Churches fight back as Iowa tries to force them to allow men to use women’s bathrooms

The Fort Des Moines Church of Christ in Iowa is fighting back against what it believes is the state infringing on its religious liberty.

According to the church’s interpretation of the Iowa’s civil rights commission’s 2007 Iowa Civil Rights Act it believes it has to allow men, who think they are women, access to the women’s bathroom, the Daily Caller reported.

The church is also fighting a Des Moines city code that is similar, according to the Caller.

“The Act and City Code prohibit the Church from issuing statements that might cause individuals to believe that they are unwelcome because of their perceived gender identity,” the complaint from the church read. “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.”

“The Church’s minister desires to preach sermons addressing God’s design for human sexuality and the Church’s beliefs about ‘gender identity,’ but reasonably fears that if it were to do so it would violate the Act’s and the City Code’s speech ban. The Act’s and the City Code’s prohibitions would also apply to a church bulletin that included an explanation that the women’s restrooms are reserved for biological females, while the men’s restrooms are reserved for biological males,” it read.

“The Act’s and the Code’s prohibitions thus cause Fort Des Moines to self-censor and chill its speech, while permitting other churches and entities to freely express beliefs regarding sex that are consistent with the Act and City Code.”

The church believes that an excerpt from a publication that the commission published to explain the law may be a way around it:

“Iowa law provides that these protections do not apply to religious institutions with respect to any religion-based qualifications when such qualifications are related to a bona fide religious purpose. 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 states.

“The commission is interpreting a state law to ban churches from expressing their views on human sexuality if they would ‘directly or indirectly’ make ‘persons of any particular…gender identity’ feel ‘unwelcome’ in conjunction with church services, events, and other religious activities,” the Alliance Defending Freedom, who is representing Fort Des Moines Church of Christ in the litigation, wrote in a statement.

“The speech ban could be used to gag churches from making any public comments—including from the pulpit—that could be viewed as unwelcome to persons who do not identify with their biological sex,” it continued. “This is because the commission says the law applies to churches during any activity that the commission deems to not have a ‘bona fide religious purpose.’ Examples the commission gave are ‘a child care facility operated at a church or a church service open to the public,’ which encompasses most events that churches hold.”

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