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Fort Des Moines Church of Christ v. Jackson

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Description:  Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys representing an Iowa church filed a federal lawsuit against members of the Iowa Civil Rights Commission, among others, to stop the government from censoring the church’s statements on biblical sexuality and from forcing the church to open its restrooms and showers to members of the opposite sex.


Wednesday, Oct 26, 2016

 
DES MOINES, Iowa – An Iowa church is dismissing its lawsuit against state officials and the city of Des Moines after a federal judge issued a ruling protecting churches from government censorship and control. A federal district court held Oct. 14 that churches are not public accommodations subject to government control, and that state officials have no business determining which church activities are “religious enough” and which aren’t.

Alliance Defending Freedom filed a lawsuit on behalf of Fort Des Moines Church of Christ after the Iowa Civil Rights Commission issued guidance documents applying the Iowa Civil Rights Act to churches. Left unchecked, the commission could have applied the law to censor certain church statements on biblical sexuality and force churches to open their intimate facilities like changing rooms, showers, and restrooms to people who identify as members of the opposite sex.

“The government cannot legally censor pastors or coerce churches to use their facilities in a way that violates their religious beliefs,” said ADF Senior Counsel Steve O’Ban. “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.”

The law at issue, the Iowa Civil Rights Act, bans places of “public accommodation” from expressing their views on human sexuality if they would “directly or indirectly” make “persons of any particular…gender identity” feel “unwelcome.” The speech ban could have been unlawfully used to prevent churches from making comments subjectively interpreted to be “unwelcoming” during activities that the commission deemed to not have a “bona fide religious purpose.”

“Churches should be free to communicate their religious beliefs and operate their houses of worship according to their faith without fearing government punishment,” said ADF Legal Counsel Christiana Holcomb. “This lawsuit was necessary to ensure that the state won’t try to enforce the law against churches, and we’re pleased that Iowa churches now have the reassurance and clarity that they need.”

Timm Reid, one of nearly 3,100 private attorneys allied with ADF, served as local counsel on behalf of the church in the case, Fort Des Moines Church of Christ v. Jackson.

Alliance Defending Freedom is an alliance-building, non-profit legal organization that advocates for the right of people to freely live out their faith.
 
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Previous News Releases


Legal Documents

Notice of voluntary dismissal: Fort Des Moines Church of Christ v. Jackson
Decision on motion to dismiss and motion for preliminary injunction: Fort Des Moines Church of Christ v. Jackson
Plaintiff's resistance to state defendants' motion to dismiss: Fort Des Moines Church of Christ v. Jackson
Motion to dismiss: Fort Des Moines Church of Christ v. Jackson
Brief in support of motion for preliminary injunction: Fort Des Moines Church of Christ v. Jackson
Brief in support of motion for preliminary injunction: Fort Des Moines Church of Christ v. Jackson
Complaint: Fort Des Moines Church of Christ v. Jackson
Motion for preliminary injunction: Fort Des Moines Church of Christ v. Jackson

Related Resources

ABOUT Christiana Holcomb

Christiana Holcomb serves as legal counsel for Alliance Defending Freedom, where she is a key member of the Center for Conscience Initiatives. Since joining ADF in 2012, Holcomb has worked to protect women's and girls' sports and has defended the bodily privacy rights of students. She has also worked to protect the constitutionally protected freedom of churches, Christian schools, and Christian ministries to exercise their faith without government interference. Holcomb earned her J.D. in 2010 from Oak Brook College of Law and Government Policy, where she graduated first in her class and served as a teaching assistant in criminal law. Also in 2010, Holcomb completed the ADF leadership development program to become a Blackstone Fellow. She is admitted to the state bar of California, the U.S. Supreme Court, and numerous federal district and appellate courts.