Iowa Orders Churches: Don’t Offend Transgenders in Word or Deed

News: Government
by Bradley Eli, M.Div., Ma.Th.  •  •  August 11, 2016   

Churches must allow men into female bathrooms and can't teach against it

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FORT DES MOINES, Iowa ( - The Iowa Civil Rights Commission (ICRC) is telling churches they can't offend those who identify as gay or transgender by teaching traditional sexual morality or by refusing to allow biological men into their female bathrooms, locker rooms and showers.

Attorneys from Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), who are representing an Iowa church challenging the Commission's new guidelines, filed a brief in federal court Monday. The brief supports a preliminary injunction they filed last month that would stop possible enforcement of the directives while the case proceeds through court.

The ADF brief maintains that ICRC is "dictating how the Church must use its facility and communicate its beliefs about human sexuality." The brief further asserts ICRC is ignoring initial objections to the Commission's ruling and instead has chosen to "double-down on the Commission's position that the Church is a public accommodation and the the Act authorizes it to dictate how the Church uses its facility and what public statements it may make concerning human sexuality."

ICRC claims in its brochure that transgender guidelines apply to churches when a church activity is not serving a "bona fide religious purpose." Examples the ICRC gives in the brochure of such non-religious services are "a child care facility operated at a church or a church service open to the public." This definition, the ADF holds, encompasses most events that churches hold.

A current rewording of the brochure by the Commission says churches are subject to the law if "the place of worship engages in non-religious activities which are open to the public." But the commission gets to decide which church activities are sufficiently religious and which ones aren't. The ADF says this condition puts churches in a compromising situation.

The Commission is basing its directives on a new interpretation of the Iowa Civil Rights Act (ICRA) that 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 law also requires that individuals be permitted to access restrooms, locker rooms and shower facilities of public accommodations in accordance with their gender identity rather than their assigned sex at birth.

Christina Holmes, an ADF attorney, summed up the case. "An unelected commission in the state of Iowa is telling churches if you welcome the public to attend your worship services you have to censor that teaching you can no longer use your house of worship in a way that's consistent with that belief about maleness and femaleness."


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