Iowa Challenged Over Concerns Churches Banned From Speaking, Living Beliefs on Gender Identity

churchDES MOINES, Iowa — A congregation on Iowa has filed a federal lawsuit against the state Civil Rights Commission over concerns that its interpretation of local laws pertaining to gender identity prohibits churches from speaking about or living out its beliefs on the issue.

According to Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), which filed the suit on Monday, the Commission’s publication “Public Accommodations Provider’s Guide to Iowa Law” says that sometimes churches are required to follow restroom use and speech laws.

“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),” the publication reads.

In addition to regulations about public accommodations, the Des Moines city code outlines that it is illegal to “[d]irectly or indirectly print or circulate or cause to be printed or circulated any advertisement, statement, publication or use any form of application for entrance and membership which expresses, directly or indirectly, any limitation, specification or discrimination as to race, religion, creed, color, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, national origin, ancestry or disability…”

Fort Des Moines Church of Christ says that the law, coupled with the Commission’s interpretation, has caused its leaders to be mum on certain issues out of concern that it “will be sanctioned if it expresses its religious beliefs regarding biological sex during its religious services, Bible studies, other religious programming, and various events and activities held in its buildings, or if it distributes its facility policy regarding shower and restroom use.”

Cornerstone World Outreach has similar concerns, and has likewise obtained legal counsel over the matter.

“It’s fundamentally wrong and I can’t comply with that,” Pastor Cary Gordon told the Daily Signal.. “I’ve taken an oath to the Lord Jesus Christ, and I obey the Bible above all men. … I have to obey God, and that puts me in a precarious position.”

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The legal group First Liberty sent a demand letter to the Commission on Tuesday, contending that its interpretation of the law “is a government mandate that the church violate its sincerely held religious beliefs under penalty of law.”

“[T]he Commission requires places of public accommodation, which includes churches, to segregate living facilities, locker rooms, and restrooms based on gender identity. In other words, Cornerstone cannot require that patrons and congregants use its facilities based on their biological sex,” it wrote.

“Furthermore, the Brochure’s sweeping language forbidding ‘hostility’ and ‘unwelcom[ing]’ speech could be interpreted as restricting Cornerstone’s ability to teach its religious beliefs. Each of these mandates is an impermissible violation of Cornerstone World Outreach’s constitutional rights to free exercise of religion and
free speech,” the letter continued.

First Liberty is asking that the Commission alter its guidelines and declare that Cornerstone World Outreach will be exempt from any enforcement action. The group may likewise file a legal challenge if the response is not satisfactory.

“This is a clear case of the state violating the sanctity of the church. It should send chills down the spine of every congregation in Iowa,” Chief of Staff Chelsey Youman said in a statement. “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.”

“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,” also remarked ADF Legal Counsel Christiana Holcomb.

“Churches have always been protected from government intrusion, and they still are,” she added. “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.”


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  • Amos Moses

    If the words in the constitution do not have the meaning that the writers of it intended ……… then it is all meaningless and we are now in a dictatorship of depravity and totalitarianism ….. it makes absolutely no difference who is elected ………… we are now ruled by courts and the depraved persons that inhabit and rely on them ………… was fun while it lasted …….

    • Ambulance Chaser

      How do you propose we figure out what the writers intended if they’re long dead? Hold a seance?

      • Amos Moses

        You can read, right ……… we have their writings on the subject ………….

        • Ambulance Chaser

          Sometimes. Sometimes we don’t. But what we always have is a conflict between writers. So whose intentions should we use?

      • http://verbus.dreamhosters.com OneBreadOneBody

        As one who often admires your cogent comments, I must say that that’s a
        foolish argument and beneath your usual standards. The conflict between
        strict constructionism and an “evolving document” is a complex and
        thoroughly debated topic. No point in making it a red herring.

  • Jalapeno

    The article even spells out that when a church is doing something for religious purposes, the laws aren’t applied.

    Much ado about nothing.

    • Ambulance Chaser

      That argument won’t carry any legal weight. You don’t get to do something that’s illegal and claim “I’m doing this because of my religion, so you can’t touch me! Nyah nyah!”

      A better argument is that churches aren’t public accommodations.

      • Jalapeno

        It’s not quite the same as just ignoring a law…the law is saying “the law applies to non-religious activities within the church, but not the religious activities.”…the exception is already granted.

        The only reason it’s even an issue to begin with is that things that would normally be subject to these laws, such as a daycare, are being held on the premise.

      • http://verbus.dreamhosters.com OneBreadOneBody

        I agree. Allowing the government to expand the definition of “public accommodation” to suit its political ends is a gross infringement of the church’s First Amendment rights. Even if a church building is used for secular purposes, it is still the property of a religious institution and the state has no right to infringe upon the free use of their private property.

        As little as a year ago I was being pooh-poohed for suggesting that obergefell v. hodges would lead to unavoidable infringements of just this type. It took no time at all for gay marriage to be parlayed into an expansive gender identity issue that has nothing to do with the original finding. I’m getting quite weary of trying to explain the law of unintended consequences to people who feel that no social change could possibly result in them. This is only the tip of a very nasty iceberg.

        When the free exercise of speech can now be chilled by the prospect of prosecution for “hate speech,” it is only a matter of time before people are forced to refrain from voicing any opinions at all lest they let slip one not approved by the government. Canada has already seen ministers subjected to criminal prosecution for teaching what they believe to be biblical truth.
        How soon, do you suppose, will we have state-approved churches like China?

        I will no doubt be roundly criticized for pointing out a slippery slope by those who enjoy the slide.

  • Josey

    Good for them, sue them! And if they lose this lawsuit due to the corruptness of the system, then they still must preach Christ Jesus and Him crucified and the truths written in God’s word and accept the consequence. God puts His word above all else and we must also, trust in Christ no matter what and give all glory to Him alone!

    John 3:16-21 vs16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. 17 For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. 18 He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. 19 And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. 20 For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved. 21 But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God.

  • bowie1

    It could be argued that using the bathroom of your biological sex is (for religious purposes) living out your faith.

    • gramps675

      As long as you don’t prevent someone who disagrees with you from using that same bathroom….

      • TheBottomline4This

        What a load…pun intended.
        But you can deny those who don’t want to knowingly be in the same bathroom with a trans their rights???

        • gramps675

          No, I’m not denying them anything. If they are SO uncomfortable being around transgendered people, that is their problem, not mine. I’m not forcing ANYONE to leave the bathroom. That’s what YOU are trying to do.

          • TheBottomline4This

            Oh are you saying you are trans?

          • gramps675

            No, but I have two friends who are. I thought this kind of evil discrimination ended in the 60’s.

          • TheBottomline4This

            Well that’s good. You do know it’s an emotional / mental illness right? Or are you convinced it’s not?
            There is always a reason why someone chooses that path. Bruce Jenner and Laverne Cox revealed each of his reasons of what brought it on for them in interviews. Google it.
            God, whether you believe in Him or not, makes no mistakes in making us the gender/sex we are born. Your friends will die the sex they were born.
            Any discrimination comes from them toward their born gender/sex. That is where the discrimination lies in them not living their true selves as the gender/sex they were born and will die.

          • gramps675

            Wow, glad to know you are a better expert at my friends’ lives than they are. Your egotism is off the charts. And our courts will not allow you to limit the rights of others based on your lack of “bathroom comfort.”

          • TheBottomline4This

            God, whether you believe in Him or not, makes no mistakes in making us the gender/sex we are born. Your friends will die the sex they were born.
            Any discrimination comes from them toward their born gender/sex. That is where the discrimination lies in them not living their true selves as the gender/sex they were born and will die.

        • gramps675

          It reminds me of some of the old legal arguments where people said, “What about my RIGHT to NOT be around black people?”

          • ComeOnPeople!

            Using race issues and laws created to protect different races is silly with this issue. Someone believing they are a woman when they are indeed a man has nothing to do with race equality or with women receiving equal pay under the law. People of color have never been deemed delusional by Psychology… yet those who declare themselves to be something other them what they are not have always been deemed mentally ill & delusional by Psychology up until recently. Now one who is black and claims to be white or white and claims to be black would work better in your comparisons.

          • gramps675

            And this is why your side continues to lose battles. You completely miss the obvious logic and repetition of history that the rest of America sees you committing.

          • ComeOnPeople!

            Actually I do see history repeating itself. In history when propaganda put out by the media starts blaming religion people for it’s struggles and ills eventually people start believing it. Then when those so called horrible religious folks are being marched to their death, not for any crimes committed but because they hold onto God’s word and HIS precepts, you along with others will just sit back and do nothing and rejoice because finally the view you so hate will finally be snuffed out & leave you to enjoy your own lusts.

            Sorry to say but I have not been snuffed out yet and I will continue to promote the ways of God and true love until that happens. This is actually about a battle you cannot see. A battle that goes way deeper then the surface . One that seeks to pervert God’s Creation and destroy HIS image. One that promotes self worship and idolatry . Why because the enemy of God hates HIS Creation. So choose you this day who you will serve… the ONE who Created you or the enemy of your soul.

          • gramps675

            Nice martyr complex. I bet you have to practice hard to look “crucified” every day.

      • bowie1

        I can’t imagine anyone doing that anyway in our own little Canadian church and we do have a handicapped washroom which can be used by all, besides two locations for men and women of all ages which has one toilet in each one and a urinal + one toilet in the men’s washrooms. P.S. There has been some similar controversies here also.

        • gramps675

          Well, the separate “family” bathroom is a start. But you are probably right in that in a small community this may never be an issue.

  • TheBottomline4This

    The opposite view is being spoken in some churches, so what’s the problem. What I mean is there are churches supporting this sort of thing (trans issues) speaking about it and welcoming it with open arms, so if you want that, then don’t go to the Churches that have the opposite view. Each person will attend the church that tickles their ears and in some cases vices.
    Some churches are fairly liberal and some are fairly conservative. No one forces you to go to either. If you go to church, go to the one that fits your views. But make sure you don’t cause problems for the ones that you disagree with…..doing that shows it’s an agenda motivated action when you do that.
    We’ve visited a lot of churches through the years. The ones we didn’t agree with, we didn’t go back to, but we also let them be and didn’t make our disagreements with their views an issue or try to cause them trouble.
    Sadly, there are some these days who think that is their “mission”.

  • Scott Davenport

    Boy…..Satan is having a field day with his girlieman crap, and he knows how this disgusts us so he’s just heapin’ it on… 🙂 Fear not… God our father said these times would come so just stick to your principals and laugh in Satan’s face because he isn’t foolin’ us a bit…. 🙂

    • TheBottomline4This

      Our Church has a plan in place. They had the attorney help with the wording so it would be clear. The hateful ones who would want to be like this are not in control. We are prepared to stand up to this stupidity. Churches and other places are getting prepared for satan and his pawns next move.

      • gramps675

        What exactly is the “plan” your church is using?

        • TheBottomline4This

          lol if you think I would disclose any of the details.
          Silly ol Gramps.

          • gramps675

            Aw, so its a “secret” plan. Gotcha. Good luck with that. Remember, any policies you pass must be made known to ALL who might enter your church. Otherwise, you run a big lawsuit risk…. Perhaps you need a better lawyer if he told you that your “secret” plan was legal…..

          • TheBottomline4This

            I think your alzheimer’s is kicking in Gramps. I never used the word secret. You’re silly to think I would share the plans on here. There’s no chance of a lawsuit sweetie. Now go take your pills.

          • gramps675

            Good luck with that. Your side has won SO many of these battles….

          • TheBottomline4This

            You learn soon enough Gramps 🙂

          • gramps675

            As will you when you try to “enforce” your discrimination.

          • TheBottomline4This

            Wrong Gramps. As I said, the attorney helped with the wording so it would be clear 🙂

          • gramps675

            If it prevents a person from using the bathroom of the sex they identify with, it won’t matter how clear it is. Just ask the BEST lawyers on your side, Liberty Counsel, how many of these fights they have won? Last I checked, they have lost 41 out of 44 cases….. But maybe your lawyer has figured out a way to get around the law. The fact that you are AFRAID to tell me your policy proves you are not sure if it is legal…..

          • TheBottomline4This

            I can only conclude you are ignorant to understand these simple words…I won’t share on this forum any info about it. That’s not being afraid silly.
            If you are so comfortable sharing things on a forum like this, give us your social security number or your address. I’ll wait…..

          • gramps675

            Sorry, but now I KNOW you have very little legal understanding. If you equate my personal information with your “hidden public accommodation exceptions” you and your church are in for a rough legal ride. Seriously, if your group worked SO hard to make sure it was legal, why not SHARE it with EVERYONE, so other churches can turn away the LGBT community from their worship centers.

          • TheBottomline4This

            You know no such thing of what I know about that. Just because I’m not filling you in on things doesn’t make you right Gramps.
            “If you equate my personal information with your “hidden public accommodation exceptions” ” So that’s what you think about why I asked that? lol Oh the hilarity of your ignorance.

          • gramps675

            I’m only ignorant because you are afraid to share your legal-airtight-defense of discriminating against the transgender community. Ball is in your court. Which is where your church will be if you aren’t careful.

          • TheBottomline4This

            I’m not afraid fool. You just can’t seem to get it. Please take your meds dude. You’re just bothered I’m not spilling the beans to you. I don’t have to…you are not part of our church.

          • gramps675

            Neither are the courts or our congress, but you still have to obey the laws of the land. And stop with the name-calling. It is just showing me that you are VERY NERVOUS about your church’s legal standing on this now.

          • TheBottomline4This

            LOL. I’m VERY comfortable with what the church decided and the work the lawyer did 🙂

          • gramps675

            I hope so. The future of your church depends on it.

          • TheBottomline4This

            The future of the Church is strong and the unbeliever can do NOTHING to change that 🙂

          • gramps675

            Actually, you ought to check the stats. Millenials are not joining churches. The “Nones” are growing. I bet your church is made up of primarily over 40 year olds….. You are dying a slow death because today’s young people don’t approve discrimination.

  • Robert

    Evidently.Iowa some how must have succeeded from the united states constitution. This now up to lawers ,To find out how they were able to do that.

    • Nidalap

      I don’t even have to be a lawyer to know that. The Constitution may be the supreme law of the land, but it shares the same weakness as all other laws.
      If there is no one willing to enforce it, it effectively ceases to exist…

  • Robert

    This whole thing was dreamed up by out of work lawyers. is my guess

  • Grace Kim Kwon

    Atheists target pastors and religious leaders throughout the world in their dominion. America is no exception. Now the pastors are being made in the frontlines not just those who are in the wedding businesses. Falsehood always demands more victims. If one is bullied, everyone will be bullied sooner or later. It’s so sad to see the LGBT people and their amusement-seeking supporters repay to the Christian charity by oppressing the Christian population in the land this century. Christians must battle for religious liberty for the glory of God and for the sake of all children and the defenseless in the free world. It’s a shame to bow to today’s Western sexual chaos since the West was once before the truth-seeking, liberty-upholding Christendom, not a pagan. True men of God do not submit to Sodom but to God alone. When the pastors stand up for the Word of God, the whole world sees how serious the faith is. USA must read the Holy Bible again to regain the truth, human dignity, morality, and liberty. Cultures only have barbarisms or mentally-ill depravity apart from the Word of God; today’s America is the proof.

  • Michael C

    Here’s the sentence in the Iowa Civil Rights Commission brochure that is causing all of the confusion;

    “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),” [emphasis mine]

    This unfortunate wording wasn’t, apparently, intended to imply that a religious service is considered a “public accommodation.” If you read the section that defines “public accommodations,” you will see that a church is clearly not considered one. When this brochure was written in 2008, the wording “church service” was meant as economic goods and services offered to the general public by a church.

    …like a business.

    All of this stuff about the government dictating what churches preach is simply a pack of lies spread by ADF with the intention of repealing laws that protect gay and transgender men and women from discrimination housing, employment, and public accommodations.

    That’s the real goal here. Alliance Defending Freedom wants it to be legal to deny gay and transgender men and women housing, employment, and public accommodations.

    • http://verbus.dreamhosters.com OneBreadOneBody

      I concur that the wording is unfortunate. But I fail to see the part where the ADF is attempting to repeal the law, only to ensure its proper application. Laws protecting gay and transgendered people would in no way be weakened by preserving the inviolability of a place of worship. These hot-button issues need cooler hands. A little more understanding on both sides would go a long, long way.

      • Michael C

        Laws protecting gay and transgendered people would in no way be weakened by preserving the inviolability of a place of worship.

        I completely agree with you. However, I fail to understand how a poor wording choice on a brochure summarizing a law threatens anyone’s rights. A simple correction on a web page is all that was required.

        I fail to see the part where the ADF is attempting to repeal the law

        Unfortunately, just about every attack on non-discrimination laws inclusive of gay and transgender citizens in the U.S. comes from Alliance Defending Freedom. They’ve represented every single business that has illegally denied service to gay couples and they have been involved with the repeals of the non-discrimination ordinances in Fayetteville, Charlotte, and Houston.

        At this point, it’s still perfectly legal for businesses to discriminate against gay people in most of the country. Representatives in the majority of states and cities that still allow this type of discrimination are working hard to bring about change democratically. ADF knows that if they spread enough misinformation and fear concerning lgbt non-discrimination ordinances, they can possibly turn the public’s opinion against the equal treatment of gay people.

        • http://verbus.dreamhosters.com OneBreadOneBody

          I too am troubled by the ADF’s shift in focus from advocacy to active litigation. They went from being the Alliance Defense fund to the Alliance Defending Liberty. It feeds into this all-or-nothing mentality that is rending this nation. I am old enough to remember when politics was a battle between friendly adversaries, when the goal was to find common ground and the means to co-exist. If the Christian Right could show a little more Christian love and not be so victimized at every slight we might do much to end discrimination. But there is plenty of blame to share in this regard. It has gotten to the point that expressing disagreement with any part of the gay political agenda marks you as a homophobe. Likewise, a Christian who shows any sympathy toward the cause of gay rights is ostracized and pelted with bible verses.

          In the long run, both LGBT rights and religious freedom in the US are being hindered by intransigence on both sides. There are people who are trying to find workable political solutions, but cursed be the peacemakers today.

          I appreciate your candor as well as your willingness to engage on the actual issues.

  • http://www.bibleversusconstitution.org/ Kingdom Ambassador

    This in accord with Reynolds v. the United States:

    “…It didn’t take long for this allegedly neutral government to formally become overtly anti-Christian in what is perhaps the most important case ever adjudicated by the Supreme Court. A mere one hundred years after the adoption of the Bill of Rights, Reynolds v. the United States (1879) addressed the Mormon Church’s claim that polygamy was a right
    afforded them under Amendment 1. Because most Americans find polygamy repugnant, the magnitude of Supreme Court Justice Morrison Waite’s decision is lost on them [Note especially the first and last sentences]:

    ‘Laws are made for the government of actions, and while they cannot interfere with mere religious belief and opinions, they may with practices. Suppose one believed that human sacrifices were a necessary part of religious worship, would it be seriously contended that the civil government under which he lived could not interfere to prevent a sacrifice?… So here, as a law of the organization of society under the exclusive dominion of the United States, it is provided that plural marriages shall not be allowed. Can a man excuse his practices to the
    contrary because of his religious belief? To permit this would be to make the professed doctrines of religious belief superior to the law of the land.’11

    “Contrary to Matthew 7:21-2712 and James 1:22-25, the Supreme Court ruled that a man’s actions can be severed and isolated from his faith and thereby judged illegal according to the Constitution and its supplemental edicts. This precedent paved the way for any Christian14 action based upon a Biblical conviction—such as preaching against sodomy—to be arbitrarily outlawed in the same fashion. Had the framers established Yahweh’s unchanging law and its predetermined immutable morality as the supreme law of the land, polygamy and human sacrifice (and all other issues) would have fallen under its jurisdiction and thereby determined to be either lawful or unlawful.

    “It only took a hundred years for this ostensibly innocuous government to officially strip Christians of their dominion responsibility and send them cowering to their church buildings, transforming what was Christendom in the 1600s into mere four-walled Christianity today….”

    For more, see blog article “Ten Reasons Why Romans 13 is Not About Secular Government, Pt. 9.” Click on my picture, then our website. Go to our Blog and click on the top entry.