A 'pre-enforcement challenge' in the Hawkeye State

Tuesday, July 5, 2016
 | 
Charlie Butts, Billy Davis (OneNewsNow.com)

gavel with Bible 2A church in Iowa has filed a federal lawsuit to stop a state agency from forcing its views inside. 

Alliance Defending Freedom is representing Fort Des Moines Church of Christ, which fears a public accomodation law could be used to punish churches for their traditional views about homosexuality.

According to the Iowa Civil Rights Commission, the Iowa Civil Rights Act stipulates that churches are exempt from the public accommodation laws if that church engages in a "bona fide religious purpose."

First Amendment (Bill of Rights)But what it a church such as Fort Des Moines Church of Christ operates a daycare facility – or what about church services that are routinely open to the public?

The lawsuit was filed July 5 in U.S. District Court in Des Moines.

In a statement, ADF said the lawsuit is known as "pre-enforcement challenge," meaning the intention is to challenge Iowa's public accommodation law before the commission can use it to sue churches.

The fear, says ADF, is that any church with restrooms and locker rooms would be subjected to the commission's interpretation of the state law.

In fact, a homosexual activist who complained about the lawsuit in a story by the Des Moines Register seemed to admit that the congregation's concerns are justified.

church pews"In their bona fide religious activities, they are exempt," said the activist, identified as Donna Red Wing. "They cannot, however, break the law when providing public accommodations."

The same news story quoted a University of Iowa law professor who said it was "blatantly unconstitutional" for the state to regulate what he called "hateful or discriminatory" sermons.

The professor added, however, that churches are not exempted from laws that affect the general public. So blocking transgenders' access to restrooms is a more complicated legal question, he admitted.

"One can hardly imagine a more unconstitutional intrusion of the state into the church, when the state agency starts attempting to tell a church what it may or may not teach from its pulpit and how it must use its house of worship," says ADF attorney Christiana Holcomb.

The news story reported that a second Des Moines church, Cornerstone Outreach, claims the commission is interfering with its doctrines and beliefs. Cornerstone has hired First Liberty Institute, the story stated. 

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