Skip to main content
Hero Image

Can the Government Decide Who Churches Hire?

By Sarah Kramer posted on:
July 15, 2021

Can you imagine if government officials in your state determined who your church can and can’t hire?

Well, churches and religious ministries in Virginia don’t have to imagine—that's their reality.

Last summer, Virginia enacted the “Virginia Values Act,” which added “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” language to existing nondiscrimination laws. In practice, this law strips faith-based organizations of their right to operate their ministries and make employment decisions according to their mission and core beliefs.

Take Calvary Road Baptist Church for example. Calvary Road believes that marriage is between one man and one woman, and that God created humanity as either male or female. Under Virginia’s new law, Calvary Road can believe that—but that’s where it stops.

According to the law, Calvary Road can’t actually operate according to these beliefs. It can’t ask its employees to teach and act according to these beliefs. And it can’t even explain these beliefs on its own website!

Essentially, Virginia’s law forces Calvary Road and other ministries like it to make a choice: abandon their biblical beliefs or face investigations, lawsuits, fines of up to $100,000 per violation, unlimited legal fees, and court orders forcing them to violate their convictions.

Calvary Road Baptist Church didn’t like those options, so it chose a different path. Calvary Road—along with Community Fellowship Church, Community Christian Academy, and Care Net— filed a lawsuit against the Commonwealth.

Tomorrow, Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys are representing these ministries in court.

Let’s pause to consider exactly what Virginia is forcing these ministries to do.

Forcing a church to hire an employee that doesn’t share its beliefs would be like forcing a Democratic candidate to hire a Republican speechwriter. It would be like making Planned Parenthood hire pro-life advocates. Or mandating that PETA hire an avid hunter.

It defies common sense. It defies a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling. And it defies the Virginia Constitution and other state law protecting religious freedom.

Virginia law protects the rights of religious groups to organize, minister, and hire based on their shared beliefs. The Supreme Court recently upheld this principle when it ruled in Our Lady of Guadalupe School v. Morrissey-Berru that the government can’t meddle with a religious group’s employment decisions about who does or doesn’t teach the faith.

After all, if a religious ministry can’t follow its core beliefs in key policy, personnel, and leadership decisions, that destroys its identity—its very reason for existing.

Unfortunately, that seems to be the intended outcome.

That’s why these churches and ministries are taking a stand. There is no place in our society—and no place under our federal and state laws—for the religious hostility on full display in Virginia. And it must stop.

To stay up to date on this case and others like it, sign up for our newsletter.


Sarah Kramer

Sarah Kramer

Digital Content Specialist

Sarah worked as an investigative reporter before joining the Alliance Defending Freedom team.

Religious Freedom

This Week: A Family Farm in Michigan Standing Up to Government Hostility

This clear government hostility doesn’t belong in a pluralistic society like ours.

Religious Freedom

When Will It Stop? 10th Circuit Rules Colorado Can Compel and Censor This Web Designer

You may not have heard of Lorie Smith. But she has a lot in common with cake artist, Jack Phillips.

Religious Freedom

9th Circuit Sides With Seattle-Based Church Forced to Defend Pro-Life Views in Court

Cedar Park Church outside of Seattle, Washington is well-known for its commitment to the belief that all human life is precious and worth protecting.