Virginia ministries continue fight for employment freedom
Virginia Values Act threatens faith-based groups
Two churches, three Christian schools, and a pregnancy center network will appeal after a state court judge dismissed their case against a Virginia nondiscrimination law, their attorney said last week. The groups say the Virginia Values Act unconstitutionally imposes an LGBT ideology contrary to their religious beliefs.
The judge’s July 16 ruling found the ministries had no standing to sue because the state hadn’t enforced the law yet, said Alliance Defending Freedom’s Denise Harle.
“Pre-enforcement challenges are the hallmark of civil rights litigation,” Harle told The Virginia Star. “Americans have the right to challenge unjust laws. We don’t have to wait for the punishment.”
Loudoun County Circuit Court Judge James Plowman indicated a written opinion would follow his oral ruling within a matter of weeks.
While the law contains a religious exemption, challengers argue that it doesn’t go far enough. It only allows churches and other ministries to base hiring and firing decisions on how employees self-identify religiously, not based on whether they follow a group’s beliefs on things like sexuality and marriage, according to The Family Foundation President Victoria Cobb.
A federal judge previously rejected photographer Bob Updegrove’s challenge to the law in March, also on standing grounds. The Leesburg, Va., resident said the law would require him to photograph a same-sex wedding in violation of his religious beliefs. Updegrove has appealed. His attorneys argue that a ruling shortly after the dismissal clearly upholds such pre-enforcement challenges. In Bryant v. Woodall, the court found abortion providers had standing to challenge a pro-life law that had not been enforced “against any abortion provider in nearly 50 years.”
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