1. Bringing A Kuyperian Framework To Religious Freedom And LGBT Civil Rights

PJR Vol. 9, Issue 3, 2019, Fairness For All: Does Supporting Religious Freedom Require Opposition To LGBT Civil Rights?


Stephanie Summers is is the CEO of the Center for Public Justice, a Christian, independent, non-partisan civic education and public policy organization based in Washington, D.C. The Center works to equip citizens, develop leaders and shape policy through a variety of initiatives. Summers is a co-author with Michael J. Gerson and Katie Thompson of Unleashing Opportunity: Why Escaping Poverty Requires a Shared Vision of Justice (Falls City Press). A frequent speaker and moderator, she also contributed a chapter to the edited volume The Church’s Social Responsibility (Christian Library Press), and has written for publications including Comment and Q Ideas. Stephanie is an award recipient of the first-ever Duke Divinity Reflective Leadership Grant, which she will fulfill on behalf of the Center in 2019. 


EDITOR’S NOTE: These remarks were originally delivered by Stephanie Summers as the introduction to the Annual CPJ Kuyper Lecture, which was given by Shapri LoMaglio at Calvin College on April 25, 2019.

The Center for Public Justice is a nonpartisan, Christian, civic education and public policy organization based in Washington, DC. We seek to inspire and equip Christians to pursue a common calling to faithful citizenship and to affirm the vital role of government in upholding public justice. Our annual Kuyper lecture, named after the Dutch theologian and statesman Abraham Kuyper, seeks to focus attention on significant questions of religion in public life and Jesus Christ’s Lordship over all creation.

In this evening’s Kuyper lecture, “Fairness for All: Does Supporting Religious Freedom Require Opposition to LGBT Civil Rights?” you will hear themes informed by Kuyper’s practice.

During his lifetime, Kuyper faced the complexity of navigating differences of worldview in light of the French Revolution. Institutions organized on and for the promotion of the Christian faith were being pressed by the Dutch government towards uniformity and the exclusion of difference in a pluralistic society. Kuyper rightly understood that rather than squeezing every institution into one way of seeing things, governments must make room for a diversity of institutions to thrive. They do so by protecting the ability for schools and the press and other institutions of civil society to remain free to organize around a diversity of worldviews. Kuyper also understood that this would require citizens to engage government officials on the substance of public policy and help shape its contours. Finally, Kuyper understood that building political coalitions across deep differences in worldviews was not only practically important, but it could exemplify for fellow citizens who disagreed with some of the animating beliefs of Christians the societal benefits of the principles of a Christian worldview.

Those of us speaking tonight want to acknowledge that one of the most sensitive sets of issues faced on college campuses and in church denominations today is a Christian understanding of human sexuality. The focus of this series is not on the internal divisions happening within denominations and faith-based organizations about a theological understanding of human sexuality. Instead, we want to focus on how best to protect the ability of organizations of faith to even have these internal arguments -- without government determining the answer for them.

Kuyper called upon government to preserve and protect in law the very ability of civil society organizations to have their own internal arguments and to decide what those meant to their internal ordering. We are not setting out tonight to pit LGBT rights against religious freedom. In the last three years, we’ve seen top LGBT civil rights leaders who both understand and promote the protection of religious freedom and Christians with progressive views of human sexuality who agree that it is the government’s responsibility to protect religious freedom alongside LGBT civil rights. Informed by Kuyper, we are asking you to examine our premise: that government must not decide for every citizen which understanding of human sexuality is right, and must not coerce every organization to adopt the government-favored view. Government must instead protect the right of citizens and of organizations who hold very diverse convictions.

The 2019 Kuyper Lecture takes up the topic of two very distinct and very different legislative efforts which have been unfairly characterized as being the same. Before delving into the subject matter, some final words of clarification: Shapri LoMaglio, Senior Vice President for Government and External Relations at the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities, will speak to these both more in depth, but tonight you’ll hear about The Equality Act and Fairness for All. These are not at all the same thing. 

The Equality Act is a piece of federal civil rights legislation working its way through the House of Representatives towards a floor vote in mid May. The Equality Act protects LGBT civil rights, but unfortunately it does so at the expense of religious freedom.

(Editor’s note: The Equality Act (H.R.5) passed in the House of Representatives on May 17, 2019.)

Tonight you will also hear about our very different approach: Fairness for All. In sharp contrast, Fairness for All is an approach to federal civil rights legislation that protects both LGBT civil rights and religious freedom simultaneously.

We know that there are fellow believers who wish to protect religious freedom who counsel a different approach than Fairness for All. For those of you who were here two years ago, you may remember that we hosted a public panel featuring our Fairness for All approach and allowing fellow believers to voice and discuss their concerns.

Lastly, we are aware that whether or not to support the Fairness for All approach is a prudential matter. Both Shapri LoMaglio and Stanley Carlson-Thies have worked tirelessly over the last three years to answer questions and to provide information to men and women who bear responsibility for the leadership and trusteeship of institutions of faith. We continue to do that tonight, and we trust God to be faithful to the promise to grant all of us the wisdom God generously invites us to ask for.

To respond to the author of this article, please email PJR@cpjustice.org. The articles in the Public Justice Review do not represent a consensus of positions on questions of public policy. We do not expect our readers will agree with all the arguments they find here, but we believe that within the broad tradition of what we call public justice we can do more by providing a forum for the debate and exchange of Christians, within those bounds, to work out public policy faithful to God and in service of our neighbors. We do not necessarily share the views expressed, but we do accept responsibility for giving them a chance to appear.


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