Thursday, October 27, 2016

Des Moines, IA: Conservative Church Files Preemptive Lawsuit Against the Iowa Civil Right Commission Over Trans People & Church Restrooms // Updated on 10/27/16: Fort Des Moines Church of Christ Drops Lawsuit

(Originally written on 07/05/16): Fort Des Moines Church of Christ filed a lawsuit against the Iowa Civil Rights Commission yesterday. It's all about trans people and bathrooms:
A conservative church in Des Moines is suing the Iowa Civil Rights Commission in federal court, contending state officials are trying to censor the church's teachings on biblical sexuality and forcing the church to open its restrooms to members of the opposite sex.

The suit was filed Monday in U.S. District Court in Des Moines by the Fort Des Moines Church of Christ, which argues that all events held at a church on its property have a bona fide religious purpose. The petition also says the commission has no authority to violate the First Amendment's guarantees of freedom of religion and speech.
Basically, they are concerned that a trans person might use the restroom if they are ever in the church for something related to the daycare or some other non-explicit church activity.

Just in case a trans person, or a non-heterosexual person, or an LGBT ally was confused about whether or not they might be welcome to enter Fort Des Moines Church of Christ.

Updated on 07/08/16: The Iowa Civil Rights Commission responds. Turns out that Fort Des Moines Church is free to discriminate against LGBT people. The only problem might come in if they are opening up their church building for non-religious activities, such as hosting polling locations. Read more here.

Updated on 10/27/16: Earlier this month, U.S. District Judge Stephanie Rose denied a request by the Iowa Civil Rights Commission to dismiss this lawsuit. However, she also declined a request by For Des Moines Church of Christ's attorney to grant a preliminary injunction against state enforcement of Iowa's public accommodation law to protect against sexual orientation and gender identify discrimination.

Yesterday, Fort Des Moines Church of Christ and their attorneys with Alliance Defending Freedom voluntarily withdrew their lawsuit against the state:
Christiana Holcomb, legal counsel for Alliance Defending Freedom, said in a statement that the courts opinion makes clear that government bureaucrats have no business deciding whether Iowa church activities are religious or not.
"Judge Rose held that churches are not — and have never been — public accommodations subject to this type of intrusive government overreach and also reaffirmed a robust religious exemption from the act," Holcomb said. "The ruling provides much-needed reassurance and clarity to Iowa churches."
Meanwhile, Kristin Johnson, the executive director of Iowa Civil Rights Commission, responded:
"We are pleased the lawsuit is dismissed," Johnson said. "The judge's opinion speaks for itself. We have the same comments that we had in July, there had been no change to the law, no change in the application of the law and we were never trying to impose any kind of requirements against the preachers and the pulpit."
In other words, nothing has changed. Fort Des Moines Church of Christ and the ADF made a bunch of noise, but changed nothing.

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