The mom called the church office: “As you may know, my son now identifies as a female. She is planning to attend your youth group retreat this weekend. I need to know how you plan to accommodate her for restrooms and showers.”
This call represents not only an ethical and theological issue, but a looming legal dilemma as well. Earlier this year the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the Department of Education, and the Justice Department issued “bathroom” guidance requiring restroom and locker room facilities that are “consistent” with a person’s gender identity.
In addition to federal mandates, rapidly changing state and local laws may apply to religious organizations as well. The California legislature is poised to pass a bill that will force private universities to comply with the state’s position on gender identity access matters.
What does this mean for churches and Christian schools and camps? It’s a bit murky at this point, but faith-based organizations need to be aware and prepared.
For this week’s Holy Soup podcast, I talked with Eric Kniffin, a Colorado attorney specializing in legal issues facing religious institutions. He urges churches and other organizations to perform a “mission audit.” Based on core beliefs and convictions, organizations should discuss and establish written guidelines related to:
Gender identity issues
Facility use policies
Human resources practices
Sexual abuse policies
Setting these boundaries in advance will establish faith-based underpinnings, and help defend against future legal actions.
For regulation updates, volunteer administration, and background checks, churches may receive helpful information from Shepherd’s Watch.
Kniffin said all churches need to identify potential legal and social pressures, and prepare to withstand challenges–from government, activist groups, citizens and church members. And, because every situation is unique, he recommends all receive competent legal help.
Regardless of how you feel about issues such as transgenderism, public and governmental views are changing, fast. These issues need to be prayerfully discussed and addressed, even if they seem uncomfortable.
Listen to the enlightening conversation with Eric Kniffin here on the Holy Soup podcast.
Thom Schultz is the founder of Group Publishing and blogs at Holy Soup.