STK Temple Square

The Salt Lake Temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, at left, is photographed along with Temple Square, the Joseph Smith Memorial Building, lower right, and the Church Office Building, top right, on Wednesday, Feb. 17, 2016 in Salt Lake City. In the background is the Utah State Capitol. 

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints issued a statement Monday opposing the Equality Act currently up before the U.S. Congress.

The bill, which would prohibit discrimination in employment, housing, public accommodations, public education, federal funding, credit and the jury system on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, was introduced in March to Congress.

Officials with the LDS Church said in the statement that the church is “on record favoring reasonable measures that secure such rights.”

The church states, however, that they urge for the bill to also include protections for religious freedom.

“We urgently need laws that protect the rights of individuals and faith communities to freely gather, speak out publicly, serve faithfully and live openly according to their religious beliefs without discrimination or retaliation, even when those beliefs may be unpopular,” the church said in the statement. “This includes the right of religious organizations and religious schools to establish faith-based employment and admissions standards and to preserve the religious nature of their activities and properties.”

The church stated that it supports, instead, a “fairness for all” approach that would protect rights of individuals “while seeking reasonable, respectful compromises in areas of conflict.” It also called on members of Congress to instead pass legislation that would protect religious freedom while also protecting the civil rights of members of the LGBT community.

“The Equality Act now before Congress is not balanced and does not meet the standard of fairness for all. While providing extremely broad protections for LGBT rights, the Equality Act provides no protections for religious freedom. It would instead repeal long-standing religious rights under the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act, threaten religious employment standards, devastate religious education, defund numerous religious charities and impose secular standards on religious activities and properties. The Church joins other religious organizations that also strongly oppose the Equality Act as unbalanced, fundamentally unfair and a path to further conflict,” Monday’s statement read.

In 2015, Utah’s Legislature passed a “fairness for all” law that banned discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. The law also included safeguards that it would not infringe on the religious freedoms of individual families and churches by creating exemptions for religious organizations and protecting religious speech in the workplace.

The church at that time threw their support behind the law.

The implementation of LGBT rights and religious freedom have been viewed as conflicting viewpoints, something that the LDS Church addressed in Monday’s statement.

“The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is deeply concerned that the ongoing conflicts between religious liberty and LGBT rights is poisoning our civil discourse, eroding the free exercise of religion and preventing diverse Americans of good will from living together in respect and peace,” the statement read.

The church’s statement also affirmed that Monday’s statement did not represent any change in doctrinal beliefs on marriage or chastity.

“It does represent a desire to bring people together, to protect the rights of all, and to encourage mutually respectful dialogue and outcomes in this highly polarized national debate,” the statement read.

Stacy has worked as the Online Editor at the Daily Herald since 2007.

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