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Iowa to permit state employees to donate to faith-based charities

State changes policy in wake of ADF-CLS lawsuit
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DES MOINES, Iowa — After a lawsuit by attorneys with the Christian Legal Society and Alliance Defense Fund, the Iowa Department of Administration has agreed to allow state employees to contribute to faith-based charities through its voluntary state employee charitable donation program.  The state corrected rules that excluded the charities from receiving voluntary donations through a payroll deduction system.  Employees will no longer be limited to non-religious charities as choices.

“Religious charities providing critical social services should not be discriminated against simply because they practice their religious beliefs and hire persons who share them.  They are equally worthy of voluntary contributions, and no one is compelled to give to them,” said M. Casey Mattox, litigation counsel for CLS’s Center for Law & Religious Freedom.  “While it is disappointing that legal action was even necessary to address this clear constitutional violation, we applaud the state for eventually getting it right and amending its rules to respect religious freedom.”

Attorneys with the Alliance Defense Fund and the Christian Legal Society’s Center for Law & Religious Freedom filed suit in March alleging that the rules excluding religious charities violated the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.  The rules, from the Iowa One Gift program, excluded any charitable organization that “engages in any way in sectarian activities,” advocates “religious viewpoints,” or “discriminates” on the basis of religion in employment.

The department has now eliminated the exclusion of “sectarian” and “religious” charities and amended its nondiscrimination rule to only require employment practices to comply with Iowa employment law, which includes an exemption for the faith-based hiring policies of religious employers.  As a result of the changes, ADF and CLS attorneys will voluntarily dismiss their lawsuit, Association of Faith-Based Organizations v. Anderson, from the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Iowa, Central Division.

AFBO is an association of non-profit religious charities seeking to protect the constitutional freedom of religious organizations to staff and select members on a religious basis.  AFBO is comprised of social service providers, educational institutions, membership associations, and advocacy outreach organizations, including the Christian Legal Society and other non-profit organizations.

The Sioux City Gospel Mission, an AFBO member, has been admitted to participate in the Iowa One Gift program as a result of the department’s rules changes.

CLS and ADF attorneys have successfully represented AFBO in similar lawsuits in Wisconsin, Florida, and Michigan .

The ADF Center for Academic Freedom defends religious freedom at America's public universities. ADF is a legal alliance of Christian attorneys and like-minded organizations defending the right of people to freely live out their faith. The CLS Center for Law & Religious Freedom is a team of Christian attorneys allied with ADF to defend religious liberty and human life.