Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Sep 8, 2023 / 12:15 pm (CNA).
A Catholic bookstore based in Jacksonville, Florida, will not be forced to use a transgender person’s preferred pronouns when they are different from his or her biological sex, according to a settlement agreement reached with the city.
In the settlement, filed on Sept. 7, the City of Jacksonville recognized the Queen of Angels bookstore as “a religious organization under Jacksonville’s religious organization exemption,” which is an exemption that applies to the city’s anti-discrimination provisions about homosexual and transgender people.
Queen of Angels initially filed a lawsuit back in February out of concern that a new citywide anti-discrimination policy could force the bookstore to promote messages that go against the Catholic faith of the owners and workers. The policy, added in 2020, prohibits discrimination against a person who is lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender.
“Free speech is for everyone,” Hal Frampton, senior counsel for Alliance Defending Freedom, who represented Queen of Angels in the lawsuit, said in a statement.
“All Americans should be free to say what they believe without fear of government punishment,” Frampton said. “[Queen of Angels owner] Christie [DeTrude] 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.”
Even though Queen of Angels is a for-profit bookstore that isn’t run or operated by a church or ministry, the settlement states that it still fits the qualifications for the exemption. The settlement noted that Queen of Angels refers to itself as a Catholic store in its articles of incorporation and represents itself as a Catholic business in public, conducts prayer in its store throughout the day, and sells primarily Catholic products.
The anti-discrimination law that spurred the lawsuit prohibits any “difference in treatment” or “unlawful separation, segregation, or distinction directly or indirectly” against protected groups, such as homosexuals and transgenders. It also prohibits the display of any information that would suggest a protected group is “unwelcome, objectionable, [or] unacceptable.”
Although Queen of Angels was never formally accused of violating the anti-discrimination law, the lawsuit claimed that its speech and expression was chilled because the law prevented the bookstore from formalizing and distributing its pronoun policy and explaining its beliefs about gender.
With the settlement’s recognition of Queen of Angels’ exemption, a statement from ADF said, the owner can now speak freely about her religious views without the possibility of receiving fines.
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