Virginia won't force churches, Christian schools to hire non-Christians, pay for gender treatments

Virginia officials agreed not to force Christian ministries to violate their religious beliefs in a new settlement agreement reached Friday.

Christian legal organization Alliance Defending Freedom announced it settled its lawsuit filed in 2020 against the state on behalf of two churches, three Christian schools, and a pro-life pregnancy center network objecting to provisions in a state anti-discrimination law.

In Calvary Road Baptist Church v. Miyares, ADF argued that Virginia was violating its clients’ “statutory and constitutional rights,” with changes made in 2020 to existing anti-discrimination law. Sexual orientation and gender identity were added that year as protected classes under the Virginia Values Act and signed into law by former Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam.

ADF claimed the law “forced nonprofit ministries to abandon their core convictions in hiring and other policies or face fines up to $100,000 for each violation.”

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Calvary Road Baptist Church settled with the state of Virginia last week. Courtesy: Alliance Defending Freedom

“A companion law required the ministries and others like them to include in employee health care plans coverage for ‘sex reassignment’ and ‘gender affirming’ surgeries that run contrary to their beliefs. It also prohibited the ministries from offering sex-specific Bible studies and youth activities,” the group said in a press release.

Republican Virginia Attorney General Jason Miyares agreed that the plaintiffs in the case, Calvary Road Baptist Church, Community Fellowship Church, Community Christian Academy, and Care Net, were private religious institutions that are “not subject to the regulation of places of public accomodation” under state law.

Under the settlement, the state agreed not to “require Plaintiffs to employ individuals who do not profess and live according to religious beliefs held by Plaintiffs.” They also agreed to not force the plaintiffs to provide “insurance plans, gender-transition treatments or procedures…that violate the religious beliefs of Plaintiffs.”

ADF Senior Counsel Kevin Theriot said the state must continue to protect religious freedom without “fear of government punishment.”

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Religious ministries should be protected from the fear of government punishment, ADF counsel Kevin Theriot said. (iStock)

“Religious organizations are free to operate their ministries without fear of government punishment, and Virginia’s law protects that foundational right,” Theriot said in a statement. “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.”

ADF attorneys filed to dismiss the case with the Loudoun County Circuit Court on Friday, the release said.

Kristine Parks is an associate editor for Fox News Digital. Read more.

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