Saturday, October 15, 2016

Massachusetts churches challenge new state policy requiring transgender accommodations

Image result for massachusetts commission against discriminationFour Protestant churches in Massachusetts have filed suit challenging a new state policy that requires all institutions to allow “transgender” individuals to use the restrooms and changing facilities designated for the sex with which they identify.

The Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination - a board of three commissioners appointed by the governor - has ruled that churches are not exempt from a new state law requiring equal access for “transgenders” to all public accommodations. The state’s attorney general, Maura Healey, endorsed that finding.

The same law also bans statements that are designed to discriminate against people on the basis of their chosen gender identity, or to “incite” others to discriminate. The plaintiffs argue that this provision limits the freedom of pastors to proclaim their beliefs regarding human sexuality.

The churches’ suit, filed in federal court on October 11, argues that the new state policy violates the right of religious institutions to administer their facilities and programs in a manner consistent with their beliefs. 

“The government shouldn’t encroach on the internal, religious practices of a church,” argues Steve O’Ban, a representative of the Alliance Defending Freedom, which is providing legal representation for the churches.

The four churches bringing the suit have asked the federal court to suspend enforcement of the new state policy until the issue is decided. No Catholic churches are directly involved in the suit.

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