September 5, 2016
by John Kaempf

Protecting Minors Is More Important Than Having A Costly Transgender Bathroom That Religious Institutions are Not Required To Provide

Those who operate churches, religious schools, or other religious institutions may have followed recent news and wondered whether they should install bathrooms to accommodate persons who claim to be “transgender.”

Because of the First Amendment right to freely exercise religion without government interference, and to avoid potentially devastating legal liability if a minor is sexually assaulted by a “transgender” person, the answer is “no.”

This year, the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights published a statement condemning recent laws in some states that allegedly “target” the LGBT community. The Commission claims that any law requiring men and women to use bathrooms that correspond to their biological sex “jeopardizes not only the dignity, but also the actual physical safety,
of transgender people whose appearances may not match societal expectations of the sex specified on their identification documents.”

The Commission then stated principles that would subordinate religious liberty to the demands of LGBT activists.

“Civil rights protections ensuring nondiscrimination, as embodied in the Constitution, laws, and policies, are of preeminent importance in American jurisprudence. Religious exemptions to the protections of civil rights based upon classifications such as race, color, national origin, sex, disability status, sexual orientation, and gender identity, when they are permissible, significantly infringe upon these civil rights. Overly broad religious exemptions unduly burden nondiscrimination laws and policies. Federal and state courts, lawmakers, and policy-makers at every level must tailor religious exceptions to civil liberties and civil rights protections as narrowly as applicable law requires.”

This statement by the Commission on Civil Rights constitutes coercion and is a denial of religious freedom. Also, it is not binding on any court.

Religion is essentially deemed a mere “excuse” for discrimination by the current presidential administration.

The Commission has arguably issued a declaration of war on religious liberty. Centuries of American legal and cultural tradition are rendered less important than the “dignity” of those who demand potentially dangerous, expensive, and unneeded mixed-gender bathrooms.

Interestingly, the U.S. Supreme Court recently handed a victory to public schools concerning transgender bathrooms.

In a 2016 case coming out of a Virginia public school district, the family of Gavin Grimm, a female student who now “identifies” as male, challenged a school policy designed to protect the privacy rights of students using school bathrooms, locker rooms, and showers. The policy directed the students to use facilities correlating to their actual gender, but made allowances for those claiming a different gender by allowing them to access unisex, single user restrooms.

In response, the Grimm family sued.

The first ruling from a lower court sided with the Grimm family and ordered the school to abandon the policy.

But earlier this year, the U.S. Supreme Court set aside the lower court ruling by allowing the policy to remain in force while the case makes its way through the court system.

The Grimm case may end up before the Supreme Court again for a decision on the merits.

Also, in early 2016, a coalition of eleven states sued President Obama over his executive order requiring all public schools to provide transgender bathrooms. In August 2016, a federal judge in Texas barred the Obama administration from enforcing a directive that public schools allow “transgender” students to use bathrooms and locker rooms according to their “gender identity” while the lawsuit proceeds. The states argue that the policy usurps local control and threatens students’ safety and privacy.

Thus, one can see the importance of the presidential election and appointing a replacement for the deceased Justice Scalia and, likely in the near future, several other aging justices.

In conclusion, religious institutions, in contrast with public schools, should keep in mind that they have a First Amendment right to freely exercise their religion and not provide costly, separate transgender bathrooms. A compromise is to have a bathroom with a locking door that only allows one person to use it at a time.

Moreover, as a practical matter, religious institutions should consider the possibly enormous legal liability resulting from choosing to have a transgender bathroom at a church or other religious facility (like a religious school) and then having a female sexually assaulted by a male who currently “identifies” as a female.

Far less possible legal liability may result from a claim by a transgender person who alleges they were denied the “right” to the “correct” bathroom than could result from a female being sexually assaulted by a male who currently “identifies” as a female.