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Won U.S. District Courts

Fort Des Moines Church of Christ v. Jackson

Fort Des Moines Church of Christ v. Jackson


Fort Des Moines Church of Christ’s motto is to love God, love people, and serve everyone. This Iowa church is active in its community and welcomes everyone to learn more about the good news of God’s forgiving love and compassion.

But because the church welcomes nonmembers to attend its worship services and other activities, the Iowa Civil Rights Commission takes the position that state law requires Fort Des Moines to censor its speech about human sexuality and make its showers and restrooms accessible to the opposite biological sex.

The state law at issue prohibits “public accommodations” from “indicating” that a person is “unwelcome” based on his or her “gender identity.”  Fort Des Moines welcomes everyone; but the speech ban is so broadly written as to prohibit a pastor’s sermon about God’s design in creating each person as either male or female. The law also includes a facility use mandate that compels public accommodations to open their restrooms, locker rooms, and showers to persons based on gender identity, rather than biological sex. Even asking about a person’s gender identity in conjunction with using sex-specific facilities violates the law.

In July 2016, Alliance Defending Freedom filed a lawsuit on behalf of Fort Des Moines Church of Christ against this unprecedented overreach by the Iowa Civil Rights Commission. Thankfully, in October 2016, a federal district court held that churches are not public accommodations subject to government control and that state officials have no business determining which church activities are “religious enough” and which aren’t.

ADF will continue to defend the right of all churches to communicate their beliefs about human sexuality without government censorship and operate their facilities consistently with their faith

What's at stake

The freedom of churches to teach their religious beliefs and to use their houses of worship consistently with those beliefs without government intrusion and threat of punishment. 

Our role in this case

Alliance Defending Freedom served as lead counsel for Fort Des Moines Church of Christ free of charge.

Additional Resources

ICRC publication: A Public Accommodations Provider’s Guide to Iowa Law

ICRC publication (old version): A Public Accommodations Provider’s Guide to Iowa Law

Case Profiles

Christiana Holcomb
Christiana Kiefer
Senior Counsel
Christiana (Holcomb) Kiefer serves as senior counsel with Alliance Defending Freedom, where she is a key member of the Center for Conscience Initiatives.