Iowa state government looks to silence churches preaching biblical interpretation of sexual identity

The Iowa Civil Rights Commission has issued an interpretation of the law that would prevent churches from teaching biblical views on sexuality and gender identity.

I think I read somewhere that this is sort of illegal.

Washington Times:

Fort Des Moines Church of Christ filed a federal lawsuit against the commission on Monday, arguing that the agency’s interpretation of the Iowa Civil Rights Act violates the First Amendment.

Christiana Holcomb, legal counsel for the Alliance Defending Freedom, which represents the church, said it is difficult to “imagine a more obvious unconstitutional invasion of the state into the internal affairs of the church” than what theCivil Rights Commission is proposing.

“Churches should be free to teach their religious beliefs and operate their houses of worship according to their faith without being threatened by the government,” Ms. Holcomb said in a statement. “That is a foundational First Amendment principle.”

The lawsuit came in response to an explanatory brochure titled “Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity — A Public Accommodations Provider’s Guide to Iowa Law,” released by the Civil Rights Commission. It says churches are public accommodations and therefore generally subject to the Iowa Civil Rights Act.

Under a section header titled “Does this law apply to churches?” the brochure says: “Sometimes. Iowa law provides that these protections do not apply to religious institutions with respect to any religion-based qualifications when such qualifications are related to a bona fide religious purpose.”

“Where qualifications are not related to a bona fide religious purpose, churches are still subject to the law’s provisions,” the brochure continues, adding that church activities such as “a child care facility operated at a church or a church service open to the public” are not examples of “bona fide religious purpose[s].”

A spokesperson for the commission did not respond to questions about who decides what a “bona fide religious purpose” is and what church activities — if not a “church service open to the public” — would qualify as “bona fide religious purpose[s].”

The brochure also defines discrimination as, among other things, “publicizing that the patronage of persons of any particular sexual orientation or gender identity is unwelcome, objectionable, not acceptable, or not solicited.”

The lawsuit says the Civil Rights Commission’s interpretation could force churches to permit access to sex-segregated facilities on the basis of gender identity. Refusing to call a transgender person by the pronoun corresponding with their gender identity could constitute illicit “harassment.”

The money quote here is "bona fide religious purpose." Apparently, a church service open to the public is defined as a "public accommodation" thus making sermons subject to civil rights law. You may recall they tried to pull something similar in Houston only to have the red faced mayor pull the rule after a nationwide outcry.

So far, this story doesn't appear to have gotten much traction outside of religious websites. But your bones will be chilled if you read what an LGBT advocate says about the commission's interpretation, 

Donna Red Wing, executive director of pro-LGBT rights One Iowa, said the lawsuit has no merit.

“Do we understand what is happening? They are suing the Iowa Civil Rights Commission for doing its job,” Ms. Red Wing said in a statement.

“As a church, they can believe whatever they want,” she continued. “In their bona fide religious activities, they are exempt. They cannot, however, break the law when providing public accommodation.

I can easily see this ruling being upheld by SCOTUS if Clinton is elected president and gets to name a Supreme Court judge or two. 

As if the stakes in November weren't already high.


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