A Catholic bookstore in Jacksonville, Florida is suing the city over an alleged “human rights” ordinance that violates their rights.
According to the Alliance Defending Freedom, the group representing the Queen of Angels Catholic Store, the ordinance “forbids communications that could lead someone to feel ‘unwelcome’ based on various protected traits.”
Catholic bookstore challenges Jacksonville law requiring it to speak against its religious beliefs #CatholicTwitter https://t.co/WNzUoD9hMR
— Catholic Girl (@CatholicGirlAR) February 24, 2023
While this may seem uncontroversial at first glance, it reportedly directly contradicts a store policy that states employees “may only use pronouns and titles that align with the biologically originating sex of the person being referenced, whether the individual is a coworker, customer, or any member of the public.”
“In everything it does, Queen of Angels and its owner Christie DeTrude strive to honor God and promote their Catholic beliefs, including through the store’s website and YouTube channel. The bookstore serves all customers and gladly sells its products to anybody but DeTrude and her bookstore staff cannot speak messages that violate their faith,” the ADF notes.
“Thus, they affirm that men and women are different and cannot use pronouns or titles that don’t align with a customer’s sex. DeTrude also wants to explain this policy and her Catholic beliefs about gender and sexuality in her store and on the store’s website,” according to the ADF.
But so long as the ordinance remains in effect, employees at the Queen of Angels Catholic Store must instead refer to customers by their preferred “gender pronouns,” lest the store be forced to pay “unlimited fines and damages.”
Although males and females are equal in dignity and worth, we are not the same. Our laws must reflect this truth.
— Alliance Defending Freedom (@ADFLegal) March 1, 2023
“Free speech is for everyone. Americans should be free to say what they believe without fear of government punishment. Christie, owner of Queen of Angels Catholic Bookstore, gladly serves everyone, but she can’t speak messages that go against her religious beliefs. Yet Jacksonville is illegally mandating Queen of Angels abandon its religious beliefs—the very faith that motivates the store to open its doors to customers every day,” ADF legal counsel Rachel Csutoros said in a statement.
“Christie established Queen of Angels bookstore to serve the Jacksonville community and to share her Catholic beliefs, but city officials threaten her with unlimited fines if she does so,” ADF senior counsel Hal Frampton added.
“This case is the latest example of government officials across the country using radical ideology to cancel those who disagree. Punishing someone because of their views not only runs afoul of the First Amendment, but it also has devastating consequences for free speech, working professionals, women, and children,” he continued.
Speaking with Fox News, Frampton revealed that he specifically took this case because Jacksonville’s ordinance “suppresses free speech” by telling businesses “that if they post on their blog their beliefs about gender and human sexuality and if they’re not able to use pronouns that don’t accord with biology, then they’re at risk of violating the law.”
He added that under the ordinance, businesses “can be subjected to fines, investigations, punitive damage and all kinds of terrible things simply for writing a blog post that explains their beliefs.”
In fact, that’s exactly how Queen of Angels Catholic Store owner Christie DeTrude became aware of the new policy.
She’d reportedly sought to write up a blog post about the store’s pronoun policy that she could then share with employees. But then she’d realized that such actions would have violated the city’s ordinance.
Continuing his remarks to Fox News, Frampton also compared ADF’s current case to some of its past cases.
“He noted the cases of Andrew Fox, a volunteer chaplain in Texas who was dismissed from the Austin Fire Department for a personal blog post against biological males in women’s sports, and Nicholas Meriwether, a professor at Shawnee State University in Ohio who was allegedly compelled to use transgender pronouns,” according to Fox News.
“I think people would be shocked by how many states and cities and counties have ordinances very much like the one at issue in Jacksonville. They’ve been passed in a very large number of places under the guise of anti-discrimination, and yet they compel speech and they cancel people who disagree. So I think that these laws are far more ubiquitous than most people realize,” he said in his own words.
Note that DeTrude tried to resolve the matter diplomatically before rushing into a law. Indeed, on Feb. 9th she sent a letter to the city explaining her store’s policy and asking the city to disavow enforcement of its ordinance.
After not receiving a response, then and only then did she officially file suit.
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