Iowa Challenges Separation of Church and State

Iowa Challenges Separation of Church and State

by Diane Robertson

We all know the phrase “separation of church and state”. It was taught us in school and atheists use it all of the time to reprimand people for holding prayer at public events. Of course the intended meaning wasn’t the absence of religion in the public square, but that the government should not make a state required religion such as was found in Europe at the time the phrase was written by Thomas Jefferson.

Today, however, state, city, and national government attempt to limit and censor religion not just in the public square, but in religious buildings themselves. That is not separation of church and state. That, in fact, is state dictating religion, essentially forming state approved beliefs.

At this point in time, Iowa is the biggest offender attempting to force churches to avoid talking about sexuality in a way that is not prescribed by the state as well as insisting that bathroom use must accommodate individuals according to their gender belief rather than biology.

Earlier this month the Iowa Civil Rights Commission put out a “public accommodations providers guide to Iowa law” which said:

“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).”

The final example meant that Churches cannot preach Biblical sexuality if it allows the public to attend its sermons and that they must open up their gender specific bathrooms to both genders.

Nearly every church welcomes the public to regular Sunday services.

Alarmed at that wording and obvious implications, Alliance Defending Freedom filed a lawsuit on behalf of the Fort Des Moines Church of Christ.

Upon receiving notice of the lawsuit, the Iowa Civil Rights Commission updated its brochure to say:

“Places of worship (e.g. churches, synagogues, mosques, etc.) are generally exempt from the Iowa law’s prohibition of discrimination, unless the place of worship engages in non-religious activities which are open to the public. For example, the law may apply to an independent day care or polling place located on the premises of the place of worship.”

The example has been changed, but the original intent was clear that if a church is open to the public, it will then be expected to follow the law as if it were a restaurant including what it can and cannot preach.

Pro-lgbt group one1owa commented that, “As a church, they can believe whatever they want. In their bona fide religious activities they are exempt. They cannot, however, break the law when providing public accommodation.” Still insisting that if a worship service is open to the public then what is taught must be approved by law.

Alliance Defending Freedom has said that, “All churches in Iowa should be free to communicate their beliefs about human sexuality without government censorship and operate their facilities consistently with their faith.” Which is in fact what has been the legal precedent in every state since the founding of the nation and is still practiced in every other state.

This lawsuit ought to be closely watched by all who care about religious freedom. One would hope that the earliest trial would assert that Church services open to the public can preach according to their religion and not according to a state approved religion. One would also hope that even a Church daycare could use its facilities as it sees fit. But that will not be clear until a judge hands down a ruling. If a law like this reaches the Supreme Court, it could destroy the separation of church and state that has kept government from prescribing what a Church may preach and how it may operate its facilities.

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