SCOTUS Will Consider Gender Identity- What Does That Mean for Christians?
Tomorrow, the United States Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in a case that seeks to answer questions about identity, something which humanity has confused from the beginning. This case threatens religious freedom and women’s safety, but it also speaks to the need each of us has to find our identities in the love Christ has for us.
The case is R. G. and G. R. Harris Funeral Homes, Inc. v. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. If the court rules in the EEOC’s favor, it will change the meaning of the word “sex” that has stood in federal nondiscrimination law since 1964 to include “gender identity.”
For those unfamiliar with the case, here’s a little background.
In 2007, the funeral home hired a funeral director named Anthony Stephens. As part of the job, Stephens accepted the funeral home’s professional codes of conduct, which included a dress code. Almost six years later, Stephens began to openly identify as transgender, and announced a plan to follow the women’s dress code, including wearing skirts and dresses. When the employer objected, Stephens filed a discrimination complaint, which the Supreme Court will hear tomorrow.
Franciscan University of Steubenville, of which I am the president, has joined a friend of the court (amicus) brief to help the high court understand how a new interpretation of the word “sex” in non-discrimination law will violate religious freedom and put women at risk. Which—make no mistake—it will do. If “sex” is conflated with “gender identity,” universities like Franciscan may no longer be able to maintain sex-specific sleeping facilities, bathrooms, and locker rooms. Our medical facilities could be compelled to provide religiously objectionable medical procedures. And biological men would be in competition with women for athletic roster spots and scholarships.
All this concerns me. Nothing, however, concerns me more than the Supreme Court slapping a label on people that has nothing to do with who they really are.
This whole topic of transgenderism is shrouded in confusion, chaos, and darkness. Franciscan doesn’t want to see anyone treated with anything less than respect and love. At the same time, making a protected class of people who struggle with their biological sex or gender identity isn’t the answer. It just perpetuates the confusion.
Nobody—not you, not me, not anyone—can find peace outside of a relationship with God. That relationship is what defines the human person. That relationship tells us who we are. That’s why the real identity crisis of our day isn’t about sex or gender. It’s about Jesus. So many people have forgotten they are created in God’s image and likeness. If people don’t know this, they struggle with their dignity and worth. They struggle with that most basic question: Who am I?
In Matthew 16, Jesus asks his disciples, “But who do you say I am?” He puts the same question to us today. The answer we give, though, is about more than his identity. It’s about our identity.
To know Jesus as Savior, Lord, Brother, and Friend is also to know that we are his living image, loved eternally by him. And to know that—to know who we are and how we’re loved—changes everything. It changes how we see ourselves. It changes how we see others. And it changes how we see God. It also changes how we live. It reorders our priorities and helps us love others as God loves us.
This is why the great task of the world and the devil has always been to cause an identity crisis. Satan wants us to forget who we are and find our identity elsewhere—in what we do, what we possess, how we look, or who we love.
So, of course, there is confusion. Of course, people define themselves by who they find attractive or the size of their bank account or the number of followers they have on social media.
This isn’t new, though. It’s been happening since the Garden of Eden. The first thing Adam and Eve did after the Fall was hide from God. They saw who they were, and they didn’t like it, so they ran from the only One who could heal them. Men and women have been doing the same ever since.
Each of us needs to fight this temptation individually, in our own lives. But we also need to fight it corporately, as a community, especially when it’s our government contributing to this identity crisis.
Franciscan University can’t stand by and watch our nation’s highest court sanction this self-destructive human habit. It’s not healthy. It’s not loving. It’s not helpful. Not for our students and employees and not for the men and women struggling with their identity, who need truth and grace, not more confusion.
As St. Francis of Assisi said, what we are before God is what we are and nothing else. Let us join in prayer that we look to the only One who defines who we are. Let us pray for our court, and pray for all those the court’s ruling will affect. This case is about so much more than bathrooms or religious freedom. It’s about who we are.
Father Dave Pivonka, TOR, serves as president of Franciscan University of Steubenville.