Volume 12, Number 2
The Equal Rights Amendment is designed as a legislative attempt to gain “equal rights” for women and men. The ERA was first introduced in Congress in 1923 as an outgrowth of the struggle for women’s suffrage. It was not until 1972, however, that Congress voted overwhelmingly for its passage. Now, in order to become an Amendment to the U. S. Constitution, it must be ratified by three-fourths of the nation’s fifty states. The proposed twenty-seventh Amendment reads as follows: “Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.” The Amendment is designed to ensure that men and women have the same rights and responsibilities under the law.
We believe that the majority of women in the U.S.A. are against the Equal Rights Amendment, but their voices cannot be heard above the clamor of a loud minority. Playboy magazine has contributed large sums of money in a drive to ratify the Amendment. Church bodies with a liberal slant pass resolutions favoring ERA without polling their members. Federal and state funded Status-of-Women-Commissions lobby for ratification at the taxpayer’s expense. Women’s liberation groups frantically seek passage of the Amendment. The Agenda (published primarily for Church of the Brethren ministers) said that one of the World Ministries Commission’s priorities is to “press for ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment in nine states” (February, 1975). The January, 1976 issue of the same periodical urges Brethren in several states to be “influential in persuading state legislators in both Houses to support this important Amendment.”
The deadline date for ratification of the Amendment is March 22, 1979. To date, the Amendment is only three states short of approval. The ERA has been ratified by thirty-rive states. The state legislatures in two states (Nebraska and Tennessee) have voted to rescind their earlier approval of the ERA. But because legal authorities consider this action to be invalid, both states continue to be counted among those that have ratified the ERA.
Many Brethren believe that the Amendment, if passed, may help undermine God’s divine order for the human family. God’s order (as revealed in the Scriptures) gives “uniqueness” to male and female, but not “identity.” Men and women are neither equal nor unequal. The role of each sex is inexchangeable. As one religious order in West Germany has stated it: “An equality enforced by law, which robs a person of his God-given identity, is an outrageous rebellion, and will have a most devastating effect upon God’s order of creation.” Many of us believe in the right of a woman to be a full-time wife and mother, and to have this right recognized by -laws that obligate her husband to provide the primary financial support for the family. We believe it is the responsibility of the parents (not the government) to care for pre-school children. We believe in promoting materials that honor the family and exalt monogamous marriage, that, lift up woman’s role as wife and mother, and that set forth man’s role as provider and protector.
The article in the current issue of the Witness presents a point of view which is not often heard in our day. The passage or defeat of the proposed Equal Rights Amendment could become the single most significant event of the Twentieth Century.
The Equal Rights Amendment
and Bible Principles
By Rosemary Thompson
Back in the Garden of Eden, Eve was tempted to try and become equal with God. Today women are being offered a different fruit–to be like men. This new temptation is the proposed Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) to the U. S. Constitution.
Until recently most people believed that the basic purpose of the proposed 27th Amendment was to provide equal pay and job opportunities for women. The U. S. Congress approved ERA in 1972 because the majority had not heard the damaging testimony given against it in the House and Senate hearings. Thirty-four of the required thirty-eight states quickly ratified the amendment before reasonable lawmakers became aware of its drastic implications.
One labor union official put the problem succinctly when he said that ERA “could destroy more rights than it creates by attempting to create equality through ‘sameness.”‘ But God did not endow man and woman with the same physical strength. Even Barbara Simmons, state chairwoman for Women of Industry, Inc., of Illinois admits: “In factory and industrial work, most women cannot do a man’s work because we do not have the physical strength.”
Why are many Christian women among those who are leading the battle against the ERA? They fear the far-ranging significance of a constitutional change that would very easily touch one’s personal life in many ways. For, once it is ratified, ERA would become the law of the land, and the courts would enforce it. It’s like a person who runs a stop light. He is fined for failure to comply, because it is the law. Opponents warn that the dangers of ERA should not be underestimated or shrugged off as a minor change, because it would radically change American society.
THREAT TO HOME AND FAMILY
Americans brought up in the Judeo-Christian faith, where the husband is the provider and protector of his wife and childrenthe premise on which supportlaws are based—share Professor Arthur E. Ryman, Jr.’s concern. Tragically, what many think will bring “equal rights to women”" may actually turn out to be the demise of “God’s rights for women.” Writing in the Drake Law Review, Ryman says: “Many states will adopt a wildly permissive approach . . . and support economic development requiring women to seek careers.” He concludes that the institution of marriage, established by God, may be seriously threatened by the combination of legal, economic, and social pressures of the women’s liberation phenomena if the 27th Amendment is adopted.
A foreshadowing of Professor Ryman’s predictions can be seen in the case of the State of Colorado v. Elliott. Because Colorado ratified ERA and added it to the state’s constitution, the court there ruled that Larry Lee Elliott was not required to support his family since the law said something about a wife being equally responsible. What kind of rights will this be for a mother of small children who may lack any marketable skills? This judgment disregards the admonition of 1 Timothy 5:8 “But if any provide not for his own. . he is worse than an infidel.” Yet at a seminar on women’s role in development, Dr. Margaret Wad, world-famed anthropologist advised wives to break away from dependence on men as the breadwinner. The time has come, she said, “to phase out the nuclear family,” and then added, “Women who need a husband to look after them are terrible nuisances.”
Such a philosophy as Dr. Mead’s merely fans the flames of godless atheism. Considered seriously, this aspect of equal rights would encourage divorce, scoff at the importance of the home, and undermine the biblical role of the authority and responsibility God originally intended for men, beginning with Adam, within the marriage relationship (1 Corinthians 11: 3).
There is also a question of whether a wife not employed outside the home would be able to collect Social Security on the basis of her husband’s contribution, as she does now. In her column of April 9, 1975, financial columnist Sylvia Porter predicted that even if some change isn’t enacted sooner, passage of ERA might mean the husband would be paying Social Security taxes twice–once on his own earnings and once on the assumed “earnings” of his wife. “But this would be fair and equitable … Why shouldn’t he do the same for a wife who performs additional duties above and beyond those ordinarily expected of hired employees?” reasoned the columnist.
Other people have estimated the financial worth of a homemaker at $12,000 per year. Using this base the husband would need to pay no less than $960.00 annually in additional Social Security taxes. It is easy to see how women might be forced into the labor market so that families could meet this additional expense. Such changes brought about by ERA would deny the honored position accorded to married women in the home as spelled out in Proverbs 31: 10-31; 1 Timothy 5:14; and Titus 2:4-5.
RADICAL PROMOTERS OF ERA
The National Organization for Women, whose first priority is passage of ERA, demands in their policy manual, Revolution: Tomorrow is Now, that government provide comprehensive child-care centers to free women for meaningful, paid employment. Joining with NOW, the United Nations International Women’s Year 1975 (financed in part by American tax dollars) has been promoting similar projects. Speaking at an Illinois YWCA banquet initiating the UN group, a citizen of the Communist-controlled People’s Republic of China said that economic independence, political equality, and ideological education are elements successful to women’s liberation, that these were the things that made women’s equality possible in China, and that they can work as well in the United States.
“Women have to work in order to achieve economic independence,” the female banquet speaker asserted. To this end, she said, the government must assume responsibility for setting up nurseries and daycare centers to keep children while their mothers work. Over ninety percent of China’s women do work. Is it any wonder the Christian woman is skeptical about the effect ERA might have on her family? If passed and ultimately enforced, the ERA could radically alter God’s divinely instituted family unit. This could also eventually mark the end of many other individual freedoms Americans now enjoy, including the freedom of religion. The last thing the world wants is for men to trust in God’s provision. It rejects the Christian standard: “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness” (Matthew 6:33).
WOMEN IN THE MILITARY
Although ERA advocates usually admit that women will be subject to the draft, they claim it is unlikely that America will become involved in war again. They are mostly unaware of Christ’s warning: “Ye shall hear of wars” (Mark 13:7) until the Lord returns “with great power and glory” (v. 26). Many do not acknowledge a personal relationship with the Saviour and, indeed, some openly admit to no belief in God at all. Few major feminists display great interest in institutional religion, according to Mary Daly in her book Beyond God the Father, Toward a Philosophy of Women’s Liberation.
The Office of the Director of the National Selective Service in Washington, D.C., takes another view. U.S. Marine Corps Brig. Genesis Sam Shaw confirmed that ERA “would force the government into drafting women . . . as the nation might approach a combat situation, total equality could well render the armed forces in disarray … with men asserting that equality of rights must be applied to them on the battlefield . . in connection with equal representation of women in combat.”
Even without a draft, the volunteer armed forces already accepts mothers with small children, an innovation that some career officers, male and female, view with trepidation. “A woman’s first duty is to her child, and in the Army her first mission is the Army,” says Col. Nelda Cade, a battalion commander at Ft. McClellan, Alabama. Imagine the chaos, the disruption of family life in a draft situation! It is true, as proponents say, that Congress now has the power to draft women, but it has chosen not to. ERA would remove this option. Speculation that both parents, or at least one parent, would be exempted from a draft is questioned by the Selective Service. “Whether such procedure would exist under future emergency conditions is unknown,” cautions General Shaw. Current law gives women equal opportunity to enlist in the military or stay at home to care for children and husbands. The ERA would leave no choice.
TAX-EXEMPTION FOR CHURCHES AND SCHOOLS
Could ERA affect American freedom of religion? In the case of one well-known evangelical Christian educational institution, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled on May 15, 1974, that the institution, which did not receive federal monies, had lost its tax-exempt status. Gifts to the school were no longer taxexempt since, in practicing its religious beliefs, it was not complying with the 1964 Civil Rights Act in that it refused to admit minority races. It is important to understand that, regardless of the personal position one may take on racial integration, the Supreme Court’s ruling was final and financially harmful to the institution. Under a proposed constitutional amendment that says “rights cannot be abridged because of sex,” churches could lose their tax-exemption for refusing to ordain females into the ministry. While the Bible states “There is neither male nor female; for ye are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28), the distinction between spiritual equality and spiritual activity is undeniable (1 Timothy 2:12).
In addition, the Court could force all educational institutions to become coed. Asked at the Missouri Senate Committee hearing on January 28, 1975, if ERA would deprive single-sex private and religious schools and colleges of their tax-exemption, proponents agreed that this would be true and that they object to any school discriminating on the basis of sex in admissions policy. Not only a person’s freedom of choice but also his freedom of religion could be curtailed.
EQUALITY IN EMPLOYMENT AND EDUCATION
Women already have protection against discrimination through existing state and federal laws. The Equal Employment Opportunity Act of 1972 and the Civil Rights Act of 1964 provide equal pay and opportunity. The Higher Education Act of 1972 not only prohibits sex discrimination in any education program receiving federal funds, but beginning immediately, Title IX requires integrated boy/girl physical education classes in all but a few contact sports. The Housing and Community Development Act of 1974 gives women mortgage credit. Reasonable inequities can be corrected through legislation without jeopardizing the right of others. Women do not need ERA!
Instead, the problem of opening ERA’s “Pandora’s box” would be endless. Those enforcing the ERA might require that there be no segregation of the sexes in prison, reform schools, and other public institutions as is claimed by Professor Paul Freund of the Harvard Law School. Also, feminists and constitutional authorities both believe it would allow abortion, although the Psalmist testifies that God knows each person in the womb (Psalm 139:13) and He has commanded, “Thou shalt not kill” (Exodus 20:13). Both groups believe ERA will legitimize homosexual and lesbian marriages, although the New Testament epistles (Romans 1:27-28; 1 Corinthians 6:9) condemn such unnatural affections. And they both believe ERA would result in a legal changing of social attitudes that would be in direct conflict with Christian principles.
Proverbs 14:12 counsels that “there is a way which seemeth right unto a man.” ERA may seem right to this increasingly secular world. But the Apostle Peter warns against those who pervert Christian freedoms: “While they promise them liberty, they themselves are the servants of corruption” (2 Peter 2:19). The fact that men and women were created equal in the sight of God is made abundantly clear in the New Testament. However, members of one sex will not have absolutely the same talents, abilities, and position in life as members of the other.
The Apostle Paul teaches in 1 Corinthians 12 that members of the Body of Christ are all equally important, but each has different responsibilities. The husband is to be the provider, the head of the home, while the wife is his helper. Each is equal, but each has a special role. In today’s society, the woman may hold a job in government, in the military, in agriculture, or in business, or as the woman is led by God and as she and her husband agree.
The fatal flaw of the ERA, which does not take the biblical view into account, is that it forbids lawmakers from ever distinguishing between the two sexes. Freedom of choice for individual women is totally ignored by the proposed amendment, while ERA proponents talk in generalities about discrimination but fail to mention some drastic changes that would effect women.
What so many people sometimes fail to realize is that this radical approach to equal rights for women is not only the national issue of ERA but part of a worldwide movement that is diametrically opposed to Christian beliefs in a strong family unit. All believers should pray that the ERA is defeated (1 Timothy 2:1-2).
Psalm 11:2-3 declares: “For lo, the wicked bend their bow, they make ready their arrow upon the string, that they may privily (secretly, in darkness) shoot at the upright in heart. If the foundations be destroyed, what can the righteous do?” As the salt of the earth, Christians should make sure that the “innocent” Equal Rights Amendment is not another apple for Eve!
Mrs. Rosemary Thomson is a free-lance writer who lives in Morton, Illinois. This article is adapted and used by permission of the author.