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Catholic bookstore now free to speak, operate consistent with beliefs

ADF attorneys successfully settle lawsuit challenging discriminatory Jacksonville law
Queen of Angels Store Front

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – In settlement of a federal lawsuit, the city of Jacksonville has agreed that Queen of Angels Catholic Bookstore is an exempt religious organization under city law and Title VII, and that, as such, the for-profit bookstore is now free to operate according to its Catholic beliefs.

Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys representing Queen of Angels filed the lawsuit, Queen of Angels Catholic Bookstore v. City of Jacksonville, in February, challenging a city law that threatened to silence the religious views of the bookstore and its owner, Christie DeTrude, and to require them to engage in expression contrary to Catholic beliefs. Like similar laws across the country, the Jacksonville law would have required the bookstore to use pronouns of customers contrary to their sex and would have stopped the bookstore from explaining its beliefs about gender identity on its website. After the district court found that the law credibly threatened the bookstore’s First Amendment rights, Jacksonville agreed to exempt the bookstore from its law.

“Free speech is for everyone. All Americans should be free to say what they believe without fear of government punishment,” said ADF Senior Counsel Hal Frampton, who argued before the court on behalf of Queen of Angels in May. “Christie gladly serves everyone, but she can’t speak messages that conflict with her religious beliefs. Jacksonville’s law threatened her with costly investigations, fines, and damages if she used her store’s website to communicate Catholic beliefs about gender identity and human sexuality. Thankfully, the city has now agreed that Queen of Angels is a religious organization free to operate according to its faith.”

Queen of Angels serves the Jacksonville community by selling books, crucifixes, and other Catholic resources to the public. In everything it does, Queen of Angels and DeTrude strive to honor God and promote their Catholic beliefs, including through the store’s website and YouTube channel.

The bookstore serves all customers and gladly sells its products to anybody, but DeTrude and her bookstore staff cannot speak messages that violate their faith. Thus, they affirm that men and women are different and cannot use pronouns or titles that don’t align with a customer’s sex.

DeTrude also wants to explain this policy and her Catholic beliefs about gender and sexuality in her store and on the store’s website. But she couldn’t for fear of Jacksonville’s Human Rights Ordinance, which forbid communications that could lead someone to feel “unwelcome” based on various protected traits. The law threatened Queen of Angels with unlimited fines and damages if it didn’t comply. Now, because Queen of Angels is an exempt religious organization, DeTrude can speak freely about her religious beliefs.

Alliance Defending Freedom is an alliance-building, non-profit legal organization committed to protecting religious freedom, free speech, parental rights, and the sanctity of life.

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Hal Frampton
Hal Frampton
Senior Counsel
Hal Frampton serves as senior counsel in the Center for Conscience Initiatives at Alliance Defending Freedom.