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From The ‘Spite Wins’ File

Iowa country church bigot barn (Michael Rolands/Shutterstock

All together now, from your catechism:

Q: What is the Law of Merited Impossibility?
A: “It will never happen, and when it does, you bigots deserve it.”
Q: When do we see evidence of it?
A: When the advance of LGBT rights and privileges crosses a line that advocates previously said would never be crossed, at which point those same activists insist the line must be crossed in the fight against bigotry.

Now: In Iowa, a church has filed suit against the state’s Civil Rights Commission and the city of Des Moines, asking a federal judge to prevent the state and city from enforcing its interpretation of a gendered restroom law, and its views on harassment, which the church said could put churches in jeopardy if the pastor preached a sermon that offended the commission. More:

The church says the commission has published a brochure that says the state law sometimes applies to churches when they operate a child care facility or when church services are open to the public.

The church said since services are always open, the commission’s interpretation of the law could stop the church’s minister from preaching sermons addressing God’s design for human sexuality. It could also force the church to open its restrooms and showers to persons of the opposite sex violating its deeply held religious beliefs and several constitutional rights including free speech and freedom of religion.

The principle at stake here is whether events at a church count as “public accommodation” for the purposes of anti-discrimination law. Here are relevant portions of the brochure the Iowa Civil Rights Commission published giving instructions in how to interpret the law:

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As distinct from all those church services that are NOT open to the public?


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According to the Commission — here’s a link to the whole brochure — illegal harassment includes “verbal, physical, or written conduct.”

Watch what you say or publish, preacher. That’s a nice church you have there. Wouldn’t want to take it from you. Oh, and by the way, Love Wins!

This is what you call a “pre-enforcement challenge.” This stuff has been on the books in Iowa for some years, but no church has been brought to court over it. The church is not waiting to be dragged through a lawsuit. It wants to force a federal judge to draw a clear First Amendment line between the Iowa Civil Rights Commission and the church.

This is smart. It has become clear that LGBT activists and their allies are not going to rest until every bit of resistance has been wiped out. It is foolish to hope for the best. Churches, religious schools and religious institutions will be fighting these fights for the coming decades. Count on it. If you think this is not going to affect you, you’ve got your head in the sand.

about the author

Rod Dreher is a senior editor at The American Conservative. He has written and edited for the New York Post, The Dallas Morning News, National Review, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, the Washington Times, and the Baton Rouge Advocate. Rod’s commentary has been published in The Wall Street Journal, Commentary, the Weekly Standard, Beliefnet, and Real Simple, among other publications, and he has appeared on NPR, ABC News, CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, and the BBC. He lives in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, with his wife Julie and their three children. He has also written four books, The Little Way of Ruthie Leming, Crunchy Cons, How Dante Can Save Your Life, and The Benedict Option.

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