Last week, the United States Supreme Court issued a ruling in Bostock v. Clayton, which poses a threat to religious liberty and faith-based employment practices. This decision could uniquely impact the Catholic Church, given its teachings and deeply held religious convictions about the meaning of sex and sexual difference. While it is not yet clear what the ramifications of this ruling will be, or the precise impact it will have on the more than 800,000 Catholic faithful across Colorado, the conflict it creates is certain, and reaffirms that we have much work to do to protect and promote the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
In the ruling, the United States Supreme Court redefined the word “sex” in the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to hold that “an employer who fires an individual merely for being gay or transgender violates Title VII” of the Act. When the term “sex” was first used in the Act in 1964—and for 56 years that followed—it referred to the biological distinctions between male and female. The Supreme Court ruling changes the definition within the Civil Rights Act to now include sexual orientation and gender identity. Such redefinition is arbitrary and unscientific. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 established an objective condition in order to protect the rights of the vulnerable, whereas now a subjective and changing inclination is considered valid.
To be clear, the Catholic Church teaches that every man and woman has been created in God’s image and likeness. Although both have an equal natural and inviolable dignity, God’s creation has made them different and complementary. Such equal dignity and complementarity is the very foundation for the rights of every human person, including those who experience same-sex attraction (The Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons, 1986, no. 10). Every person, including men and women in the LGBTQ community, “must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided” (CCC 2358).
However, by altering the statutory definition of “sex” in the Civil Rights Act, this decision could make religious institutions and private businesses—including religious health-care providers, religious schools, and faith-based social services—subject to discrimination lawsuits based on employment decisions tied to respect for the sexual difference between men and women, which is at the roots of the common good of every society. By allegedly trying to reduce discrimination, greater discrimination is generated.
Although this conflict was left unresolved in this decision, it is deeply troubling. Until it is addressed by the courts or Congress, the Bostock decision remains a potential threat to Catholic religious beliefs and practices in Colorado. As a united voice for the Catholic Bishops of Colorado on matters of policy and law, the Colorado Catholic Conference will continue working to support legislation and institutions that recognize the natural order of creation and to protect the religious freedom of the Catholic community in Colorado.
This worrying ruling of the Supreme Court will promote the “ideological colonization” denounced by Pope Francis (2 October 2016). To read president of the U.S. Bishops’ Conference, Archbishop José H. Gomez of Los Angeles, Issues Statement on the decision, click here.