DULUTH — On April 4, three California churches filed a notice of appeal in their lawsuit against the state’s Department of Managed Health Care. At issue was the department’s mandate that forced the churches to pay for elective abortions on their health plans.
Alliance Defending Freedom, through its involvement in the case that began in 2014, learned that Planned Parenthood had pressured the DMHC to stipulate that churches were not exempt from providing coverage that included abortion. The abortion provider had demanded that agency officials configure health plans of religious organizations to include coverage for abortion regardless of moral or conscientious objections. Up to that point California had recognized that religious groups shouldn’t be subjected to those requirements.
Such cases are becoming more common. And while ADF also represents individuals such as a Gwinnett County college student trying to witness on campus, it actively partners with churches wanting to update their bylaws for oncoming religious liberty tests. A cultural shift of acceptance toward sexual orientation and gender identity found through SOGI laws has made ADF resources crucial for churches, Georgia Baptist Executive Director W. Thomas Hammond, Jr. pointed out.
“When you take a close look at what ADF offers, you see what an asset this is,” he said. “I’d strongly encourage our churches to take advantage of this partnership and resource.”
Using the promo code GBMB20, Georgia Baptist churches would receive a 20% discount for services offered through ADF’s Church Alliance program. That gives congregations access to the legal team that includes over 3,000 allied attorneys and has won nearly 80% of their religious liberty-affiliated court cases – including 54 Supreme Court victories. As churches draw up or re-visit their bylaws, ADF provides expertise in approaching subjects like:
- Facility use.
- Government mandates.
- Unconstitutional regulation.
- Equal access to government property and benefits.
- Volunteer requirements.
- Land use.
- Tax exemption.
Currently, 15 Southern Baptist state conventions have partnered with ADF to offer those resources as well as additional training on religious liberty issues for their churches.
Harrison Smith, regional director for ADF, said SOGI laws are currently the biggest threat to religious liberty.
“These laws are based on non-discrimination toward sexual identity and orientation and placing them as protected classes. While these laws might seem good from the outside, they are often Trojan horse laws with no exemptions being made for churches,” he pointed out.
SOGI laws, Smith explained, tend to be tucked into Civil Rights bills to an unaware public. Recently, he shared how a Georgia church had contacted ADF regarding positions they had advertised for a youth minister and worship leader. Gay applicants had applied for both.
“Under Georgia law, churches can make hiring decisions based on sexual ethics [and commitment to biblical fidelity]. But that’s the protection our opponents are trying to take away. ADF is out there trying to fight these laws because they obviously pose a huge threat to religious liberty,” he noted.
Hidden within the federal Equality Act
The Equality Act that passed in the U.S. House of Representatives today (May 17) is the biggest current threat, Smith warned. Through it, churches would become “public accommodations” instead of houses of worship. That definition of “public accommodations” would include anywhere that provides exhibitions, recreation, exercise, amusement, gatherings, displays, goods, services, programs, or transportation services. This would limit churches’ ability to decide who can and cannot use their facility – and for what purpose.
The bill would also prohibit an individual being denied access to a restroom, locker room, or dressing room based on that individual’s gender identity. ADF outlines further effects on women through the Equality Act as affecting safety and athletic competition.
“This is a really bad piece of legislation. This is reality and we want to help prepare churches,” Smith said.
“Churches have to outline in their documents what they believe and how those beliefs impact their decisions. Courts shouldn’t be intruding on the theology of churches, and churches can add to their protection by making their stances clear. Along with document review, we offer suggestions for how to talk to others about these issues. If someone from the church has a question, call us and we can help.”
For more information on no churches can partner with Alliance Defending Freedom, click here.