SAINT JOHNS, Michigan (LifeSiteNews) – A Catholic parish in the Diocese of Lansing is filing a lawsuit against Michigan Democrat Attorney General Dana Nessel and other state officials, arguing that the prevailing interpretation of a state “civil rights” law imperils its constitutional rights to free speech and religious exercise.
In July, the Michigan Supreme Court ruled that the word “sex” in the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act encompassed sexual orientation and gender identity in addition to biological sex, deciding against businesses that fear being forced to affirm gender confusion or same-sex “wedding” ceremonies.
In response, St. Joseph Parish has enlisted the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty in a lawsuit meant to keep this new interpretation from the law from infringing on the rights of religious institutions, such as ensuring that employees and students accept and abide by Catholic principles.
The court’s ruling “threatens the school’s right to hire staff who will faithfully pass on the tenets of the faith to the next generation,” Becket explained. “Not only that, but because St. Joseph’s welcomes the public to its facilities, it faces the risk of being held liable for discrimination because of its sincere religious beliefs about gender and marriage.”
According to a press release by the Diocese of Lansing, the lawsuit filed December 5 lays out several scenarios in which the parish could be harmed, such as denying gender-confused individuals access to opposite-sex restrooms, lockers, and athletic teams, or rejecting requests to host same-sex “weddings” or receptions.
“For almost a century Saint Joseph School has quietly and faithfully taught successive generations of children in the town of Saint Johns to become good, saintly and virtuous citizens who are formed by the teachings of Jesus Christ and His Holy Church on all matters of faith and morals,” said Bishop Earl Boyea of Lansing. “I therefore fully support the parish community of Saint Joseph in seeking this important legal ruling to ensure that they – and all Catholic schools and institutions in Michigan – remain protected by the First Amendment to the US Constitution in order to continue their God-given mission into the next century and beyond.”
Legal efforts to force Christian small businesses to affirm or participate in same-sex unions have been ongoing for years. The U.S. Supreme Court had an opportunity to clearly rebuke such efforts in 2018 when it sided with Colorado baker Jack Phillips. But instead of clearly affirming that Phillips’ First Amendment rights had been violated, it ruled merely that the state civil rights commission had displayed a “clear and impermissible hostility toward” his “sincere religious beliefs.” As a result, Phillips remains locked in lawsuits to this day.
On Monday, the nation’s highest court began hearing oral arguments in another case, this time concerning a Christian web designer, that religious liberty advocates hope could settle the issue in a more conclusive manner.