Green Bay, WI—A Judge in Green Bay, Wisconsin, ruled last Friday that a city’s non-discrimination ordinance cannot be applied to churches or other religious organizations. The City of De Pere’s ordinance labeled religious organizations as “places of public accommodation” subject to non-discrimination policies dictated by the government.
The City’s ordinance, passed just before Thanksgiving of last year, addressed non-discrimination of gender identity and sexual orientation in housing, employment, advertising, and public accommodations—without an exemption for religious organizations. Before the ordinance took effect in March 2018, Pacific Justice Institute (PJI) swiftly took action and filed a complaint.
PJI attorney Kevin Snider represented five churches and a radio broadcaster in De Pere. Wisconsin attorney Heidi Miller assisted PJI in this case. These religious organizations bravely held to the biblical beliefs that God determines gender and prohibits homosexuality. These pastors, who preach from their pulpits on marriage and sexual ethics, hold their ministries to those biblical standards in areas of community outreach, employment, and advertising.
The City argued in their motion to dismiss PJI’s complaint that any time a church opens to the public, outside of their “traditional role as a house of worship,” the City has the right to impose its own values on that church. In the courtroom, De Pere’s attorneys even mentioned that actions such as a church serving as a polling place or handing out water to runners at an athletic event triggered the City’s provision. If the ordinance had survived, De Pere would be the first in America to deem churches places of public accommodation.
The Judge declared that his decision to exempt religious institutions from this ordinance is effective immediately—as Christmas is coming and churches have programs and activities for the community that should not be provided in fear of the ordinance.
“This court victory came just in time for these churches who have treaded cautiously under the burden of this government orthodoxy,” said Snider. “Our clients and the many other religious institutions in De Pere can fulfill their religious functions and ministries this Christmas season, without fear of being brought before a tribunal due to their hiring choices or refusal to host same-sex marriages on church property.”
Brad Dacus, Founder and President of PJI, commented, “This unconstitutional ordinance could not go unchallenged. These religious organizations stood up for their convictions and fought back against intolerant and aggressive LGBT policies. Now churches can continue to advertise, display, or publish teachings and sermons on matters of sexual ethics, divorce, or the biological phenomenon that persons are born either male or female—without the City’s oppressive restriction.”