Skip to main content
Hero Image

Breaking Down the Media Bias Against ADF’s Virginia Cases

October 15, 2020

News media is making it harder and harder to separate the wheat from the chaff these days.

One report on a Virginia law that could force artists and religious groups to violate their own beliefs serves as a good example.

We begin where most people think it’s OK to stop. The headline:

“Lawsuits challenge Virginia’s sexual orientation protections”

Fifty-nine percent of people will share an article on social media before opening the link. Thus, the headline may very well be the only issue discussed around the Keurig the next morning. 

But, contrary to what this headline would have you believe, denying “sexual orientation protections” is not the purpose of the lawsuit. Protecting the constitutional freedoms of Calvary Road Baptist Church and special-event photographer Bob Updegrove is. 

The law that’s the subject of the legal challenge, the “Virginia Values Act,” is very specific about which values it protects—and which it punishes. Certain beliefs about marriage, sexuality, and gender are no longer welcome. In the case of Calvary Road, the law strips them of their right to hire employees who will agree with and live by their mission and core beliefs. For Bob, if he offers to create wedding photographs only promoting weddings between a man and a woman, or even post his religious beliefs about marriage on his website, he would be found in violation of the law.  

In both cases, the law threatens fines ranging from $50,000 to $100,000 for non-compliance. Attorney's fees and damages are unlimited.

The message from the state of Virginia is quite clear: Accept the beliefs we tell you, or it’ll cost you—and the price is so high you’ll never recover.

Those patient enough to make it a third of the way into the piece will read, “the law creates some exemptions for religious organizations but Kevin Theriot, senior counsel for Alliance Defending Freedom, said they are insufficient...”

This is why we read past the headline.

The full text of the law resides here, and I dare you to find a meaningful religious exemption.

If you look hard enough, you can find this text:

“F. Under this section, a religious organization may require that all employees or applicants for employment conform to the religious tenets of such organization.”

You just have to click the link that says “House amendments not adopted.” It’s right under the heading that reads “AMENDMENT(S) REJECTED BY THE HOUSE.”

Plenty of liberties are taken in the final paragraph of the article...

“Updegrove’s case is similar to a 2018 Supreme Court case in favor of a Colorado baker who refused to bake a cake for a same-sex wedding. While the court ruled in favor of the baker, it did so on narrow grounds that left the broader question in dispute.”

Narrow grounds?

A 7-2 decision in favor of cake artist Jack Philips, where the high court strongly condemned Colorado’s “clear and impermissible hostility toward [Jack’s] sincere religious beliefs” can hardly be considered narrow grounds.

Too many journalists fail to report honestly about the facts. They would much rather socially engineer a response that suits their own worldview. It’s never been more important to look deeper into the media we consume, understanding exactly what we are promoting before we share it.

To stay up to date on how ADF is defending your religious freedom, sign up for our newsletter.


Alliance Defending Freedom

Alliance Defending Freedom

Non-profit organization

Alliance Defending Freedom advocates for your right to freely live out your faith

Religious Freedom

The Equality Act Risks the Rights of Every American

What many supporters of the bill won't tell you is that if passed, the Equality Act would pave the way for dangerous policies which could undermine fairness and freedom.

Religious Freedom

Why Two Female Athletes in Idaho Joined a Legal Battle Over a State Law

Female athletes deserve a voice in this lawsuit and the opportunity to protect women’s sports in Idaho.

Religious Freedom

Will SCOTUS Protect NAACP v. Alabama's Legacy? 5 Clues From Monday's Arguments

Much like Alabama’s demand back in 1956, California’s demand will also have disastrous consequences for donor privacy, free speech, and free association.