LGBT Effort to Silence Pastors on Biblical Sexuality Fails, But Threat Remains
An Iowa church sued the state's Civil Rights Commission over a "guide" which interpreted state law into an effective ban on churches expressing their views on human sexuality. While the commission agreed to change the guidelines and exempt churches, the move sets a dangerous precedent which could chill free speech at pulpits across America.
"Any time the government tells Americans how they should live out their faith, it sets a dangerous precedent," Chelsey Youman, counsel for the law firm First Liberty, told PJ Media in an email statement. "But it's particularly disturbing when the government interferes with what a church preaches, teaches, or how it operates."
The original Civil Rights Commission guide, accessible here, insisted that Iowa's non-discrimination law applies to situations "not related to a bona fide religious purpose." The brochure specifically mentions "a church service open to the public" as one such situation.
The brochure also mentioned two different kinds of "harassment" which a church is likely to commit that are illegal under its interpretation of the law.
If a church "directly or indirectly" advertised its beliefs in such a way as to make "persons of any particular sexual orientation or gender identity" feel that their presence is "unwelcome, objectionable, not acceptable, or not solicited," it would be in violation of the law. Those who identity as LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender) could interpret Christian doctrines on sexuality, homosexuality, and marriage to be discrimination against them on these terms.
A church would also be in violation if it engaged in "intentional use of names and pronouns inconsistent with a person's presented gender." In other words, referring to a biological man as "he" or "him" may be an illegal act of discrimination if that person identifies as a woman, regardless of a church's beliefs on the immutable nature of human sexuality.
These regulations could result in a speech ban, effectively gagging churches from expressing Christian doctrine.
In a rare victory for religious freedom, the Iowa Civil Rights Commission altered the language on their brochure, effectively conceding that churches would not be violating the law when pastors preach against homosexuality and transgenderism. Here is the new brochure.
Nevertheless, the fact that the law could have been interpreted to gag churches from expressing their beliefs -- especially traditional beliefs on sexuality that were taken for granted less than a generation ago -- is particularly troubling.
"That's precisely the kind of government overreach -- you could say tyranny -- our founders sought to prevent," Youman declared. "If the government can tell a church how to operate, it won't be long before it tries to control the beliefs of individual citizens."
So what's the big deal? Why can't churches just accept LGBT people? And why should their beliefs not be considered discrimination?
Next Page: Why Christians cannot accept homosexual and transgender celebration and identity, and why these beliefs should not be penalized.