Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) is representing two churches, a school, and a pro-life pregnancy clinic in their case against the so-called Virginia Values Act, the new LGBT antidiscrimination law that forces the plaintiffs to compromise their religious beliefs when it comes to hiring and operating as they set fit.
Attorney General Mark Herring (D-Virginia) has applauded Judge James E. Plowman, Jr. for ruling earlier this month in favor of the state law, saying Virginia will remain a place that is open and welcoming to all. Now ADF is considering its options.
"We're concerned about it and disappointed, because everyone should be free to live and work according to their beliefs without fear of unjust government punishment," says ADF attorney Kevin Theriot. "At this point, we have to decide whether to appeal, and we are in a process of making that decision in consultation with our clients. But I think it's pretty clear that we can't let this stand, because the government should not be able to force a religious organization to violate its own beliefs the way that this law does."
The Virginia Values Act is similar to federal legislation known as the Equality Act, which has passed in the House but not the Senate.
"It's also very similar to the federal law that is now being interpreted to apply to sexual orientation and transgenderism," Theriot adds.
The appeal process could reach into 2022, but Theriot says ADF is trying to go as fast as possible because "government hostility toward people of faith is unconstitutional, and it just doesn't have any place in our society."
"It doesn't matter where you live or worship; tolerance, respect for good faith differences are essential for a pluralistic society like ours, and if we don't have them, then we can't peacefully co-exist," Theriot insists.
He believes everyone should be concerned about this law.
Meanwhile in Washington state, a federal district court will hear a case involving a church being forced to pay for abortions. The Ninth Circuit has recognized that Cedar Park Church, represented by ADF attorneys, suffered an injury after Washington state Senate Bill 6219 was signed into law in March 2018. The law requires Cedar Park to provide coverage for abortion if the church also offers maternity care coverage to its employees. If it refuses the former, the church would face fines and criminal penalties, including imprisonment.
"This case will continue within the next several months," explains ADF attorney Elissa Graves. "We don't have a timeline right now, but we know that it will move forward now, that we'll be able to challenge this unconstitutional restriction on Cedar Park's ability to act in accordance with its faith."
Graves believes this is another growing issue to which people in all states should pay attention.
"States are unconstitutionally trying to force religious organizations to provide insurance coverage for abortion or abortifacient medications, and this is not an isolated issue," says Graves. "We're talking about Washington here, but the state of California has also done this, and so has the state of Oregon. It's really a growing trend that could be coming to your state, and it's something to be aware of so that we can stop these governments from unconstitutionally forcing churches to provide abortion coverage."