by Alan J. Reinach

Historic legislation protecting both religious freedom and LGBT rights was introduced in Congress in early December. Pacific Union Conference Director of Public Affairs & Religious Liberty Alan Reinach was on hand for a press conference announcing the bill in Salt Lake City, held there because the lead sponsor is Utah Congressman Chris Stewart. The Seventh-day Adventist Church is among the broad coalition of groups sponsoring the measure. Melissa Reid, from the North American Division PARL Department, represented the church at the press conference and delivered the remarks that follow:

“The Seventh-day Adventist Church applauds the Fairness for All Act’s balanced, principled approach for protecting both religious freedom and LGBT civil rights.

“Fairness for All simultaneously affirms our right to hold and act upon our biblical view of sexual identity and marriage and our belief that everyone is created in the image of God and deserves to be treated with dignity, compassion, and respect.

“It allows us the ability to honor Christ’s imperative to love both God and our neighbor.

“Religious liberty and the separation of church and state are longstanding principles of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. Under these principles, we do not seek to impose our beliefs on others through the apparatus of the State or any other mechanism.

“At the same time, we assert unequivocally the right of the church and its members to express our faith and administer our institutions according to our biblical values and beliefs.

“The Fairness for All Act acknowledges and respects the historic and legally protected place religion occupies in society.

“It strengthens the protections for religious freedom in the workplace. And it shields LGBT individuals from discrimination in areas such as employment, housing, or public accommodations.

“The Seventh-day Adventist Church commends Congressman Stewart and the other bill sponsors for their commitment to freedom of conscience, and we look forward to the support of many additional members of Congress who value both religious freedom and LGBT civil rights.”

One of the truly remarkable back stories is that of Shirley Hoogstra, the president of the Council of Christian Colleges and Universities, who had the herculean task of herding the diverse constituent member colleges and universities to support this measure. CCCU represents more than 180 institutions in the U. S. In her public remarks, Ms. Hoogstra said Fairness for All grew out of the question asked by leaders of the faith and LGBT communities of one another: “What do you need?” She contended that Fairness for All represents the best of how we do government in America.

Both Congressman Stewart and Governor Gary Herbert spoke, observing that Fairness for All grew out of a previous measure enacted in Utah in 2015 that has come to be known as the Utah Compromise.

Fairness for All is the latest in a long line of efforts to enact civil rights protections for LGBT rights. “Fairness for All provides the most comprehensive protections for both religious freedom and LGBT rights in the spirit of “live and let live,” Reinach said.