Skip to content

VA faith-based groups ask court to reconsider ruling that allows state to ruin them for their beliefs 

ADF attorneys file new information in Calvary Road Baptist Church v. Herring
Calvary Road Baptist Church building and sign

ALEXANDRIA, Va. – Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys representing two churches, three schools, and a pregnancy center network filed a motion Friday with the Loudoun County Circuit Court that asks it to reconsider its previous ruling in Calvary Road Baptist Church v. Herring in light of new information. The lawsuit challenges a Virginia law that forces nonprofit ministries to abandon their core convictions in hiring and other policies or face fines up to $100,000 for each violation.

The court had ruled that the nonprofits couldn’t challenge the law until they were threatened with prosecution, but three new federal appellate decisions have recognized the ability to file similar challenges. In addition, the motion for reconsideration provides legal precedent that supports the court’s jurisdiction over a previously dismissed commonwealth commission named as a defendant in the suit.

“Religious organizations are free to operate their ministries without fear of government punishment, but this law is violating that freedom by requiring them to abandon their beliefs or pay a devastating price,” said ADF Senior Counsel Denise Harle. “We hope the court will recognize from the new information we have submitted that it has the ability to allow this case to proceed so that Virginia communities can continue to benefit greatly from the services provided by churches and faith-based schools and nonprofits. The commonwealth must respect their right—just like anyone else’s—to continue operating by their own internal policies and codes of conduct about life, marriage, and sexuality.”

The Virginia Values Act, enacted in July 2020, compels churches, religious schools, and Christian ministries to hire employees who do not share their beliefs on marriage, sexuality, and gender identity—and even bans them from publishing their biblical beliefs on these topics. A companion law requires the ministries and others like them to include in employee health care plans coverage for sex reassignment and “gender affirming” surgeries that run contrary to their beliefs. It also prohibits the ministries from offering sex-specific Bible studies and youth activities.

One of the decisions the motion cites is the recent decision of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit in the ADF case 303 Creative v. Elenis. As the motion explains, “in a pre-enforcement challenge to Colorado’s similar anti-discrimination law, the Tenth Circuit held that a website designer had standing because she and her company faced ‘a credible threat Colorado [would] prosecute them under that statute.’ The court reached that conclusion though the plaintiffs did ‘not yet offer wedding-related services,’ but merely ‘intend[ed] to do so in the future.’ That intent was enough because the plaintiffs’ ‘potential liability [was] inherent in the manner they intend[ed] to operate—excluding customers who celebrate same-sex marriages.’ And the threat was especially credible given ‘Colorado’s strenuous assertion that it [had] a compelling interest in enforcing CADA.’ All the more so here, where Plaintiffs have long engaged in their religious speech, policies, and practices that are inherent in their operation as Christian ministries and unlawful under a reasonable reading of the Act that Defendants are admittedly committed to enforcing.” [citations omitted]

More than 70 Virginia faith leaders signed an open letter to Gov. Ralph Northam and the Virginia General Assembly citing serious concerns about the Virginia Values Act.

  • Pronunciation guide: Harle (HAR’-lee)

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.

# # # | Ref. 76095

Related Profiles