A federal district court has ruled that churches in Iowa are not “public accommodations.” That means they are not subject to government control.
The ruling came in a case brought by Fort Des Moines Church of Christ after the Iowa Civil Rights Commission issued guidelines censoring church statements on biblical sexuality and forcing churches to open changing rooms, showers and restrooms to transgendered individuals.
“The government cannot legally censor pastors or coerce churches to use their facilities in a way that violates their religious beliefs,” said Steve O’Ban, Alliance Defending Freedom attorney. “The Iowa commission’s guidance was vague and empowered government bureaucrats far beyond what the Constitution allows. The court cut off this unconstitutional power grab by clarifying that the law does not apply to churches and reassured Iowa churches that they are free from improper state interference.”
Fort Des Moines Church of Christ will now drop its lawsuit against state officials.
The Iowa Civil Rights Act bans places of “public accommodation” from expressing a view on sexuality. Church leaders worried that it could have been used to violate freedom of speech on topics of sexuality and would leave the Civil Rights Commission in charge of deeming what was “bona fide” religious speech.
Christina Holcomb, an Alliance Defending Freedom attorney, said churches should be free to communicate their religious beliefs according to their faith without fear of government punishment.
“This lawsuit was necessary to ensure that the state won’t try to enforce the law against churches,” she said, “and we’re pleased that Iowa churches now have the reassurance and clarity that they need.”