On Wednesday, Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) will file a powerful groundbreaking lawsuit against a local Ohio sexual orientation gender identity (SOGI) non-discrimination law that some say may become the most significant religious freedom case since Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission (2018). This lawsuit aims to protect a small Catholic school from stifling LGBT laws that cut to the heart of religious education.
Last year, the City of South Euclid passed a SOGI ordinance similar to the Equality Act in Congress and the Ohio Fairness Act currently in the state legislature. The Lyceum, a Catholic classical school in South Euclid, will sue the city on Wednesday, claiming the SOGI ordinance violates the First Amendment.
“The Lyceum is a small, classical, Catholic school established back in 2003. But unfortunately, in 2018, the City of South Euclid passed a law that threatens the Lyceum’s very existence,” ADF legal counsel Christiana Holcomb said in a video on the case.
“Religious schools like The Lyceum must be free to operate consistently with their faith without fear of unjust government punishment—that is their right under the First Amendment,” she said in a statement. “But the city’s ordinance threatens this small school with criminal penalties simply for selecting faculty and students who share its religious convictions.”
“The Lyceum’s parents, students, and faculty have agreed to live by community standards rooted in Catholic teaching. The city’s hostile regulation not only threatens the school, it also undermines the rights of parents and students who deliberately seek out this unique, faith-based education,” Holcomb declared.
Local activists suggest the lawsuit could rise to the Supreme Court and strike down the SOGI laws expanding across the nation.
“South Euclid passed one of the most offensive and egregious sexual orientation gender identity laws that I have ever seen, and Christian ministries across the country should take note of what these laws would mean to them,” Aaron Baer, president of Citizens for Community Values (CCV), told PJ Media. His organization opposed the ordinance during the legislative process and will host the press conference on the lawsuit with ADF and the Lyceum. “The Lyceum is standing up and saying enough is enough.”
Baer called the local ordinance an “incredibly broad law that is devastating to Christian ministries.” According to him, the law imposes criminal penalties on individuals, businesses, and ministries that operate according to the teachings that marriage is between one man and one woman and that biological sex overrides gender identity. Every school, business, and ministry must open women’s bathrooms to biological men who identify as women and celebrate same-sex marriage and transgender identity.
According to the CCV president, the ordinance has no exemption for religious freedom or freedom of conscience.
“This law effectively prohibits ministries from operating according to the Christian worldview,” Baer explained. “This will be the next major religious freedom case in the country. It has implications far beyond South Euclid as the Ohio General Assembly is considering one of these laws.”
“Everyone needs to take note that these things are blatantly unconstitutional,” the CCV president declared.
Baer suggested the case will reach the highest court in the land, and set a precedent for SOGI laws across the country. “We believe it is going to end up at the Supreme Court,” he said. “The nature of this lawsuit and the fact that these things are popping up all over the country, sooner or later the Supreme Court’s going to have to deal with this issue. These laws are so pervasive and so contrary to the First Amendment that they’re going to have to speak to this issue eventually.”
The CCV president suggested this lawsuit is “the first of its kind in the nation,” a groundbreaking effort to oppose the expansion of sexual orientation-gender identity nondiscrimination laws.
Whether or not the lawsuit is as groundbreaking or as powerful as Baer suggests, the ADF effort is certainly designed to protect the small Catholic school.
In the video, one female student said the Lyceum has “taught me to think for myself,” and “seeing this place gone would be such a knife to my chest.”
The effort against “discrimination” is misleading. Christians who live according to the biblical teaching that marriage should be between one man and one woman do not wish to celebrate a wedding between two men or two women. This need not involve any homophobia — indeed, Christian bakers like Jack Phillips of Masterpiece Cakeshop gladly sell to LGBT people. Phillips would not use his artistic talents to craft a cake for a same-sex wedding, however. This is not discrimination, but LGBT activists and lawyers argue that it is.
The gender identity part of such laws is arguably far worse. Indeed, many lesbian feminists have spoken out against transgender identity being enshrined into law, because such a legal change would require women’s spaces being opened to biological males who identify as women. Julia Beck, a lesbian who was booted from Baltimore’s LGBT Commission for opposing transgender identity, has decried the Equality Act as a “human rights violation,” because it would erase “every right that women have fought for.”
Many non-Christians agree with Christians that biological sex is truer than gender identity. A man does not become a woman by declaring himself to be one, dressing up as one, or even getting hormones and surgery to look like one. God made them male and female, and genetics reveals they are XX or XY.
SOGI laws effectively outlaw dissent on LGBT issues, and the freedom of speech and the free exercise of religion are central to the First Amendment. This groundbreaking lawsuit may change the rules of the game on these important issues, cementing First Amendment freedoms beyond dispute.
LGBT people should have the same rights as everyone else, but Americans who follow other standards on sexual morality should be able to live according to their consciences, whether religious or otherwise.
Follow Tyler O’Neil, the author of this article, on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.