If there’s any case that shows churches across the country should be vigilant in watching and preparing for threats to religious liberty, it’s a 2016 case that Alliance Defending Freedom filed in Iowa.
Yes, Iowa – right out of the heartland.
You see, Iowa has a state law that prohibits “public accommodations” from “indicating” that a person is “unwelcome” based on his or her “gender identity.”
So, you might be wondering, what does that have to do with churches in Iowa?
Well, in 2016, the Iowa Civil Rights Commission proclaimed that this state law applied to churches. That meant that churches could be forced to open their showers and restrooms to members of the opposite biological sex, and even censor their speech about human sexuality.
As you can imagine, this didn’t sit right with Fort Des Moines Church of Christ.
Fort Des Moines’ motto is to love God, love people, and serve everyone. Because of this motto, the congregation is active in the community and welcomes anyone to come to their church services to hear the good news of the Gospel.
But because the church welcomes nonmembers to attend its worship services and other activities, this state law could be used against it. Based on the Iowa Civil Rights Commission’s interpretation of state law, if the pastor spoke on what the Bible says about human sexuality, or if the church required people at the church to use the private facilities that line up with their biological sex, the church could be punished under the law.
In July 2016, Alliance Defending Freedom filed a lawsuit on behalf of Fort Des Moines Church of Christ against this unprecedented overreach by the Iowa Civil Rights Commission. Thankfully, in October 2016, a federal district court held that churches are not public accommodations subject to government control.
Threats like these are becoming more frequent. It is no longer a question of if churches will be threatened or sued for standing true to God’s Word – the question is when and where such cases will arise.
That’s why ADF created the Church Alliance, an affordable membership program that prepares, advises, and even litigates on behalf of churches as the legal culture tests the limits of religious freedom.
Members of the ADF Church Alliance receive:
- Legal review of church bylaws and policies that relate to protecting the church’s religious liberty;
- Direct access to attorneys to answer your questions about protecting the church’s religious liberty;
- Consultation for legal issues involving the church’s religious liberty (prior to litigation);
- Legal representation in cases involving the churches’ religious liberty (e.g., employment, land use, tax exemption, church member discipline/ removal, requests to use church facilities, government mandates or unconstitutional regulation, volunteer requirements, equal access to government property or benefits, and clergy confidentiality); and
- Specialized resources such as webinars and newsletters tailored to protecting the religious liberty of the Church.
Visit the Church Alliance website to learn more about how your church can become a member.