Iowa Asks Judge to Dismiss Congregation’s Concerns Over Applying Gender Identity Laws to Churches

Church-Open-Sign-pdDES MOINES, Iowa — An attorney for the state of Iowa asked a federal judge on Wednesday to dismiss a congregation’s concerns that the Iowa Human Rights Commission might interpret local laws pertaining to gender identity as prohibiting houses of worship from living out its beliefs on the issue.

As previously reported, the Commission’s initial publication issued earlier this year, entitled “Public Accommodations Provider’s Guide to Iowa Law,” noted 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 brochure read.

One of Des Moines nondiscrimination laws also 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…”

Therefore, out of concern that the Commission might punish churches for their restroom policies and/or for speaking about their biblical stances on gender identity, the Fort Des Moines Church of Christ filed a lawsuit over the matter.

Attorneys representing Cornerstone World Outreach also sent a demand letter to the Commission, contending that its interpretation of the law “is a government mandate that the church violate its sincerely held religious beliefs under penalty of law.”

In response, the Commission adjusted the concerning section of its brochure to provide clarification.

“Places of worship (e.g. churches, synagogues, mosques, etc.) are generally exempt from the Iowa law’s prohibition of discrimination, unless the place of worship engages in non-religious activities which are open to the public,” the new text now reads. “The law may apply to an independent day care or polling places located on the premises of the place of worship.”

  • Connect with Christian News

It asserted that its original language was never meant to punish pastors.

“The Iowa Civil Rights Commission has not done anything to suggest it would be enforcing these laws against ministers in the pulpit, and there has been no new publication or statement from the ICRC raising the issue,” director Kristin Johnson told the Des Moines Register.

But attorneys with Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) said that the fix did not go far enough to provide assurances that churches will not face legal sanctions as it still applies to “non-religious activities which are open to the public.”

“While the commission was right to remove some of the most disturbing language in its brochure, the change in the brochure doesn’t fix the inherent problem with the Civil Rights Act that forms the basis of the lawsuit—that the act gives the commission power to determine what parts of a church’s activities do not have a ‘bona fide religious purpose’ and are thereby subject to the act’s prohibitions,” ADF legal counsel Christiana Holcomb said in a statement.

On Wednesday, Assistant Attorney General Molly Weber, along with Des Moines attorney Michelle Mackel, asked U.S. District Judge Stephanie Rose to toss the legal challenge, asserting that the concerns are unfounded.

“This is a case about unreasonable fears,” Weber said, although repeating during the hearing that there might be some situations where the rules would apply, such as using the church for day care or a polling station.

ADF attorney Steve O’Ban contended that it is “unprecedented” for any state to apply public accommodations laws to churches, and said that the Commission had too much discretion to determine whether an activity is religious or not.

He provided an example of a church having a movie night that was open to the public, and questioned if the Commission would launch an investigation and discern whether the activity was religious enough if there were ever a complaint.

“You don’t sift through the activities and weigh whether one is religious and one is not,” O’Ban said, according to the Des Moines Register. “Are they going to sit there with a checklist?”

Rose is expected to rule on the matter in the near future. She acknowledged during the hearing that the matter involved “complex constitutional issues” as it pertains to activities at houses of worship that are outside of scheduled church services.

Become a Christian News Network Supporter...

Dear Reader, has been of benefit and a blessing to you? For many years now, the Lord has seen fit to use this small news outlet as a strong influential resource in keeping Christians informed on current events from a Biblical worldview. Despite Facebook's recent algorithm changes, which has limited our readership, and, as a result, has affected operational revenue, we continue to strive to bring you the news without compromise and to keep Christ in focus. If you have benefited from our news coverage, would you please prayerfully consider becoming a Christian News supporter by clicking here to make a one-time or monthly donation to help keep the truth widely and freely published and distributed? May Christ continue to be exalted through this work!

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
  • BravesFan

    Don’t buy it for a second. We all know what is going on, and I’m not going to be falling for any of these empty and false “assurances.”

  • Grace Kim Kwon

    God creates gender, and man cannot falsely identify it as he wishes or feels. A civilization that knowingly denies the Creator’s creation work comes to hate all kinds of truths and facts. ( Romans ch.1) The Church must honor God to the end and must never submit to the modern bored rich secularists in a Christendom. Secularists have no real children and they don’t care about the truth or mankind’s true well-being or a decent future. Secularists only conduct meaningless destructive experiments for the sake of experiments themselves and not for finding the truth to do good. (Genesis ch.3, I John ch.2) Judeo-Christian values alone let mankind quest for the truth and the good. The West including the USA needs Christianity to obtain salvation and truth and seek the good. There is no other way.

  • Michael C

    Non-discrimination laws have been around for over half a century. They’re not new. They apply to businesses. Churches have always been exempt.

    Why, all of the sudden, does ADF find civil rights laws to be terribly confusing?

    • Scott Davenport

      hmmmm…..maybe you should pray on that, and he may help you see the evil in the commission’s hearts….. 🙂

    • cadcoke5

      The Obama administration declared that Christian colleges, bible publishers, and other similar organization are NOT religious, and therefore required them to comply with the emergency contraceptive mandate in the ACA. (though they were later forced to retract that)

      So, the government has been seeking to restrict its definition of religious activity to within the confines of the worship service and facility. These church’s concerns are quite valid.

      Even if the current administration grants them an assurance they won’t be required to comply with these laws now, that does not restrict it from doing so in the future. With the continuing growth of hostility against religion, expect those laws to eventually be applied to religious groups.

      But, I should add that even non-religious groups may have strong conviction that cross-dressers should not be permitted to use facilities that are not their biological gender. So, even non-religious groups will object to this requirement.

      • Michael C

        Even if the current administration grants them an assurance they won’t be required to comply with these laws now, that does not restrict it from doing so in the future.

        In order to require religious groups, organizations, churches, clubs, etc. to follow non-discrimination laws, those laws would need to be rewritten. As they are currently written, religious groups are exempt. It’s not a matter of interpretation, it’s how the laws are explicitly crafted.

        …even non-religious groups may have strong conviction that cross-dressers should not be permitted to use facilities that are not their biological gender.

        Private groups, clubs, non-profits, etc. are also exempt from non-discrimination legislation. …again, it’s explicitly stated.

        • ComeOnPeople!

          And what of the everyday average American who makes up our society who feel that this new insanity coming out of our courts is immoral. They are far from exempt & are the ones having this nonsense forced upon them. They are the ones who must now wonder if a male or a female is in the stall next to them in the rest room. They are the ones having mature sexual content being taught to their kindergarteners and having teachers put grid into the minds of their children. How about a little exception for the whole of our society.

          • Michael C

            Nobody is forcing “everyday average Americans” to do anything.

            If you wish to be insulated from other law-abiding members of society, you’re going to have to find your own solutions.

          • ComeOnPeople!

            I wish to be insulated from unjust and immoral laws as do most law abiding Americans. Just because a law is passed it does not make it a just law nor does it make it moral. Society as a whole desires laws which do not impose immorality upon themselves or their children. When new laws corrupt society rather then protect it then we might all very well insulate ourselves from corrupted power and fall to our knees before a POWER far greater.

          • Michael C

            Again, non-discrimination laws require nothing of you.

          • cadcoke5

            The current round of gender laws being passed require submission to immoral situations, if you go out in public and need access to a bathroom.

            This is very much the same sort of thing as when the government tried to force a group of nuns to pay for contraceptive services. And if they failed to comply, take away all the groups assets. They made similar efforts against Christian colleges. Colorado will put a Christian cake maker out of business, if they don’t agree to celebrate homosexual marriage, but if a homosexual baker refuses to decorate a cake that declares homosexuality wrong, the baker is permitted to refuse it.

            Perhaps the goal is to force Christians to abandon their faith, or at least keep it private, and then to limit their ability to work and earn a living. Perhaps a future step is to require the mark of the beast to purchase anything. This does seem to be the path our government is walking.

          • Josey

            surely does

          • ComeOnPeople!

            Non-discrimination laws take away a mans voice to speak the truth about homosexuality and the truth about transgender. These laws just like hate speech laws are trying to silence those who believe in a higher AUTHORITY and ascribe to righteous moral LAWS.

          • Michael C

            Non-discrimination laws don’t prohibit you from saying whatever you want about homosexuality. You are lying.

            There are no “hate speech” laws that prevent you from saying whatever you want about homosexuality. You are lying.

          • ComeOnPeople!

            Taken off of a lawyers web page…

            Hate speech is speech used against some group, especially in circumstances in which the communication is likely to provoke violence. It is words spoken primarily against a group of persons defined in terms of race, ethnicity, national origin, gender, religion, sexual orientation, and the like. Hate speech can be any form of EXPRESSION regarded as OFFENSIVE to racial, ethnic and religious groups and other discrete minorities or to women.

            Then this lawyer goes on to tell you that if someone has offended you by these terms to contact him and he will help you with your case.

            I would say that lawyers would not have web pages defining hate speech and discrimination and then asking you to contact them for services when indeed they have no grounds in a court of law. Hate speech and discrimination laws all though vague are indeed there. And the more cases that are tried the more they become defined. And soon just like in Europe you will not be able to stand on a corner and preach the WORD of GOD because HIS words offend the carnal man and his immoral laws.

          • Michael C

            Being that you’re unable to actually cite (this means to point to where something is written so someone else would be able to reference what it is you’re claiming) a single law or provide a single incident to support your claims, I’m gonna just have to bow out of this conversation.

            If it’s your desire to have the last word, it’s all yours.

          • ComeOnPeople!

            No this means that officiously there are cases being made in regard to free speech and that one can be charge with hate crimes or discrimination or there would not be tons of lawyers online defining what hate & discrimination crimes are, siting cases and then bidding for your to use them should you feel you have been discriminated or feel someone has committed a hate crime based upon the definition of such.

            I nor anyone else unless they are lawyers have time to placate your game and cite laws. If you don’t believe it is actually in the courts and that there have been cases then do your own homework and stop asking others to do it for you. I can copy past for you or you can go do some study and disprove your lies for yourself. There are obvious cases which have been in the news and then there are those in courts now which are not obvious or making big news. Only the cases which help with LBGT propaganda are big news but there are many more cases.

            When you have Christian farms which have been holding Christian weddings for years , Christian bakers and Christian florists being sued in courts just because they won’t participate in an act that has never been considered moral until this age… that my friend is persecution of any who speak or think differently then a perverted court system. When you have a pastor who or a saint stand on a corner and hand out tracts being drug into court because it offends muslims that my friend is taking away speech from one group of persons. WHY? To give only free speech to those who hold your same views. The court thinks it can now force people to conform to it’s new perversions and immorality by threatening them with court battles, loss of businesses and jail time. Have fun in your new America because soon you yourself who thinks you are getting your way will no longer be free yourself. Have fun while it lasts. Study history, it is repeating itself . Remain blind but some of us choose to see and speak even if it means jail time or loss. Truth is truth and those who speak it refuse a counterfeit or to be silenced. Wrong is wrong even if men make laws which say a wrong is now right. SIN is SIN even if false prophets speak lies and seemingly righteous men say GOD has now changed his mind. NOPE sorry the CREATOR does not change, HIS ways are TRUTH and HIS instructions remain true forever.

        • cadcoke5

          Bob Jones University was approached by a Chinese family, who was concerned that their child was dating someone who was not Chinese, and was loosing their culture. They enacted a pology against inter-racial dating.

          This action lost them their tax exempt status. Bob Jones University v. United States, 461 U.S. 574 (1983), was a decision by the United States Supreme Court holding that the religion clauses of the First Amendment did not prohibit the Internal Revenue Service from revoking the tax exempt status of a religious university whose practices are contrary to a compelling government public policy, such as eradicating racial discrimination.

          I was unaware this had gone to the US Supreme Court. So this new law will very clearly expose every church to the same actions. If Hillary were to win the presidential election , I imagine it will happen very soon.

          • Michael C

            Bob Jones University was approached by a Chinese family, who was concerned that their child was dating someone who was not Chinese, and was loosing their culture. They enacted a polacy against inter-racial dating.

            I’m seriously disgusted by your shameful attempt to justify the past racist policies of Bob Jones and BJU. The racist history of Bob Jones and BJU is a blight on American Christianity and should be identified as such. Bob Jones was an unapologetic segregationalist. The school didn’t admit black students until 1971. They forbade interracial dating up until 1983!

            Your attempt to justify their racism is abhorrent.

          • cadcoke5

            I was unaware of any earlier discrimination by the BJU, and disagree with the prohibition against inter-racial dating. Though, at the time, I’ve read that they had black staff and instructors, so that sort of tempered my judgement, even if I disagreed with them. (Note that I am white, and if I were to get married, the most likely candidate would have been a black lady,) I read their statement, where they had repented and refereed to their past racism as sin.

            But, I mentioned BJU, because that “wall of separation” was designed to protect churches from government control. Taxation is certainly a method of exercising control, especially as taxes keep taking a larger and larger percentage of our income.

            I know some will say, “A Christian college is not a church”. But, my experience as a student at a Christian college was VERY church like. We regularly had worship services in the chapel, had communion regularly, every class opened with prayer, and of course, many of the classes were specifically studying the Bible. They did everything a church does.

            The government may disagree with their theology at BJU, but that does not then give it the right to require them to act against their beliefs.

        • cadcoke5

          I just remembered another situation, a number of years ago in Pennsylvania involving a church. The church had historically been given the exclusive use of a beach pavilion, and I think a park area as well. They let the general public use the facility if they were not using it.

          But one day a homosexual couple wanted to reserve the pavilion for their “wedding”, and the churchild refused

          The judge ruled that unless the church limited use of the grounds to only Christians, they had to permit the homosexual event. So, they had to stop permitting the public to use it.

          There was a similar ruling against a religious hospital. They were given the choice of either limiting their work to fellow Christians, or agree to kill kids in the womb.

          • Michael C

            As I said above, businesses are subject to non-discrimination laws, churches are not. If a church operates a non-religious business, that business is subject to non-discrimination laws. …because it’s a business, not a church. The church is still exempt.

            I just remembered another situation, a number of years ago in Pennsylvania involving a church. The church had historically been given the exclusive use of a beach pavilion

            No. It was the Ocean Grove Camp Meeting Association in New Jersey. The church had not historically been given exclusive use of the beach pavilion. That is incorrect. They had an agreement with the city concerning the public plot of land and the boardwalk pavilion. Their agreement was that the land and pavilion was to be open to the public. It was not their private land for their private use. They received a special tax exemption because they agreed to make the land and pavilion open to general public. They were renting out the pavilion to the general public. For money. Like a business. Businesses are subject to non-discrimination laws. Churches are exempt.

          • cadcoke5

            Thank you for filling in for my partial/incorrect memory of the situation. But, as I read a bit more about this facility, I see they really purchased land in that area for the purpose of it being a Christian retreat center. On the organ on one of the facilites there, according to Wikipedia” Illuminated signs, … flanking the organ’s pipework, proclaim “Holiness to the Lord” and “So be ye holy,” a reflection of the emphasis at camp meetings”

            So, they would seem to be in the same sort of standing as a Chrsitian college. Their “business” is a not-for-profit. So, I disagree with the idea that a church related organization, that does any “business” with the public, must abandon their faith. Most churches permit outside rentals of their facilities, for things like wedding. They may permit the Trail Blazer Scouts (an alternative to the Boy Scouts, that many used to support).They may also have a bake sale, or rummage sale to raise money for their mission. They may also provide day-care, and operate it hoping to teach Godly lessons to the kids.

            They should not be required to abandon their religion when they do these things. When they rent their facilities, they do so only in limited terms, and a rental cannot be for something that is antithetical to their mission. An event to celebrate homosexual sin is certainly against a true church’s mission, and would very very dishonoring to God. It would be like when the Romans destroyed the Jewish Temple, and offered pig sacrifices to their idols. It would be an act of sacrilege in a facility that was consecrated to serve God.

            If the pavilion in question was truly public, then why would the judge permit them to stop renting the facility for weddings, but keep control of it? Why must a not-for-profit group loose their tax exemption because they are holding to their purpose?

          • Michael C

            If you don’t like the Civil Rights Act of 1964, I suggest you contact your state representatives to urge them to take action to repeal it.

  • zabazoom

    Churches the only form of entertainment not taxed.

    • Scott Davenport

      God, our Creator…the only one that’s letting you breathe…. 🙂

      • wandakate

        YES, amen PTL. It’s called the “breath of life” and it enters our body at birth and departs from our body at our death. Without it there is NO life in us. Given by and removed by Almighty GOD.
        GOD breathed the breath of life into Adam, and Adam became a living “soul” (person). A soul is a person, a being, a human, mortal flesh and blood…Our time is up when the LORD says it’s up.

  • One of Des Moines nondiscrimination laws also outlines that it is illegal to “[preach the Bible]”.

    • Michael C

      cite the law

      • You didn’t read the article, or you don’t know what the Bible says. Probably both.

        • Croquet_Player

          So where’s the law? There is no law saying you can’t “preach the bible” (or anything else, for that matter). It would be entirely unconstitutional.

          • Neither did you read the article, nor did you read the Bible.

          • Croquet_Player

            I read the article, and I have read the bible. Now where’s this law? Or did you just make it up?

          • Clearly the sounds that pass through your mind as you read things form no lasting impression. What do you look like? Are you sure? Maybe you should check.

          • Croquet_Player

            Where’s the law?

          • Your ability to transmit scoffing questions is unaffected by your unwillingness to read.

          • Croquet_Player

            You claimed there was a law. “One of Des Moines nondiscrimination laws also outlines that it is illegal to “[preach the Bible]”. I’m simply asking for evidence of this law, which for some reason, you are unwilling or unable to produce. Where is the law? Until you can produce it, I’m going to assume you simply made it up.

          • You clearly do not understand punctuation. Perhaps there is a class you can take.

          • Croquet_Player

            Perhaps there is an actual law you can cite.

          • My dog. My dog is not very clever, but it does listen politely when I speak. You would like my dog, and it would not consider you to be a stupid person.

        • Michael C

          One of Des Moines nondiscrimination laws also outlines that it is illegal to “[preach the Bible]”.

          Unless you are able to show me where Des Moines law prohibits preaching the bible, you are spreading lies.

          • ComeOnPeople!

            Any law which hinders the free speech of Christians by implying that scriptures which pertain to gender and or homosexuality are now hate speech are making it illegal to preach truth by default.

          • Michael C

            Any law which hinders the free speech of Christians by implying that scriptures which pertain to gender and or homosexuality are now hate speech are making it illegal to preach truth by default.

            I guess I have to type out the same reply over and over to multiple people…

            cite the law

            If you cannot, you are spreading lies.

          • ComeOnPeople!

            Back at you…. cite hate speech laws.

          • Michael C

            I’m sorry for using a word that you do not understand.

            When I requested citation of the law, this means that I am asking for you to give me evidence for what you are claiming.

            “cite the law” means “tell me what law you’re talking about.”

            …because I don’t know of any law that “hinders the free speech of Christians by implying that scriptures which pertain to gender and or homosexuality are now hate speech are making it illegal to preach truth by default.”

          • ComeOnPeople!

            Look up the hate speech laws that are now on the books.

          • Michael C

            You’re refusing to tell me where these laws exist because you’re lying about them.

            Please stop lying.

            If you want to have a conversation about a specific law, please cite the law first.

          • ComeOnPeople!

            Ahaha you want others to do your homework . Sorry back at you… cite the law.

          • Michael C

            Ahaha you want others to do your homework .

            No, I want you to support your claims with evidence. You apparently have nothing to back up your claims (because you’re lying).

            Sorry back at you… cite the law.

            If you don’t know what a word means, you probably shouldn’t be using it.

          • God opposes the proud.

          • Michael C

            …and liars?

          • Yes, so you’re condemned on two counts now, in addition to your more serious refusal to believe in Jesus Christ.

          • Michael C

            Your claim that Iowa law prohibits preaching the bible is a lie.

            Your refusal to admit to this action is an act of pride.

          • Your claims are false. It is the mark of your father.

        • Croquet_Player

          Unable to produce so-called “law”. Pants on fire.

  • BobbyHead

    The godless progressive liberals are calling the U.S. Constitution a living document. This means you can interpret the meaning of the Constituion any way that fits the present progressive mob
    thinking of the day by wicked judges. That’s why we need and addendum that puts
    God Almighty and His Son Jesus the Lord of all, in an updated U.S. Constitution.

    This should be a new preamble to the U.S. Constitution:

    WE THE PEOPLE OF THE UNITED STATES recognizing the being and
    attributes of almighty God, the divine Authority of the Holy Scriptures, the
    law of God as the paramount rule, and Jesus the Messiah, the Savior and Lord of
    all, in order to form a more perfect union do ordain and establish this Constitution
    of the United States of America.

  • 1984 has arrived, is entrenched, and working hard to ensure the complete eradicated of our Constitution, We will soon be in a position to say, as recently stated on a TV show, “The United States have ceased to exist.”