Todd Starnes, FoxNews.com
Is a church a place of public accommodation and if so – are congregations required to follow anti-discrimination laws regarding gender and sexual orientation?
That’s the issue raised by a brochure published by the Iowa Civil Rights Commission. They contend that any church that opens its doors to the public would be required to comply with sexual orientation and gender identity laws.
It’s unclear when the Commission’s brochure was published, but it clearly outlines their interpretation of the 2007 Iowa Civil Rights Act – known as Iowa Code Chapter 216.
First Liberty Institute is representing Cornerstone World Outreach, a Sioux City church that fears it may be in violation of the statute.
Hiram Sasser, the law firm’s director of litigation, said the Commission’s brochure means churches would be required to let transgender individuals use the bathrooms of their choice.
“It further compels our client to use specific pronouns when referring to certain ‘gender identities’ and prohibits our client from even teaching its religious beliefs,” Sasser said.
“Cornerstone World Outreach cannot be made to open its restrooms for use by individuals in accordance with their gender identities, rather than their sex assigned at birth,” Sasser said.
The law firm fired off a demand letter to the Iowa Civil Rights Commission calling for them to amend its published policy to clarify that it will not apply Iowa Code 216 against churches and they must also acknowledge that Cornerstone World Outreach is exempt from enforcement.
I reached out to the Iowa Civil Rights Commission for clarification on their interpretation of the law – but so far they have not returned my correspondence.
Chelsey Youman, First Liberty’s chief of staff, told me the ramifications of Iowa’s policy cannot be overstated.