“What happened to the separation of Church and State?” some Iowa churches are asking.
The Iowa Civil Rights Commission has released new guidelines, based on the state’s 2007 “sexual orientation and gender identity” law, that requires private businesses, all government facilities, including schools, libraries, and churches, and any other private or public organization that receives government funds, to allow men and women to use the restrooms, showers and locker rooms that match their gender identity – not the “sex they were assigned at birth.”
Iowa Civil Rights Commission declares that it is illegal to harass or even question anyone about their choice of which bathroom, shower or locker room they use. And they confirm that the law applies to churches as well, especially to child care facilities operated within the church and any church service open to the public.
According to the law, it’s not just about bathrooms – churches are outraged that the law also applies to the sermons they preach. The guidelines define illegal discrimination as “Refusal or denial of any accommodations, advantages, facilities, services or privileges on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. Also any discrimination in providing such services.”
The guidelines state that any direct or indirect comments that a person is objectionable or not acceptable is discrimination. Types of illegal harassment include “repeated remarks of a demeaning nature.”
Two Iowa churches have filed federal lawsuits against the Iowa Civil Rights Commission, saying they have a right to speak from the pulpit about biblical teachings on sexuality, as well as a right to follow their religious beliefs in how they accommodate usage of restrooms and lockers rooms.
Lawsuits have been filed by the Fort Des Moines Church of Christ, and Cornerstone World Outreach – a nondenominational church in Sioux City.
The churches maintain the Iowa Civil Rights Commission is violating their rights to free speech and religious liberty by censoring their views on human sexuality and forcing them to open restrooms to members of the opposite sex.
“The State of Iowa claims it has the power to regulate what churches can teach about human sexuality and how they operate their facilities. The government has absolutely no authority to force a church to violate its religious beliefs. This is a massive violation of the First Amendment,” said Chelsey Youman, a lawyer for First Liberty Institute.
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