Missouri Family E-News

May 24, 2017

 
Catholics File Suit Against St. Louis Ordinance 

The Catholic schools of the St. Louis Archdiocese have
filed suit in federal court against the City of St. Louis over a recent ordinance that threatens the freedom of religious institutions.

The litigation was filed in U.S. District Court for Eastern Missouri by Archdiocesan elementary schools, a maternity home known as Our Lady's Inn, and a private Catholic businessman named Frank O'Brien.

The focus of the lawsuit is an ordinance approved by the St. Louis Board of Aldermen that prohibits discrimination based on so-called "reproductive health decisions." Pro-life leaders have contended the ordinance would make the City of St. Louis an abortion "sanctuary city." 

They maintain that religious organizations could face legal action for failing to include abortion coverage in their health insurance plans, and property owners could be charged with discrimination for failing to rent tenant space to abortion clinics or abortion doctors.

Pro-life activists also claim that the new law could results in fines being imposed against religious schools, religious charities, and crisis pregnancy centers for not employing individuals who publicly advocate for legalized abortion.

"We know that all life is a gift from God, and must be protected at any cost," said St. Louis Archbishop Robert Carlson at a press conference outside the federal courthouse in downtown St. Louis.

"Sadly, legal protection for those members of the human family waiting to be born in this country was removed by the Supreme Court in 1973.   Now, some of our St. Louis politicians have made a protected 'class' out of 'reproductive health,' which is merely a politically correct euphemism for abortion," Carlson stated.

"The passage of this bill is not a milestone of our city's success," Carlson added.  "It is rather a marker of our city's embrace of the culture of death."

Peggy Forrest, President of Our Lady's Inn, says that the ordinance will damage the maternity home's mission to provide services to homeless pregnant women and their children.

"The ordinance prevents me from hiring only individuals who support our alternatives to abortion mission.  It also requires Our Lady's Inn to house women who intend to have an abortion, which forces us to be complicit in that decision."

The joint lawsuit asks the federal court to issue an injunction banning enforcement of the ordinance until the case can go to trial.  The plaintiffs claim violation of their First Amendment right to free speech and the free exercise of religion, and the protections afforded by Missouri's Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

Archbishop Carlson was defiant in declaring that the Archdiocese would adopt a role as conscientious objectors to the ordinance.  "Let me be clear:  The Archdiocese of St. Louis will not comply with this ordinance."

The Thomas More Society is representing the plaintiffs in the lawsuit.  Thomas More Attorney Sarah Pitlyk says the ordinance must include exemptions for individuals with sincere religious, moral, or ethical objections to be constitutional.         
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KY Court Affirms
Free Speech Rights
of Christian Printer

A Kentucky appeals court has vindicated the free speech rights of a Lexington print shop owner in a much-watched case that has major national religious liberty implications.  The court ruled that the Christian business owner could not be compelled to communicate messages that violated his religious beliefs.

The case involves a company called Hands On Originals, which advertises itself as a "Christian outfitter."  The company prints "high-quality, customized Christian apparel" with Christian-themed messages for churches, schools, clubs, teams, and fundraising efforts in the religious community.

In 2012 owner Blaine Adamson was approached by representatives of the Lexington Gay and Lesbian Services Organization.  He was asked to design and print T-shirts for the group's annual "gay pride" festival.  Adamson declined the opportunity, saying he could not promote such an event because of his Christian beliefs.

Despite the fact that Adamson arranged for the shirts to be produced by another printer in town, event organizers filed a complaint against him with the Lexington Human Rights Commission.  They accused him of violating the city's "fairness" ordinance prohibiting discrimination based on "sexual orientation."  The Commission subsequently found him guilty of the charge.

In a 2-1 decision, the Kentucky Court of Appeals has now overturned the Human Rights Commission decision.  The Appeals Court concluded that Adamson had not discriminated against the homosexual group because of the sexual behavior of its members, but rather because of the message they were asking him to design and disseminate. 

"The right of free speech does not guarantee to any person the right to use someone else's property," wrote Chief Judge Joy Kramer.  "In other words, the 'service' Hands On Originals offers is the promotion of messages.  The conduct Hands On Originals chose not to promote was pure speech."

The appeals court ruled that while the printing company was indeed a public accommodation, the small business was not a public forum.  Thus it was constitutionally entitled to determine what messages and viewpoints it chooses to endorse and to publicize.

Adamson says he holds no hostility to homosexuals, and has employed them in his business for years.  However, he says "we've had to turn down several jobs...when they present a message that conflicts with my convictions.  I don't leave my faith at the door when I walk into my business.  In my case, fortunately the legal system worked."   
Adamson was represented in the case by the Alliance Defending Freedom.  ADF Senior Counsel Jim Campbell says the Kentucky Appeals Court decision is a major victory for the First Amendment free speech and free exercise rights of every American.

"Americans should always have the freedom to believe what they will, the freedom to express those beliefs, and the freedom not to express ideas that would violate their conscience.  The government shouldn't be able to force citizens to create speech that conflicts with their deepest convictions."

Tony Perkins, President of the Family Research Council, also welcomed the ruling.  "We are pleased to learn that the freedom of the press also includes T-shirt presses. This decision affirms our nation's long history of protecting Americans from being compelled by the government to advocate a message to which one objects.  This ruling is a major triumph over the notion that surrendering First Amendment rights is just 'the price of doing business.'"

In recent years, many states and municipalities have amended their "public accommodations" laws and ordinances to prohibit discrimination based on "sexual orientation" and "gender identity."  These laws have been used by homosexual rights advocates to target bakers, florists, photographers, and even churches and ministers for refusing to participate in same-sex union ceremonies.

Efforts have been repeatedly made in the Missouri Legislature to amend the state's public accommodations anti-discrimination statutes in the same way.  This session the Missouri Senate voted down an amendment to the state's Human Rights Statute to make "sexual orientation" and "gender identity" protected classes.  The Missouri House set aside an amendment that would have done the same during similar debate on the scope of anti-discrimination provisions in Missouri law.

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