ADF say the new law could force churches to 'violate their core religious beliefs'

A religious liberty organisation is taking legal action to protect Massachussetts churches from having to open transgender bathrooms.

The Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) has filed a federal lawsuit against a new state law which they say is “punishing” the protected religious speech of churches and pastors.

It comes as states are suing the Obama administration over its efforts to make hospitals, schools and other institutions change their policies towards transgender issues.

Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) said it sued on behalf of four Massachusetts churches to protect their right to operate their facilities “in a manner that doesn’t violate their core religious beliefs.” The lawsuit names Democratic state Attorney General Maura Healey and members of the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination as defendants.

The law, which was signed by Republican Governor Charlie Baker in July and went into effect in October, bars “discrimination” against transgender people in public accommodations – which, according to Attorney General Healey, includes churches. The law mandates that people must be able to use the bathroom corresponding to the gender they say they identify with.

ADF contends in the lawsuit that churches would be forced to open changing rooms, shower facilities and restrooms based on perceived gender identity and not on biological sex. The group says because the law also prohibits covered entities from making statements intended to discriminate or to incite others to do so, Healey and the commission “also intend to force churches and pastors to refrain from religious expression regarding sexuality that conflicts with the government’s views.”

Steve O’Ban, senior counsel for ADF, said: “Neither the commission nor the attorney general has the constitutional authority to dictate how any church uses its facility or what public statements a church can make concerning a deeply held religious belief, such as human sexuality.”

A spokeswoman for Healey said her office is reviewing the lawsuit.

“We are pleased that we finally have a law in place that protects transgender people from discrimination in public places. This law is about civil rights and is critical for people who were without full protection and equality under the law for too long,” spokeswoman Jillian Fennimore said.

An assistant to the commission did not immediately return a call seeking comment.

The lawsuit asks the court to suspend enforcement of the law against the churches while their lawsuit proceeds. The churches suing are Horizon Christian Fellowship, in Fitchburg; Abundant Life Church, in Swansea; House of Destiny Ministries, in Southbridge; and Faith Christian Fellowship, in Haverhill.