An Iowa church has filed a federal lawsuit
against members of the state's Civil Rights Commission and others, saying their interpretation of a 2007 state law that added sexual orientation and gender identity to the Iowa Civil Rights Act would prohibit churches from preaching about biblical views of sexuality.
The suit also says Iowa churches would be forced to allow transgendered persons to use the restrooms of their choice even during church services.
The suit was filed on July 4 by the Alliance Defending Freedom, a Scottsdale, Arizona-based group that describes itself as "an alliance-building, non-profit legal organization that advocates for the right of people to freely live out their faith."
The group cites a section of guidelines
issued by the Civil Rights Commission that asks, "Does this Law Apply to Churches?"
The answer, according to the guidelines: "Sometimes."
Although Iowa law says the rules do not apply to religious institutions during times of "bona fide religious purpose," they are required to follow the rules in instances not deemed a bona fide religious purpose. Such cases, it says, include "a child care facility operated at a church or a church service open to the public."
That, the ADF says,
"encompasses most events that churches hold."
"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. That is a foundational First Amendment principle," ADF Legal Counsel Christiana Holcomb said. "Churches have always been protected from government intrusion, and they still are. They have a firmly established freedom to teach their beliefs and set internal policies that reflect their biblical teachings about marriage and human sexuality. One can hardly imagine a more obvious unconstitutional invasion of the state into the internal affairs of the church."
The lawsuit was filed on behalf of Fort Des Moines Church of Christ in Des Moines, and is a "pre-enforcement challenge," which allows a law to be challenged before it is enforced.
First Liberty Institute lawyer Chelsey Youman sent the commission a letter on behalf of another Iowa church, Cornerstone World Outreach, threatening its own lawsuit if the regulations are not retracted, The Federalist reports.
The guidelines contain "sweeping language forbidding 'hostility' and 'unwelcom[ing]' speech could be interpreted as restricting Cornerstone 's ability to teach its religious beliefs," the letter says. "The State of Iowa claims it has the power to regulate what churches can teach about human sexuality and how they operate their facilities. The government has absolutely no authority to force a church to violate its religious beliefs. This is a massive violation of the First Amendment.'
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