The Corner

Dear Iowa Christians, Use the Right Pronouns in Church . . . Or Else

I’m old enough to remember when Christians who expressed concern that LGBT activists would attempt to regulate church services were dismissed as paranoid nutjobs. Well, welcome to our new paranoid future. My friends and colleagues at the Alliance Defending Freedom announced today that they were filing suit against the Iowa Civil Rights Commission to block enforcement of gender identity guidelines that purport to regulate “a church service open to the public.” News flash — virtually every church service is open to the public.

The guidelines, published in a “public accommodations providers guide to Iowa law” contain the usual nondiscrimination catch-all phrases, noting that a “public accommodation” commits an act of gender identity discrimination when it, to take a few examples, intentionally uses names and pronouns inconsistent with the person’s “presented gender” (whatever that means), refuses access to preferred bathrooms, or even “indirectly” advertises that a transgender person is “unwelcome” or “not acceptable.”

Incredibly, the document contains an FAQ specifically directed at churches. Here it is:

DOES THIS LAW APPLY TO CHURCHES?

Sometimes. Iowa law provides that these protections do not apply to religious institutions with respect to any religion-based qualifications when such qualifications are related to a bona fide religious purpose. Where qualifications are not related to a bona fide religious purpose, churches are still subject to the law’s provisions. (e.g. a child care facility operated at a church or a church service open to the public).

It’s unclear to me how a branch of the Iowa state government has determined that a “church service open to the public” does not have a “bona fide religious purpose,” but there it is. Under current guidance, churches in Iowa must become “members only” to exercise their religious liberty. It’s tough to imagine this guidance surviving even liberal judicial review, but even if struck down it shows where some on the Left want to take the law. Not even the sanctuary is safe.

David French is a senior writer for National Review, a senior fellow at the National Review Institute, and a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

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