Second lawsuit filed against Iowa transgender civil rights law
DES MOINES, July 7, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) – The state of Iowa is responding to two lawsuits filed by churches that fear its interpretation of the civil rights law would bar pastors from preaching a traditional Christian view of gender.
Two separate lawsuits have been filed against the Iowa Civil Rights Commission over provisions in the state's civil rights act relating to sexual preference and gender identity.
In a 2007 pamphlet, the commission said laws forcing public accommodations to open their restrooms to members of the opposite biological sex “sometimes” apply to churches. “Where qualifications are not related to a bona fide religious purpose, churches are still subject to the law’s provisions (e.g., a child care facility operated at a church or a church service open to the public),” it stated.
That provoked two lawsuits. Fort Des Moines Church of Christ, which is represented by the Alliance Defending Freedom, filed suit on July 4. “The language of the Act and the City Code are broad enough to include within that prohibition sermons, theological expositions, educational speeches, newsletters or church worship bulletin text, or other statements from the Church and its leaders,” that legal brief says.
The second was filed by Cornerstone World Outreach, a 900-member church in Sioux City, which is represented by the Liberty Institute.
“According to their interpretation of the Iowa code, if you discuss anything out of the Scripture that relates to sexuality or marriage … you’re not in compliance with the law and you can be sort of treated like a criminal,” Pastor Cary Gordon told The Daily Signal.
“I would hate to see a day when a pastor for doing his duties is arrested or something and taken to jail,” he said.
The state civil rights commission's executive director, Kristin H. Johnson is responding by saying that the commission doesn't intend to erode the existing religious exemptions that it believes are rightly in place.
"The Iowa Civil Rights Commission has not made any changes in its interpretation of the law, nor does it intend to ignore the exemption for religious institutions when applicable," she told the liberal website ThinkProgress this week. "The Iowa Civil Rights Commission remains committed to fighting discrimination as provided in Iowa law. Complaints against religious institutions as public accommodations have not been considered by the Iowa Civil Rights Commission."
However, LGBT activists tell local media that the scope of protected activity may be more limited than pastors appreciate.
Donna Red Wing, executive director of the LGBT group One Iowa, said, "If they are involved in a bona fide religious activity they are exempt.”
“If they are offering public accommodation that could be a camp open to all kids, could be a food pantry. If they receive funds from local, state, or federal government that takes them out of the bona fide religious activity into public accommodation," she said.
Tom Conley, another member of the Iowa Civil Rights Commission, said, "I think there is room for compromise and I don't think we've really had that.”
“On one hand, we have people who believe their religious rights are being violated,” Conley said. “On the other hand, there is a perception people who are transgender, gay, or lesbian are trying to cram it down the throat of people who aren't."
The commission is to respond to Pastor Gordon's lawsuit by August 5.