Virginia Christian Organizations Can Operate According to Beliefs

Virginia Christian Organizations Can Operate According to Beliefs

Two churches, a pregnancy center network and three Christian schools in Virginia have the right to operate and hire employees in a manner consistent with their faith and convictions, according to a settlement announced on March 15.

The Virginia Values Act, passed in 2020, prohibited discrimination in employment on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, essentially placing LGBTQ-identification on the same plane as race, color, national origin, religion, sex and age. Represented by Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), Care Net, along with Calvary Road Baptist Church, Community Fellowship Church and Community Christian Academy, challenged the law, which they argued would force them to hire those who didn’t share their religious beliefs, and would threaten to fine them up to $100,000 for each violation.

A companion law also required employee health insurance plans to include coverage for sex-change treatment and surgeries, as well as prohibiting the nonprofits from having sex-specific Bible studies and youth activities, according to ADF.

In 2021, the Loudoun County Circuit Court ruled that the plaintiffs couldn’t challenge the law until they were faced with prosecution. However, three federal appellate decisions recognized the ability to challenge laws in this way, and ADF filed a motion for the court to reconsider.

The settlement says that the attorney general will not enforce the Virginia Values Act “with regard to the Plaintiffs’ provision of their services, use of their facilities, and publication of their beliefs in a manner consistent with their religious convictions about marriage, sexuality, and gender as alleged in the Complaint.” Further, it states that the act “does not prohibit them from employing only individuals who profess and live according to religious beliefs held by Plaintiffs, including beliefs on abortion, marriage, sexuality, sex, and gender.”

Additionally, the statement says the plaintiffs will not be required to pay directly or provide insurance for gender transition treatments, puberty blockers, cross-sex hormones, transition surgeries and other “affirmative” treatment for gender dysphoria.

“Religious organizations are free to operate their ministries without fear of government punishment, and Virginia’s law protects that foundational right,” said ADF Senior Counsel Kevin Theriot. “Our clients are motivated by their faith to offer spiritual guidance, education, pregnancy support and athletic opportunities to their communities. The commonwealth must respect their right—just like anyone else’s—to continue operating by their own internal policies and codes of conduct about life, marriage and sexuality.”

Photo: Alliance Defending Freedom

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