Under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) and the First Amendment, the government cannot force employers to violate their religious beliefs, nor can it bar them from sharing those beliefs. That means that employers in the United States have the right to operate their businesses in accordance with their faith.
But, right now, two federal agencies are violating that right.
Two mandates from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) are illegally infringing upon employers’ religious freedom rights.
Thankfully, an alliance of Christian ministries is standing up to the government overreach.
What is Christian Employers Alliance?
Christian Employers Alliance (CEA) is a North Dakota nonprofit ministry. It comprises both nonprofit and for-profit Christian employers who seek to live out their Christian faith in everyday life.
CEA’s aim is “to unite, equip, and represent Christian-owned businesses to protect religious freedom and provide the opportunity for employees, businesses, and communities to flourish.” The group strives to ensure that Christian employers enjoy the same freedoms as everyone else.
But an EEOC mandate is forcing religious employers to pay for life-altering surgeries for patients who incorrectly believe they can change their gender. In addition, another mandate from HHS is forcing religious health-care providers to perform these life-altering surgeries.
These mandates violate religious businesses’ statutory and constitutional rights by forcing them to act in a way that contradicts their beliefs. So Christian Employers Alliance is challenging these mandates in court.
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 is meant to protect Americans from discrimination in the workplace. It prohibits employers from discriminating against employees or applicants because of a variety of protected characteristics, including sex.
When Congress passed Title VII, “sex” was understood to be binary and clear at birth: either male or female. But the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission now interprets “sex” to include sexual orientation and gender identity.
The EEOC has applied this new interpretation to require employers of more than 15 people to provide health plans that pay for life-altering surgeries for employees who believe they can change their gender.
The agency has not provided an exemption for CEA members or other religious employers, meaning the employers are forced to either pay for surgeries that contradict their beliefs or face harsh and costly penalties including potential civil actions and private lawsuits.
Meanwhile, HHS has wrongly reinterpreted a portion of the Affordable Care Act to mean that health-care providers who receive any federal funding must perform these life-altering surgeries.
The interpretation forces health-care providers to prescribe puberty blockers or hormone therapies to treat gender dysphoria, perform hysterectomies or mastectomies on healthy women who believe they are men, and perform other surgeries that mutilate the bodies of people who believe they can change their gender.
While some health-care providers view these life-altering surgeries as both medically and ethically objectionable, the HHS mandate prohibits them from having frank conversations regarding their medical concerns about the procedure. This is a blatant violation of their right to free speech.
CEA includes Christian health-care entities, and performing these surgeries or procedures would violate their religious beliefs. But if they choose not to perform the life-altering procedures, they could face civil lawsuits, loss of federal funding, investigations by the attorney general, massive fines, and even prison time.
In October 2021, Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys filed a lawsuit on behalf of CEA seeking to strike down these two unconstitutional mandates. And in May 2022, a federal district court in North Dakota agreed to temporarily halt the mandates while the lawsuit proceeds.
What’s at stake?
The federal government is trying to force employers to advance a specific agenda, even if doing so requires them to contradict their own religious beliefs. Instead of respecting individual freedom, the government wants to mandate compliance with a particular viewpoint.
Government agencies cannot violate Americans’ freedoms to further their own interests. CEA is suing to uphold that truth.
- October 2021: ADF attorneys filed a lawsuit on behalf of CEA asking the court to strike down unconstitutional mandates from the EEOC and HHS.
- May 2022: A federal district court in North Dakota temporarily halted enforcement of the two mandates while the lawsuit proceeds.
The bottom line
Forcing people or organizations to violate their religious beliefs is unlawful and unconstitutional and has no place in our society.