Senators as soon as possible and request them to vote against The Equality Act (HR 5).
Respected Christian leader Franklin Graham warned believers worldwide about the dangers of HR 5 in a public letter on Feb. 25: “The Equality Act will be a tool used by the government to deny or threaten accreditation to religious colleges and universities if they do not satisfy the demands of the secular Left to apply sexual orientation and gender identity to dorms, sports, places of privacy, and even teachings. The Act could be used as a weapon to threaten the availability of federal student loans and grants to students at certain disfavored religious schools.”
Those on the ground agree. “The Equality Act puts the rights of the LGBT+ above our religious freedom rights,” explained Tracy Gray, associate pastor at Horizon Christian Fellowship in Indianapolis who also teaches and oversees the Biblical Counseling program and financial aid at Horizon University. He clarified, “What is at issue is how you define discrimination. In their minds, if you do not affirm their view of what a male or a female is, then you are discriminating. Which is not true. We are exercising our religious freedom. That’s what is really at stake here, what is going away—our religious freedom. The ability to lovingly and respectfully disagree with the culture and [uphold] what the Bible says.”
Pastor Tracy explained, “If we don’t affirm the LGBTQ and their gender identity views, we could lose our ability to offer financial aid to students—which directly affects student enrollment and has many other ramifications. It’s very troubling, especially for our students. It could greatly hinder their education.”
In fact, Tracy pointed out, even though the Equality Act has not officially passed, the current administration’s push for religious schools to accept LGBTQ educators and students has already begun, thanks to a recent (March 8) Executive Order from President Biden. An email from Department of Education was sent out to colleges and universities on April 6, entitled: “Notification of Immediate Action to Carry Out the Requirements of the Executive Order on Guaranteeing an Educational Environment Free from Discrimination on the Basis of Sex, Including Sexual Orientation or Gender Identity.” The DOE claims to seek input from the public on whether the Title IX requirements for nondiscrimination should include gender identity. (To learn more, visit the DOE website page here. To voice your opinion, call the DOE Office of Civil Rights at 1-800-421-3481, or email them at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
How Is It Dangerous?
While the term “Equality Act” sounds harmless in its intent, it’s clear that churches, Christians, children, and women could suffer. Even radical feminist organizations like the Women’s Liberation Front call it a serious danger to women and girls that would “destroy the law’s ability to fight sexism, or protect women from male harassment and violence.”
Furthermore, legal experts see it as one of the greatest threats to religious liberty in recent U.S. history. Mat Staver, founder and chairman of Liberty Counsel, stated, “This Act is devastating to churches and religious schools from Pre-K and daycare, through college. Noncompliance to any aspect of HR 5 could result in private lawsuits from the Department of Justice, the State, and local levels of government … This particular law expands the federal government’s reach into every corner of our lives. I believe every single person in America will be impacted by it.”
The proposed Equality Act, which passed the House in February and had a judiciary hearing in the Senate on March 17, would change the face of Christian education forever.
Taking a Stand for Christ
Currently there are several hundred thousand students attending Christian colleges and universities in the United States, the majority of whom value the freedom to attend an institution of higher education that aligns with their deepest held convictions.
Liberty University leaders agree. “We preach the Gospel; we proselytize our students. There’s no false advertising about our purpose and our mission. There are no surprises; every one of our students knows exactly what they are getting when they come,” said Ryan Helfenbein, executive director of the Standing for Freedom Center at Liberty University. “In the Freedom Center, we literally exist to defend life, liberty, and truth for the next generation. I think it’s paramount that people understand that HR 5 is anti-family and anti-faith. It really drives a wedge in Christian families, in religious education, and the Church. It would be absolutely devastating if it passes.”
But, even if HR 5 does become law, Ryan is hopeful that leaders at Liberty University would find a way to continue providing biblical, Christian education to its more than 100,000 students. “We as the Church must recognize that we exist to proclaim the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ until His coming.” He believes bowing to oppression will only increase the likelihood of persecution. “But if the Church stands with conviction and with courage—not cowardice—I believe we would be amazed at what kind of cultural impact can come.”
Franklin Graham also noted that the proposed law would force Christian ministries, schools, and churches to hire LGBTQ persons: “The Equality Act will use the force of law across all 50 states to strip Christian and other religious ministries of their right to hire people of shared faith to pursue a shared mission. Can you imagine a Christian organization being forced to hire people hostile to its deeply held beliefs who have no passion for its beliefs, teachings, and mission?”
Both Ryan of Liberty University and Tracy of Horizon University said that their institutions would never change their practices of hiring only those who adhere to biblical principles as teachers and staff.
Pastors Speak Out
Multiple Calvary Chapel pastors have spoken out against this bill:
Pastor Lloyd Pulley of CC Old Bridge, NJ, stated in 2019, when the Equality Act was proposed in the House: “This bill is the first step in silencing and ending religious liberty in the United States. The very foundation of this country was based on religious rights and fleeing religious persecution. These rights are now being laid at the mercy of sexual rights.” He added, “If you think we can’t see our right to read the Bible and worship our God taken away, just look back into history for some perspective [at Bible translator William Tyndale’s martyrdom]. We are slowly heading backward with this ‘progressive’ agenda.”
Far from being homophobic, Pastor Lloyd stated, “My heart goes out to individuals suffering from gender identity confusion. They need compassion and the love of Jesus.” In fact, he has long supported a ministry that seeks to provide understanding among evangelicals about the perspective and bondage for those in the LGBTQ community (Out of Egypt Ministries, founded by Patti Height).
Another long-time advocate for life, Pastor Derald Skinner of CC Pearl Harbor, HI, has spoken out against this bill which would force Christian healthcare providers to participate in abortion and require pro-life crisis pregnancy centers to advocate for abortion—in direct violation of their religious conscience.
Pastor Joe Focht last month distributed a letter to his entire congregation at CC Philadelphia, PA, urging them to ask their U.S. Senators to block the bill.
What You Can Do:
Email your U.S. Senators (senate.gov)
Call the U.S. Capitol at 202-224-3121
All verses above are quoted from the New King James Version, unless otherwise noted.
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