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Judge Rules Iowa Churches Are Not Subject to Government Control

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A federal judge in Iowa has ruled that churches are not "public accommodations" and therefore not subject to government control.

The ruling could prove pivotal as the country considers whether or not houses of worship are subject to public accommodation anti-discrimination laws.

In her ruling, U.S. District Court Judge Stephanie Rose allowed a lawsuit filed by the Fort Des Moines Church of Christ to continue. The church filed suit in objection to the Iowa Civil Rights Commission applying a state civil rights law to churches.

The act could have forced churches to censor statements on sexuality and adopt state policies that allow any person to enter any bathroom or locker room.

In light of the new ruling, the church is dismissing its lawsuit.

"The court cut off this unconstitutional power grab by clarifying that the law does not apply to churches," ADF attorney Steve O'Ban said.

Judge Rose noted in her ruling that "state and federal courts have held that churches and the programs they host are not places of public accommodation."

However, LGBT activists often claim churches and other houses of worship are places of public accommodation in order to force them to follow government anti-discrimination laws.

A new law in Massachusetts forbids discrimination on the basis of gender identity in places of public accommodation and provides no religious exemption for churches.

In New York state recently, a state appellate court ruled unanimously against a Christian couple that did not want to host gay wedding ceremonies as part of their wedding business.

The court focused on a New York human rights law, which forbids discrimination in places of public accommodation. The court identified the couple's business on their property as a place of public accommodation.

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About The Author


Heather Sells covers wide-ranging stories for CBN News that include religious liberty, ministry trends, immigration, and education. She’s known for telling personal stories that capture the issues of the day, from the border sheriff who rescues migrants in the desert to the parents struggling with a child that identifies as transgender. In the last year, she has reported on immigration at the Texas border, from Washington, D.C., in advance of the Dobbs abortion case, at crisis pregnancy centers in Massachusetts, and on sexual abuse reform at the annual Southern Baptist meeting in Anaheim