At the Conservative Political Action Conference, a U.S. senator warned that the Equality Act would force people to hide their faith and accused one of President Joe Biden’s cabinet nominees of working to “manage the faith of Californians.”
The first full day of CPAC, an annual gathering of conservative grassroots activists, took place Friday in Orlando, Florida. One of the speakers, Sen. James Lankford, R-Okla., addressed the topic of freedom of religion.
According to Lankford, “You don’t have to take off your faith when you leave your house. You don’t have to take off your faith when you leave church. In fact, I would remind this group if you don’t practice your faith every day, you really don’t have a faith, you just have a religious hobby.”
“The in-group in our society doesn’t get to define who can and cannot have faith, what their faith would look like in public or in private,” he added. “We don’t have to submit to the in-crowd’s secular humanism,” which he warned is already underway.
Lankford then cited Xavier Becerra, Biden’s nominee to serve as secretary of Health and Human Services, as a supporter of this effort. Lankford described how the tenure of Becerra as attorney general of California was defined by hostility toward religious people who did not want to fund contraception and abortion-inducing drugs in their employer-sponsored healthcare plans.
“He led the lawsuit against people of faith like Little Sisters of the Poor, forcing them to choose between shutting down their ministry to elderly poor or to violate their religious beliefs,” Lankford said. “He worked to manage the faith of Californians.”
Lankford also cited the Equality Act, a controversial legislative package that passed the House of Representatives Thursday, as another example of the hostility to religion that is becoming commonplace among some government officials.
Although the Equality Act was billed as a necessary bill to enshrine protections for the LGBT community into law, Lankford warned that under the measure, “people of faith cannot say you have faith.”
As officials at the Alliance Defending Freedom explained in a recent webinar, the Equality Act contains a ban on sexual orientation and gender identity that could require religious employers to “include in their healthcare plans things that they might object to like cross-sex hormones, puberty blockers for children and sex reassignment surgery,” and perform other actions that might conflict with their religious beliefs.
In addition to warning about the potential confirmation of Becerra and the possible passage of the Equality Act, Lankford touted a recent U.S. Supreme Court victory for religious freedom.
“A couple of years ago in Montana, a mom tried to utilize a state scholarship fund to send her daughters to a Christian school but the state of Montana has specific language in their Constitution that doesn’t allow state funds to be used at a religious school,” he recalled. After mentioning that the Supreme Court determined that as long as Montana maintained a scholarship program it could not exclude religious schools, Lankford lamented that despite the Supreme Court precedent, several states still have similar language in their state constitutions.
Contending that such language requires the states to “discriminate against people of faith,” Lankford explained that the language was known as the “Blaine Amendment,” named after the 1884 presidential candidate who spearheaded it, James Blaine, and “written during a time of anti-Catholic fervor in our nation more than a century ago.”
“That language needs to go,” Lankford declared. “If you’re a state legislator, clear that bigoted language out of your state constitution.”
As his speech concluded, Lankford brought up the Abraham Accords, an agreement between the United States, Israel, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain to “recognize the importance of maintaining and strengthening peace in the Middle East and around the world based on mutual understanding and coexistence, as well as respect for human dignity, freedom, including religious freedom.”
“Freedom is breaking out in the Middle East while the left is trying to shut it down in America,” he remarked.
“They cannot do that because we are Americans and we have the greatest Constitution in the world,” he concluded. “The right to have your faith and live your faith is a right. You have to make it a reality by actually living your faith.”