Meanwhile, in Massachusetts…

…as of October 1, 2016 churches have to let people use whichever bathroom, locker room, or shower facility they identify with.  Regardless of whether that church endorses revisionist gender definition or not.  If you are open to the public at large, you have to accommodate gender identity in your facility even if it violates your religious beliefs.

How this can withstand a challenge based on freedom of religion I don’t know, but apparently there are more than a few people who think it can and will.  If it does, churches will either need to no longer be open to the public (membership will take on a whole new meaning), or they will need to accommodate a man using the women’s showers because he identifies as female.

The only requirement is that the person requesting access to a facility different from their apparent gender have a “sincerely held” belief about their gender identity.  However it is also stated that “in most situations…it will not be appropriate to request documentation of a individual’s gender identity.”  This sounds like pretty threatening language.  So if someone questions why a man is in the women’s bathroom at a church, such questioning by default is being defined as inappropriate.

The document further acknowledges that there is very little legal guidance regarding what “sincerely held” means in any substantive sense, and acknowledges that such guidance and definition will be forthcoming in legal action.  Meaning, be prepared for lots and lots of lawsuits and litigation to nail down what “sincerely held” actually means, because nobody is bothering to try and define it at this point.  However, under penalty of law, churches and other religious institutions in Massachusetts will now be required to provide accommodation for such “sincerely held” and non-defined beliefs about gender identity.

Expect more of this kind of legislation across the nation.  Another reason for congregations to think long and hard about owning property and what that will require of them.

 

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