On Wednesday, Sept. 7, a federal judge in Texas ruled that requiring insurance companies to cover PrEP, the HIV prevention medication used primarily by gay men, violates the insurance companies’ rights “on religious grounds.” More simply put, the judge suggested that by requiring companies to pay insurance companies who in turn provide PrEP to LGBTQ individuals, they are being forced to “enable and encourage” homosexual behavior.
PrEP reduces the risk of contracting HIV by 99% when taken as recommended, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC also reports that 1 in 5 new cases are in women, not men.
As a Christian pastor and a gay man who has been on PrEP for five years, I can’t help but feel enraged by this ridiculous case and ruling. This ruling, first and foremost, is illogical. It opens the door for employers and insurance companies to refuse to provide treatment to anyone who lives in a way that the company disagrees with on religious grounds.
“It opens the door for employers and insurance companies to refuse to provide treatment to anyone who lives in a way that the company disagrees with on religious grounds.”
In fact, the lawsuit that led to this ruling was filed in 2020 by an Austin attorney who has been described as the legal mind behind the controversial six-week abortion ban in Texas. That lawsuit challenges the entire framework through which the federal government decides what preventive services get covered under the Affordable Care Act.
Many Christians would say smoking tobacco is a sin, too. Does this mean their insurance companies shouldn’t provide medical treatment to people with lung cancer due to smoking? According to this logic, it would seem so. This ruling allows for the weaponizing of insurance coverage and medical care, only providing treatment for the people and procedures we deem to be in alignment with our subjective religious or political views.
This ruling is fundamentally un-Christian. Even the most irreligious in our society know that Jesus’ most central command was to love our neighbors as ourselves — even the ones we disagree with. If as a Christian you don’t want to help protect LGBTQ people from becoming HIV positive through a truly miraculous medication, then you don’t love your neighbor. In fact, I’d suggest that you’re displaying hatred toward your neighbor by actively working to harm them.
There’s not a single instance in the teachings of Jesus where he commands his disciples to legislate their beliefs or to refuse to help people they consider to be “sinners” — in fact, it’s exactly the opposite. Jesus consistently went out of his way to help those others scoffed at and marginalized. This is the entire point of Jesus’ parable of the Good Samaritan — teaching Christians to go out of their way to help those that they’re not “supposed” to fraternize with.
We’re in a stunning moment of American history where MAGA Republicans have been re-empowered to use their skewed version of “Christianity” as a battering ram to beat down all those whom they disagree with, and this is only the beginning. We’re going to continue to see an assault on women’s rights, LGBTQ rights, immigrants’ rights and racial justice in this country by those who believe they have a mandate from God to protect their own power and privilege at all costs.
When someone is convinced God is on their side, they can do all manner of evil and injustice, such as taking away this lifesaving pill from the queer community or access to comprehensive reproductive health care from women, without batting an eye.
“When someone is convinced God is on their side, they can do all manner of evil and injustice.”
In this moment of history, while we may understandably be tempted to blame “religion” or “Christianity” broadly for these attacks on our dignity and equality, now more than ever progressive movements of justice must align with progressive faith communities to highlight the moral high ground we all stand upon. By demonizing “Christianity” and “religion,” we will only play into the hands of the MAGA Republicans who want to paint a narrative of the “faithful” versus the “ungodly.”
But the truth is that the progressive values that are under attack are clearly the more moral and Christ-like values, and we must continue to highlight this for the world to see. For the millions of progressive people of faith across this nation, now is our moment to stand up and put our necks on the line for those who are being targeted by the far right. And when progressive political and social movements come together with progressive faith communities, I believe we will unlock a powerful moral force that can confront and defeat the immorality of the modern MAGA Christians.
These attacks are going to keep coming, and if we are to prevent the MAGA movement from continuing to do irreparable harm to our democracy and its most vulnerable citizens, we’ve got to reclaim our place loudly and unashamedly as the holders of the moral high ground as progressives — both secular and people of faith.
Brandan Robertson is a New York City-based author, activist and public theologian working at the intersections of spirituality, sexuality and social renewal. He serves as lead pastor of Metanoia Church, a digital progressive faith community, and is host of The Unorthodox Podcast. He is the author of seven books on spirituality, justice and theology. Named by the Human Rights Campaign as one of the top faith leaders leading the fight for LGBTQ equality, Robertson has worked with political leaders and activists around the world to end conversion therapy and promote the human rights of sexual and gender minorities. He earned a bachelor of arts degree in pastoral ministry and theology from Moody Bible Institute, a master of theological studies degree from Iliff School of Theology and a master of arts in political science and public administration from Eastern Illinois University. He is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in religion at Drew University. This column is excerpted from his forthcoming book, Dry Bones and Holy Wars: A Call for Social and Spiritual Renewal.
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