forgiveness • peacemaking • reconciliation
equality • poverty • missions


Reflecting on the Bostock Decision

June 19, 2020 by

On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court issued its decision in the case of Bostock v. Clayton County, Georgia. Led by Justice Gorsuch, a majority of the court ruled that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits employment discrimination “because of . . . sex” now encompasses discrimination because an employee is gay or transgender.

photo of the Supreme Court east facade Photograph by Jeff Kubina, from Wikimedia Commons

Much can and will be said about the merits of this decision, and whether it was an appropriate step for the Supreme Court to take rather than leaving the issue for legislatures to work out. Seeking to ensure that people who identify as homosexual or transgender have fair and equal opportunities to make a living in the secular, commercial job market is commendable. But after this case, questions of great importance remain unanswered. For example: Can an organization with a religious mission be forced to associate with people whose actions contradict the organization’s message? Can a religious school be penalized for requiring that its teachers faithfully model its beliefs for their students? (The Court will have the opportunity to address the latter question in its upcoming decision in Our Lady of Guadalupe School v. Morrissey-Berru.)

But beyond all that, Russell Moore, a minister and president of the Southern Baptist Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, has written an excellent reflection on the decision that points us beyond the legal ramifications to what is most important for the church and for the formation of the next generation of the faithful. He says in part:

Whatever the legal and legislative challenges posed by this decision, they are hardly the most important considerations. What is most important is for the church to see where a biblical vision of sexuality and family is out of step with the direction of American culture.
For 2,000 years, the Christian tradition, rooted in the Bible, has taught that human beings are limited by our createdness. We are not self-created, nor are we self-determining beings. God has created us, from the beginning, male and female – a concept articulated at the very onset of the biblical canon (Gen. 1:27) and reaffirmed by our Lord Jesus (Mk. 10:6). That’s because this creation order is not arbitrary but is intended to point beyond itself to the mystery of the gospel (Eph. 5:32). Here the church has stood, and will stand.
That will mean teaching the next generation of Christians why such distinctions are good, and not endlessly elastic. We do that by rejecting both a spirit of the age that would erase created distinctions between men and women and those that would exaggerate them into stereotypes not revealed in Scripture. This will mean also that we train up our children to see how such are matters rooted not in cultural mores but in the gospel itself. And it will mean that we provide not just teaching but models.
Those who decry the sexual revolution, but approve of, or participate in, sexual revolutions of their own – in excusing, for instance, adultery, sexual abuse, or pornography – will have, and should have, no credibility. Instead, what is needed is an ongoing demonstration of counter-cultural fidelity, accountability, love, and a recognition of the kinds of limits that make human life good and livable. And, at the same time, we can be the people who recognize that those who disagree with us are our mission field, to be persuaded, not a sparring partner to denounce. We must have both conviction and kindness, both courage and patience, both truth and grace.

As a lawyer, I remain optimistic that accommodation of competing rights and interests in a pluralistic society is possible, but even if that balance is not struck it should make no difference to believers. In matters of the conscience and fidelity to the gospel there can be no compromise, either in love or clarity. Neither legal decisions nor cultural revolutions can dilute our witness to God’s eternal truth.

John Huleatt is General Counsel for the Bruderhof.


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