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BY: Jeffrey Cimmino
A county judge in Wisconsin ruled last month that the city of De Pere's nondiscrimination ordinance infringed on the right of religious freedom, granting a victory to five churches and a religious broadcaster which brought a legal challenge against the statute.
De - Pere - Nondiscrimination - Ordinance - Issues
In late 2017, De Pere adopted a nondiscrimination ordinance that, among other issues, addressed "gender identity and sexual orientation in housing, employment, advertising, and public accommodation," according to World magazine. The new policies were to apply to all "places of public accommodation."
Five churches and a local religious broadcaster challenged the ordinance. The plaintiffs' complaint argued that the city's ordinance differed from similar statutes in other states as "the De Pere ordinance does not clearly exempt religious organizations." They contended that "the ordinance is likely to be imposed on churches and other religious organizations in a manner that would mandate government orthodoxy in core religious functions, communication, and conduct."
Churches - Judge - Statute - Definition - Discrimination
More specifically, the churches asked the judge to determine whether they fell under the statute's definition of discrimination, given that the plaintiffs "hold views relative to family and marital status, religion, sex, gender identity and sexual orientation for which they make employment and facilities-use decisions. Additionally, each of the religious institutions notices, promotes, publishes and otherwise disseminates their views relating to these topics on certain communication-platforms including their websites and for some, blogs, and the radio."
If the judge determined the plaintiffs would be subject to the definition of discrimination, the churches asked the court to declare "that these provisions are unconstitutional absent an exemption for religious institutions."
Question - Plaintiffs - Ordinance - Regulations - Statute
A crucial question for determining whether the plaintiffs would be subject to the ordinance's regulations was whether the statute considered churches to be "places of public accommodation," which the ordinance defined as "all establishments within the City of De Pere which offers goods, services,...
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