Massachusetts Christians file lawsuit over LGBT mandate

Massachusetts Christians file lawsuit over LGBT mandate
The flag of diversity flutters at the U.S. Embassy in San Jose, Costa Rica, as a show of support for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community in Costa Rica, June 3, 2016. REUTERS/Juan Carlos Ulate

Four Christian churches have filed a federal lawsuit challenging the Massachusetts law requiring their organization to be inclusive of the LGBT agenda.

  • Massachusetts legislature passed a law last year requiring all public accommodations to implement policies that are properly “inclusive” of transgender individuals.
  • Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination published a guidance arguing that churches and other places of worship may count as public accommodations if they hold “secular” events such as a spaghetti supper.
  • MA churches are being represented by the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF).
  • Four churches: Horizon Christian Fellowship in Fitchburg, Abundant Life Church in Swansea, House of Destiny Ministries in Southbridge, and Faith Christian Fellowship in Haverhill.
  • Commission spokesman: Guidance “addresses religious freedom and first amendment rights.”
  • Guidance footnote: “All charges, including those involving religious institutions or religious exemptions, are reviewed on a case-by-case basis.”
  • Commission statement: “This legislation affirms the Commission’s long-standing recognition of gender identity rights previously enforced through sex discrimination claims. We believe the Guidance will provide clarity to businesses, employers and landlords, and educate the general public as to how the MCAD will interpret and enforce the anti-discrimination laws concerning transgender individuals.”

(WASHINGTON, DC) Four churches filed a suit in federal court on Tuesday challenging a Massachusetts law that they say is forcing them to speak and act contrary to their Christian faith.

The Massachusetts legislature passed a law last year requiring all public accommodations to implement policies that are properly “inclusive” of transgender individuals.

As originally reported by The Daily Caller, the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination — the state agency charged with enforcing the law — published a guidance arguing that churches and other places of worship may count as public accommodations if they hold “secular” events such as a spaghetti supper.

The churches are being represented by the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), a conservative law firm that specializes in First Amendment cases.

ADF statement:

“The Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination and Attorney General Maura Healey both interpret the commonwealth’s public accommodations laws, as amended by the Legislature in July, to force churches to open church changing rooms, shower facilities, restrooms, and other intimate areas based on their perceived gender identity, and not their biological sex, in violation of the churches’ religious beliefs.”

“Because those laws also prohibit covered entities from making statements intended “to discriminate” or to “incite” others to do so, the commission and attorney general also intend to force churches and pastors to refrain from religious expression regarding sexuality that conflicts with the government’s views.”

“The Commonwealth of Massachusetts has essentially threatened pastors and churches with jail time, simply for being churches — for operating their houses of worship consistently with their faith,” ADF attorney Christiana Holcomb said.

“We absolutely think that what the Commonwealth of Massachusetts is doing here violates the first amendment and everything our country was founded upon,” she added. “So, we think this should be a relatively easy decision for the courts to make that no, churches in mass must be free to operate their houses of worship consistently with their faith.

“The attorney general and the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination have clearly overstepped their constitutional bounds here.”

A press release says the four churches are “Horizon Christian Fellowship in Fitchburg, Abundant Life Church in Swansea, House of Destiny Ministries in Southbridge, and Faith Christian Fellowship in Haverhill.”

A spokesperson for the commission previously told TheDC that the guidance “addresses religious freedom and first amendment rights.” A footnote to the guidance states that “All charges, including those involving religious institutions or religious exemptions, are reviewed on a case-by-case basis.”

The guidance makes no other mention of religion or places of worship.

A statement on the commission’s website about the guidance states, “This legislation affirms the Commission’s long-standing recognition of gender identity rights previously enforced through sex discrimination claims. We believe the Guidance will provide clarity to businesses, employers and landlords, and educate the general public as to how the MCAD will interpret and enforce the anti-discrimination laws concerning transgender individuals.”

The four churches disagree.

“The Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination and Attorney General Maura Healey both interpret the commonwealth’s public accommodations laws, as amended by the Legislature in July, to force churches to open church changing rooms, shower facilities, restrooms, and other intimate areas based on their perceived gender identity, and not their biological sex, in violation of the churches’ religious beliefs,” ADF said in a press release.

“Because those laws also prohibit covered entities from making statements intended “to discriminate” or to “incite” others to do so, the commission and attorney general also intend to force churches and pastors to refrain from religious expression regarding sexuality that conflicts with the government’s views.”

Please contact TRUNEWS correspondent Edward Szall with any news tips related to this story.
Email: Edward.Szall@trunews.com | Twitter: @EdwardSzall | Facebook: Ed Szall 
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