An Iowa church is taking back its lawsuit against the governments of the state and the city of Des Moines after a District Court judge ruled on October 14 that churches are not public accommodations and that their religious views must not be interfered with.
Earlier this year, Fort Des Moines Church of Christ had filed a lawsuit seeking to be exempt from Iowa Civil Rights Act, a legislation which the church felt could have compelled churches to change their restrooms and showers to unisex facilities, and prevented them from freely stating biblical teachings.
The church considered establishing clear guidelines of bathroom and shower use by members in accordance with their biological sex. However, the church foresaw the legal implications of such a move by the state if such guidelines were to be reviewed by the state commission on civil rights.
"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," said Christiana Holcomb, Legal Counsel at Alliance Defending Freedom which is representing the church in the court.
The church's request for a preliminary injunction against the law was denied by the court, but the case was permitted to be heard in the court and subsequently the church was protected from any future government effort to regulate the churches' stance on sexuality.
Judge Stephanie M. Rose considered the city officials' claims that the legislation was not meant for churches as unsubstantiated, because there was no provision in the law to explicitly prevent the authorities from enforcing the Act on churches.
"The government acts outside of its authority when it attempts to control churches," said Steve O'Ban, senior counsel with ADF. "Neither the commission nor any state law has the constitutional authority to dictate how any church uses its facility or what public statements a church can make concerning sexuality."
Holcomb said that it was necessary for the church to file such a lawsuit in anticipation of any future government action on the church's freedom of expression.
"Churches should be free to talk about their religious beliefs and operate their houses of worship according to their faith without fearing government punishment," said Holcomb.