we the people

The Equality Act: The Next Step for the Cancel Culture?

Originally published at The Epoch Times

There has always been tension between freedom and equality in the United States.

History shows us that the American vision expressed in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution to protect individual freedom and provide equal opportunity was not realized in the first decade of the Republic.

Nor was it fully realized 70 years later when some 620,000 lives — mostly white — were sacrificed in the Civil War to end slavery and preserve the Union. It would take nearly a hundred more years for the civil rights movement, largely led and inspired by Martin Luther King, Jr. to fulfill the vision of the founders and complete the work of Lincoln.

Now we find ourselves in the midst of a culture war that divides America and threatens to undo much of the progress that our nation has painfully achieved over more than two centuries. And that’s why citizens and legislators need to understand the contents and implications of the Equality Act that has already passed in the House of Representatives, and which is now being taken up by the Senate. What’s there to know about it?

Well for starters and to get your attention, if it passes it could codify social arrangements in pursuit of equal outcomes that are unnatural for the vast majority of Americans, changing society’s norms in unacceptable ways — bringing on greater division and opening a new front in the cultural civil war.

It is primarily the Constitution that has been pivotal in establishing and limiting the scope of our federal government, which in turn has facilitated progress and kept the peace most of the time in America all these years — allowing diverse people to live together with tolerance and acceptance of differences.

The Equality Act would override our Constitution and tear down a number of norms that are essential for the majority of our society and its institutions to function reasonably well. Fundamental First Amendment rights, such as the rights of free speech and individual conscience that have been the cornerstone and bedrock of our country and its people, would be overridden and forced underground with the passage of the Equality Act.

Rights Nullified

As it is currently written, the Equality Act could designate any place that the public gathers, such as schools, healthcare organizations, private establishments and perhaps even churches as “public accommodations.”

Any such institution that is a public accommodation could be forced to accept the government’s positions and mandates about sexual orientation and gender identity. This would be highly invasive and wide-ranging, nullifying people’s First Amendment rights and threatening every day speech and parental rights, and even resulting in people being fined or losing their jobs for using the wrong name or pronoun.

The Equality Act could legally mandate that we allow boys in girls’ bathrooms and locker rooms. The Act’s transgender implications could destroy female sports by allowing transgendered biological males to compete in and dominate girls’ sports.

Schools would be mandated to teach young children that sex is not established by the biology of different chromosomes, but that it is a choice that can be made after birth in spite of those chromosomes remaining the same in every cell of the body. Everyone would be forced to publicly pretend that some biological males are females or vice versa.

The Equality Act would reach across state and local jurisdictions and potentially use the force of federal law to revoke religious institutions’ rights to hire likeminded people of similar beliefs and a shared faith. Christian, Jewish and other religious organizations would be hollowed out, perhaps continuing to exist in form but not substance.

Religious organizations could be forced to hire people who might be indifferent or hostile to their moral beliefs, which would undermine their primary mission and ability to do the good work of ministry, teaching and community outreach.

Similarly, the Equality Act would likely become an instrument in the hands of government to appease the secular left by denying or threatening to remove accreditation to religious colleges and universities if they fail to conform to gender identity and sexual orientation codes in their administration of dormitories, sports, and even curriculum. The Act could then be used to prevent students entering or attending disfavored religious schools from being able to apply for and receive federal student loans and grants.

Doctors and medical professionals live with high stress and heavy workloads, and the Equality Act would burden them further, weakening and depriving them of their rights of conscience and their ability to live up to their Hippocratic Oath. For many, that Oath “to do no harm” prevents them from delivering gender transition treatments, such as cross-sex hormones and hormone blocking and surgery.

Greater Division

On so many levels as it’s constituted, the Equality Act should be a non-starter. It would lead to greater social division — resulting in greater cynicism and disrespect for the law. And then there is the rule of unexpected consequences, which invariably accompanies one-size-fits-all government mandates.

The hidden power behind the Constitution, drafted some 234 years ago, was that it built the structures and functioning of government on natural law. Law used to be thought of as a civilizing force to protect society. Now with society becoming increasingly unmoored from its moral heritage, new laws have focused more on new-found minority rights and less on protective obligations to the majority. And it seems with this unmooring, the legislative and legal agenda has been more driven by emotional appeal and experimentation than in circumspection more common in prior times.

As a result, if laws like the Equality Act come into being, they create uncertainty and unrest by undercutting long-held fundamental norms. What should also be clear is that when law requires the transformation of the peoples’ moral norms, it brings on mass confusion and social psychological dysphoria, which weakens society and even erodes the underpinnings of civilized behavior.

Cancel culture has already done enough harm. Should the Equality Act or other new federal laws get passed that are inconsistent with our Constitutional rights, individuals may turn to the civil disobedience of non-compliance while state governments undertake lawsuits of resistance under the state’s right doctrine of challenging unconstitutional federal laws.

The time has come in this nation when citizens shouldn’t willingly give up their own freedom or participate in digging their own graves by going along with yet more steps that heighten division and advance a communist-type society of totalitarian political and legal control.

Scott S. Powell

Senior Fellow, Center on Wealth and Poverty
Scott Powell has enjoyed a career split between theory and practice with over 25 years of experience as an entrepreneur and rainmaker in several industries. He joins the Discovery Institute after having been a fellow at Stanford’s Hoover Institution for six years and serving as a managing partner at a consulting firm, RemingtonRand. His research and writing has resulted in over 250 published articles on economics, business and regulation. Scott Powell graduated from the University of Chicago with honors (B.A. and M.A.) and received his Ph.D. in political and economic theory from Boston University in 1987, writing his dissertation on the determinants of entrepreneurial activity and economic growth.