Is God Using Our Legislature to Bring About the End of Religious Liberty and the Beginning of Revival?

Apr 2, 2021 by David Fowler

Is God Using Our Legislature to Bring About the End of Religious Liberty and the Beginning of Revival?
God could not have better timed the sequence of political and legal events over the last week leading up to Good Friday. A new state law and a new LGBTQ lawsuit against Union University in Jackson, Tennessee may be harbingers of a revival that some professing Christians will wish they hadn’t prayed for.

The New Legislation

First, last Friday, the governor signed into law a bill that prevents “transgendered” individuals from competing in middle and high school sports.

However, it is written in a way that accepts the transgender worldview. The very language of the bill takes its cue from the transgender agenda “handbook” by acknowledging that biological sex and gender can be different. It also implicitly states that sex can change after one’s birth.

Why was this kind of language used? Why did the bill not simply say that sports competitions are based on sex as evidenced by the student’s original birth certificate?

Because lawyers working for the legislature convinced some legislators that using gender-based language was necessary to keep the law from violating Title IX, which prohibits discrimination “on the basis of sex.”

Of course, the U.S. Supreme Court court has never held that “sex” in Title IX means modern gender theory can be substituted for sex or that sex includes gender identity. In other words, those legislators who knew about this chose to go ahead with the idea that sex includes gender identity.

This leads me to the lawsuit that was filed.

The Lawsuit Attacking the Constitutionality of Religious Liberty Exception to Title IX

The second harbinger of revival is that on Monday the Religious Exemption Accountability Project filed a lawsuit against 33 Christian universities, including Tennessee’s Union University, asking the federal court to “declare that the religious exemption to Title IX, as applied to sexual and gender minority students, is unconstitutional.”

Here is the argument drawn straight from the text of the complaint, and notice how it asserts, contrary to the actual language of the law, that it covers “gender identity”:
The U.S. Department of Education is duty-bound by Title IX and the U.S. Constitution to protect sexual and gender minority students at taxpayer-funded colleges and universities, including private and religious educational institutions that receive federal funding.

The religious exemption to Title IX, however, seemingly permits the Department to breach its duty as to the more than 100,000 sexual and gender minority students attending religious colleges and universities where discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity is codified in campus policies and openly practiced.

Now, let’s put 1 and 2 together to consider what this means for the religious liberty exemption in Title IX.

Point No. 1—Tennessee Has Already Agreed to the “New” Interpretation of ‘Sex” in Title IX.

If I were the lawyer for the Religious Exemption Accountability Project suing Tennessee’s Union University, I would argue that Tennessee’s legislators already voted in favor of legislation that was consciously worded in a way that accepts the Project’s re-interpretation of “sex” in Title IX.

I would be halfway home to winning my lawsuit because even the Tennessee legislature’s new law accepts the interchangeability between sex and gender just as long as it is not a matter of high school sports.

But it would be great if I could show that religion has nothing to do with Title IX’s provisions regarding sex in the first place, and so the religious exemption should not be in the law anyway. Here, again, Tennessee’s legislature provided the Project an assist.

Point No. 2—Religion Doesn’t Really Have Anything to Do with ‘Sex’ in Title IX?

In well over an hour of floor debate over the “transgender” sports legislation, only Senator Paul Rose (R- Covington) even mentioned God or that God made us male and female. His statement consumed less than a minute. 

By noting this, I do not mean that all Republicans other than Senator Rose are godless pagans or that they don’t believe the truth of what he dared to say. 

But it does mean this:
If from all the debate this one statement were all a judge had on which to determine the need for or the relevance of a religious exemption to the redefinition of sex in Title IX, then an objective observer would conclude that God simply was not and is not relevant to legal or policy issues involving human sexuality.

Point No. 3 – Will Tennessee’s Republicans Resist Judicial Elimination of ‘Religious Liberty’?

Points 1 and 2 lead me to answer this question with, “I honestly don’t know.” That the legislature’s legal advisors would tell them to capitulate to the new sexual ethos being advocated for in Title IX in order to protect sports (not the meaning of the word “sex”) and that some of them consciously did so can’t help but create doubts.
A legislator could protest my expression of such doubts. He or she could say that bowing to the new sexual ethos and its incorporation into the language of Title IX is not the same as bowing to the elimination of religious liberty in Title IX.
However, from the perspective of the Religious Exemption Accountability Project, I’d argue that religion didn’t seem to matter to legislators when debating the new law. It didn’t seem to matter to the governor when he signed it.
Except for Senator Rose’s statements, religious belief did not drive any part of the need for the new law. All that was talked about was fairness in competition and the need to not increase the risk of injuries that might occur during competition.
So, if I’m a judge deciding this lawsuit, I would wonder why God and religious belief is now important to sex in Title IX?

Point 4—Cutting the ‘Limb’ of Religious Liberty Off from the God Out of Which It Grew

Moreover, it seems to me that when God is not relevant to what professing Christians believe in relation to law and public policy, then on what basis can they then claim they need a religious exemption from a law or public policy?
Haven’t they already indicated, if not outright conceded, that God is not relevant to them regarding law or policy? Why, then, on the back end, is religious belief now so important?
I would say to them, “Have religion in your private life. After all, that’s where you kept it during the debate over the law—private. Keep it there.”

“But God Complicates Things”

I suppose legislators would say that bringing God into the legislative debate over the new law would just “complicate things,” but what things?
For the Christian who believes that God has manifested to all mankind a measure of His glory by creating us male and female, what is it that we don’t want God to complicate for us? Is keeping a boy who wants to compete as a girl the thing we don’t want God complicating for us?
Just thinking that the outcome of sporting events has become the principle thing for Christians sends a shiver up my spine.

What All This Has to Do with Easter?

God has a not so funny way of reminding those who profess to be His people that He can hide His face from them in order to refine and purify them. He can “complicate” their lives by allowing those hardened by sin to bring them into captivity.
To refine and purify for Himself a holy bride for whom He is to be their highest end and glory, God might just take away the liberty in civil law that American Christians have enjoyed in order that we might find a true and even greater type of liberty, that which Easter brings.
For example, because of Easter,
Peter and John told the political leaders of their day, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you more than to God, you judge. For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard” (Act 4:19);
Stephen was emboldened to preach a no-holds-barred sermon to a crowd so hostile to Jesus that they stoned him to death (Acts 7:58-60); and
Paul, who earlier was present at and approved of Stephen’s stoning, came to know a liberty that had him singing “praises unto God” at midnight in prison (Acts 16:25) and had him resolutely going to Jerusalem even though he knew “that chains and tribulations await[ed]” him (Acts 20:23).
I doubt these men would say that God complicated their lives. What He did was give them a liberty so real it transcended their circumstances and what consequences might occur if they continued to “proclaim liberty to captives” (Luke 4:18; see also Leviticus 25:10, Isaiah 61:1, Jeremiah 34:17).
These men had a kind of religious liberty I suspect many of us professing Christians in America don’t know. But if we keep praying for revival, God just might bring us to know that kind of liberty when a legal form of religious liberty is gone and God, alone, becomes “our refuge and strength” (Psalm 46:1; see also Psalm 28:8, 62:7, Jeremiah 16:19)).

David Fowler served in the Tennessee state Senate for 12 years before joining FACT as President in 2006. 

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