John Stonestreet and Roberto Rivera on So-Called “Virginia Values Act” Undermines Religious Freedom

On July 1, the state of Virginia enacted the “Virginia Values Act,” which bans discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. A companion law requires employers to include coverage for sex reassignment and “gender affirming” surgeries in their health plans. According to the Alliance Defending Freedom, who has filed a pre-enforcement challenge, the Virginia Values Act requires “churches, religious schools, and Christian ministries to hire employees who do not share their stated beliefs on marriage, sexuality, and gender identity.”

Though the Act provides an exemption for religious schools “owned, supported, controlled, or managed” by denominations or churches, that exemption is severely limited. First, it’s limited to instances in which the curriculum “is directed toward the propagation of a particular religion.” In other words, a Catholic school could insist its religion teachers agree with Catholic doctrines but, as written, likely not its math and science teachers.

John Stonestreet

Second, the exemption applies only to religious groups that do not restrict their membership on account of sexual orientation or gender identity. In other words, a church that operates a school could require its teachers to be members of the church, but membership in that church cannot require adherence to historic Christian teaching on sexuality and marriage.

The Virginia Values Act runs afoul of current law in all kinds of ways. For starters, it ignores what the Supreme Court confirmed this past term about the “ministerial exemption,” which bars the application of anti-discrimination law in cases involving churches and their ministers.

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SOURCE: Christian Post, John Stonestreet and Roberto Rivera

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