Small businesses have long been part of the fabric of the American economy. Anyone who wishes to use their talents to start a private business and offer goods or services to the public can do so, and many people have even immigrated to the United States to achieve this dream.
For many small business owners, their company is about more than just turning a profit: it’s about sharing their gifts, talents, and messages with the world. That is the case for Christie DeTrude, the owner of Queen of Angels Catholic Bookstore in Jacksonville, Florida. At Queen of Angels, Christie seeks to provide a welcoming environment for anyone who enters her store. And she seeks to use her bookstore to share the Gospel. Many people come to Queen of Angels to learn more about the Catholic faith, and Christie and her employees gladly help people understand it.
To provide this space for its surrounding community, Christie has to be able to express messages in line with her Catholic beliefs. The First Amendment protects her right to operate her private business in this way, but a Jacksonville law threatened that right.
What is Queen of Angels Catholic Bookstore, and who is Christie DeTrude?
Queen of Angels is a Catholic bookstore located in Jacksonville, Florida. It sells various goods including books, apparel, home décor, jewelry, and rosaries, and each item is deeply connected to the Catholic faith. Queen of Angels maintains a website, blog, and YouTube channel to promote its products and teach others about Catholicism.
In addition to being a bookstore, Queen of Angels is also a haven for the Jacksonville community. People who are curious about Catholicism can come to ask questions and learn about the faith, and anyone in the store is welcome to gather in prayer with other members of the community. The bookstore serves everyone regardless of who they are and sells anything in the store to anyone.
As its name indicates, Queen of Angels is thoroughly Catholic and promotes and lives out Catholic beliefs. The bookstore collects customers’ prayer requests, connects interested customers to local churches, hosts events where community members can meet Christian artists and authors, helps people donate devotional items to those who can use them, and engages in daily prayer times consistent with Catholic tradition.
Christie has also created a website, blog, and YouTube channel for the store, which she uses to promote products and discuss current issues from a Catholic point of view. But a Jacksonville law threatened Christie’s rights to explain these beliefs on the website and operate her business consistently with the Catholic faith.
Governments at every level in the United States have pushed laws seeking to compel Americans to use pronouns inconsistent with biological reality.
For example, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission now claims that federal law requires businesses to force their employees to use preferred pronouns. Under the guise of stopping discrimination, state laws in New York, Iowa, Colorado, New Jersey, Washington, Vermont, Massachusetts, and California also force businesses to use preferred pronouns. And countless cities and counties across the United States have similar laws.
Like many others, Jacksonville’s law threatens to compel businesses to express messages that violate their beliefs, which is why Christie challenged the law in court.
Queen of Angels has always served all customers, regardless of their sexual orientation, religious beliefs, or any other protected characteristics. Even when people enter the store solely to protest, employees treat them with respect. But employees cannot and will not act in ways that contradict their Catholic beliefs.
Because of their belief that God created everyone either male or female, employees cannot refer to customers with pronouns that are inconsistent with their sex. Instead, the employees use another form of address that does not include gender, such as the customer’s name.
Christie is happy to serve any individuals at Queen of Angels, including those who identify as LGBT. She simply cannot express messages that violate her Catholic beliefs.
Christie believes that many people misunderstand or misrepresent Catholic teaching about marriage, gender, and sexuality. For this reason, she wants to use the store’s website, blog, and YouTube channel to explain these beliefs better. Christie wants to make it clear that even though she will not express messages that violate her beliefs, she will never turn anyone away from her bookstore for holding beliefs that are different from hers.
Unfortunately, the Jacksonville Human Rights Ordinance threatened to compel Queen of Angels to use pronouns that are inconsistent with a person’s sex, which would contradict its Catholic beliefs. In addition, it threatened to prevent employees from even explaining Catholic beliefs about marriage, gender, and sexuality, both on the website and in person.
If any Queen of Angels employees were to defy this law, they could have faced unlimited fines and damages. This would have violated their First Amendment rights to speak freely and exercise religion, so Christie filed a lawsuit in February 2023.
In September 2023, the city of Jacksonville agreed in a proposed settlement that Queen of Angels is an exempt religious organization under city law and Title VII. This means the bookstore is free to operate according to its beliefs and explain its faith to customers without punishment from Jacksonville officials.
- February 9, 2023: Queen of Angels sent a letter to the city of Jacksonville explaining its religious beliefs, pronoun policy, and desire to explain its beliefs on its website. The store asked the city to disavow enforcement of the law but did not receive a response.
- February 22, 2023: Queen of Angels filed a lawsuit against the city of Jacksonville asking the court to strike down the unconstitutional law.
- September 2023: Jacksonville agreed in a proposed settlement that Queen of Angels is an exempt religious organization under city law and Title VII.
The bottom line
Free speech is for everyone. All Americans should be free to say what they believe without fear of government punishment.