“This is fantastic news,” says an Iowa pastor, following a U.S. District Court judge’s order in a key case for religious liberty in Iowa, “a victory for churches all over the state.”
Pastor Michael Demastus of Ft. Des Moines Church of Christ filed the case, with the aid of Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys, after a pair of vague brochures from the Iowa Civil Rights Commission suggested the state has authority over churches when they’re deemed “public accommodations” or when the church’s activities are not “religious” in nature.
“The commission’s interpretation,” ADF explained, “could censor church statements on biblical sexuality in certain contexts and force churches to open their restrooms to members of the opposite sex under conditions that the government dictates.”
But in her order, U.S. District Court Judge Stephanie Rose torpedoed that idea. Furthermore, she denied the state’s attempt to have the case dismissed.
“In its decision allowing the suit to continue,” ADF stated, “the court found that … churches have never been public accommodations subject to government regulation, and state officials have no business trying to decide which church activities are religious and which ones aren’t.”
The judge’s order marks a significant victory in the case, but it’s not a final victory. Pastor Demastus, in a Facebook post, warned, “The case will be further litigated. There is more to come! Continue to pray!”
Chuck Hurley, vice president and legal counsel for The FAMiLY LEADER, commended Demastus and Ft. Des Moines Church of Christ for bringing the case forward.
“It’s a brave thing, going to federal court,” Hurley said. “It’s time consuming and stressful, but they are taking a stand for all of Iowa’s 5,200 churches. They’re trying to keep a window for the gospel open by preventing so-called ‘civil rights’ codes from chilling biblical speech and ministry.”
Demastus also told The FAMiLY LEADER he has a message for his fellow pastors: “Be encouraged! Don’t be scared to stand up when there is wrong. It’s OK to speak out when there is an injustice being done, and this attack on religious liberty is definitely an injustice.”