A judge in Virginia has given his opinion that a state law that has forced churches to censor their beliefs on marriage, sexuality and gender from their own websites under the threat of huge fines is not inflicting any damage on those institutions.
A report from Just the News has outlined the recent claim from Judge James Plowman of Loudoun County, in a case brought by Calvary Road Baptist Church, Community Fellowship Church, Community Christian Academy and Care Net, a ministry.
They had to remove their own biblical beliefs from their websites because of the threat from a state law that is charged with violating the Virginia Bill of Rights and the state Religious Freedom Restoration Act by forcing ministries to violate their beliefs.
The law allows no exemption from its LGBT mandates for religious organizations.
The state is threatening $100,000 fines per violation as well as “unlimited compensatory and punitive damages,” the churches have confirmed.
Those threats, and the churches’ forced responses, are sufficient to support a challenge seeking to define what the law actually means, and will do, argued Denise Harle, a lawyer for the Alliance Defending Freedom.
The judge refused to believe it.
“There are not reasonably foreseeable actions to be taken against these institutions,” he said. “Is there an actual controversy here?”
The lawsuit charges that state law has been weaponized against the churches, forcing them to hire employees that violate their beliefs and then, “if they choose to provide health insurance, pay for employees’ gender procedures,” the report explained.
Attorney General Mark Herring already has filed a statement on the law, that the office had not gotten, filed, or investigated any complaints against religious institutions under the law.
But state officials later admitted that was wrong, that there had been seven complaints relating to employment “discrimination,” and those were referred to the federal government’s enforcement procedures.
Harle argued the law came out of “an animus” against her clients’ Christian beliefs, and pointed out that 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has stated state laws are presumed to be enforced if state officials “don’t disclaim an intent to enforce a law.”
But Plowman dismissed the claims against the Virginia Values Act and its requirements.
The churches have the option to appeal.
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