H.B. 1021 Could Undermine Churches’ Religious Liberties

H.B. 1021 Could Undermine Churches’ Religious Liberties

Beloved Pastors, Church Leaders, Evangelists, Elected Officials, and Freedom Loving Christians,

Arkansas Pastor’s Network (ARPN) wants Arkansas Pastors to be alert to HB 1021 that could Undermine Churches Religious Liberties.

HB 1021 has been filed at the Arkansas Legislature dealing with churches and issues of gender and gender-identity. The bill does not immediately force churches to employ transgender individuals, but there is concern about future unintended consequences, depending on how our courts might interpret the law.

Currently, the Arkansas Civil Rights Act of 1993 prevents employers from discriminating against employees on the basis of gender, and Arkansas’ wage discrimination laws prevent employers from paying employees different salaries based on each employee’s biological sex. This means an employer cannot refuse to hire women and cannot pay male employees different salaries from female employees for the same work. However, both laws contain exemptions for religious organizations. This generally prevents churches from being sued for assigning men and women different responsibilities within the ministry.

House Bill 1021 by Rep. Fred Love (D – Little Rock) removes the religious exemption from Arkansas’ wage discrimination law, and it changes the word “sex” in the law to “gender.”

Presently, “sex” and “gender” are no longer viewed as the same thing. Many people now consider a person’s biological sex and a person’s gender completely unrelated. Transgender activists claim a man’s biological sex can be male, but his gender—or gender-identity—can be female. This means H.B. 1021 arguably writes gender-identity into Arkansas’ wage discrimination laws.

Here’s the concern. If H.B. 1021 passes, in the short run, the courts might penalize churches that assign men and women different responsibilities within the ministry. In the long run, they may even penalize churches for firing or refusing to hire transgender individuals. Much depends on how judges might interpret—or reinterpret—state laws.

Bills like H.B. 1021 may not seem all that bad to some people, but bills like H.B 1021 chip away at churches’ religious liberties. Arkansas Pastors need to consider the long term effects that laws like H.B. 1021 might have on our churches and other religious organizations. We need to do as much as possible to make sure that our churches can operate in a manner consistent with their religious convictions.

Resting in Him,

Buddy Fisher,
President ARPN

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