BLOGWhy SOGIs and Religious Freedom Are In Conflict

By Sarah Kramer Posted on: | June 01, 2017

Religious freedom and Sexual Orientation Gender Identity laws (SOGIs) are on a collision course.

SOGIs prohibit discrimination in facilities or accommodations open to the public. Although they may sound helpful, in practice, these laws have been used to trample religious freedom by forcing individuals and business owners to promote messages, ideas, and events that violate their deeply held religious convictions.

American citizens shouldn’t live in fear of being punished for living according to their convictions, yet that is exactly what these laws enable.

Religious liberty is a founding principle of our country, but SOGIs all too often trample this right. In the following three instances, SOGIs demand ideological conformity with the new sexual ethic, which results in Christians being punished for their beliefs and the actions they take based on those beliefs.

  • Under SOGIs, individuals are expected to leave their faith at home or be punished.

Christian printer Blaine Adamson respectfully referred a client wanting shirts promoting a gay pride festival to a different printer. The client then filed a discrimination complaint against Blaine, and a local human rights commission ordered him to undergo diversity training. Thankfully, a court recently upheld Blaine’s right to decline to print messages that violate his faith. But his story is not unique. Washington florist Barronelle Stutzman and Colorado cake artist Jack Phillips face similar lawsuits.

  • SOGIs do not allow creative professionals to live out their faith.

Christian photographer who politely declined to use her artistic talents to tell the story of a same-sex commitment ceremony through photographs spent 7 years in court and was ordered to pay nearly $7000 to the woman who sued her. Just as we defended that photographer, we are also representing a number of other creative professionals who have pre-emptively filed lawsuits against these laws. Those individuals—who include the owners of a custom art studio in Arizona, a graphic designer in Colorado, filmmakers in Minnesota, and a photographer and blogger in Wisconsin—want to protect their freedom to use their artistic talents in ways that are consistent with their faith.

  • SOGIs even threaten the freedom of churches, religious nonprofits, and Christian schools.

The Iowa and Massachusetts state governments tried to use these laws to force churches to stay silent on issues of biblical sexuality and to open their sex-specific facilities, like showers and restrooms, to members of the opposite sex. Fortunately, as a result of ADF lawsuits, those governments have backed off their threats to apply those laws to churches. But these legal issues are arising more often, and churches, religious nonprofits, and Christian schools should be prepared.

SOGI laws thus threaten individuals, business owners, and non-profit organizations that want to live and work according to their faith. Passing these laws puts Americans’ religious liberty at risk.

Government has a duty to protect free speech and religious freedom, yet these ordinances do the opposite.


This is the third post in a series on sexual orientation gender identity ordinances. To learn more and read the previous posts in this series, visit the links below:

Part 1: What Are Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity Ordinances?

Part 2: How This Seemingly Innocent Ordinance is a Major Threat to Your Privacy

Sarah Kramer

Digital Content Specialist

Sarah worked as an investigative reporter before joining the Alliance Defending Freedom team.

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