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Big court case defends religious freedom in small city

De Peer city hall Credit: Royalbroil/Wikipedia/Creative Commons

De Peer city hall Credit: Royalbroil/Wikipedia/Creative Commons

It was an early Christmas present for churches in De Pere, Wisconsin and perhaps across the US.

On Friday, December 21, 2018, the Pacific Justice Institute was in court in Green Bay, Wisconsin successfully defending religious freedom.

The case revolved around an ordinance passed by De Pere, Wisconsin in November 2017. De Pere is a small city with about 25,000 residents, but the court case was huge and if left unchallenged could have set a precedent across the US.

The law that came in effect in March, 2018, decreed that churches were for the most part “places of public accommodation.” Churches were only exempt from this ordinance during church actual services. This meant at all other times, churches, as places of accommodation, were subject to the city’s non discrimination law.

This meant churches would be required to hire gay staff and would be restricted from what they could say publicly on sexual ethics including sermons posted on the internet. The law would also force churches to allow their facilities to be used for gay marriage.

In accordance with past Supreme Court rulings, legislation of this nature requires exemptions for religious organizations. However, when religious groups approached city council about this they refused to provide assurances that churches would be exempt.

It seems the city felt by providing an exemption for worship services, it could do an end run around the US Constitution.

As a result, six Christian organizations, including five congregations and a radio station, took the city to court. The Pacific Justice Institute, a non-profit legal organization dedicated to defending religious freedom in the US, agreed to take on the case.

In the December 21 ruling, the court ordered the city to immediately provide a religious exemption to this bylaw allowing the churches to be free of any city attempts to restrict religious freedoms during the 2018 Christmas season.

In its news release announcing the decision, Pacific Justice Institute’s Brad Dacus said:

“These religious organizations stood up for their conviction and fought back against intolerant and aggressive LGBT policies. Now churches can continue to advertise, display, or publish teachings on matters of sexual ethics, divorce, or biological phenomenon that persons are born ether male or female — without the city’s oppressive restriction.”

If unchallenged, it would have been the first US city to deem churches “places of public accommodation” and could have set an ugly precedent for other left-leaning municipal politicians wanting to end religious freedoms.

It’s disturbing that municipal politicians are so willing to waste tax dollars on unwinnable court cases, but again it is not their money they are flushing down the toilet.


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