It seems like each week there is a new lawsuit being lobbed against a private business or institution for refusing to accept something that goes against their beliefs. In Oregon, a church-owned space, Ambridge Event Center, has sued its owners for $2.3 million for disagreement over an LGBT event, The Christian Post reported.
In 2015, the Holy Rosary Church rejected an LGBT group’s request to rent out the Ambridge Event Center because of the church’s belief regarding homosexuality, citing their “morals clause.”
Last week, the Ambridge Event Center filed a lawsuit against the Holy Rosary Church for causing them “harm” by not allowing the event center to host the LGBT group.
The Ambridge Event Center is suing the church for $2.3 million in damages.
The 2015 case involved an African-American LGBT support group called the PFLAG Portland Black Chapter, who requested to rent our the Ambridge Event Space from the Holy Rosary Church.
When Holy Rosary told Ambridge they had to decline due to their morals clause, Ambridge complied, declining the request, and then apologizing to the group. They informed them that the decline came from the top — from the church and not them.
Originally, PFLAG was going to file their own complaint against the church with the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries, but they did not. They claim that they did not partially because churches are exempted from state anti-discrimination law.
This is not the first time a church has been hit with a lawsuit like this. Rod Dreher, senior editor at The American Conservative and author of “The Benedict Option,” pointed this out in a piece published earlier this week, saying that “this will not be the last challenge of this sort against churches.”
“If an LGBT activist group targets a private business for working with a church it considers to be anti-LGBT, and its campaign results in that business going under, will the business owners take the church to court seeking damages? It would seem to me to be a frivolous lawsuit, but then again, in this climate, who knows?” wrote Dreher.
“The fact that Holy Rosary Church has to defend itself in this ridiculous lawsuit is a burden on a charitable organization that no doubt operates on a very tight margin,” he added.
In Ambridge’s lawsuit, they claim that “even businesses and government entities that had previously scheduled events with Ambridge who were not affiliated with the LGBTQ community but had equity-driven internal policies, refused to work with Ambridge after reading or hearing about the discriminatory policy involved in its employment relationship with the church.”
After the events center had to refuse to host the LGBT group’s event, they hired an openly gay events coordinator. They did this in order to “restore its image with its clientele and its relationship with the LGBTQ community.”
Following these actions, the church decided to terminate their contract with the Ambridge Event Center, as they were purposefully going against their beliefs.
“The church breached the contract by refusing to discuss or mediate the contract termination with Ambridge, by issuing unilateral restrictions on use of the event center and adjoining property, by demanding Ambridge pay taxes not owed under the contract, and by failing to exercise any effort, best or otherwise, to reach an amicable and mutually agreeable solution to the issues arising under the contract,” the complaint continued.
Just months ago, the Oregon Court of Appeals ruled against a Christian couple, forcing them to pay $135,000 for their refusal to bake a cake for a gay wedding.
Aaron and Melissa Klein, the former owners of Sweet Cakes by Melissa, were forced to shut down their business after the court slammed them with the discrimination fee. The court concluded that they were using their faith as “a special license for discrimination.”
“The Kleins seek an exemption based on their sincere religious opposition to same-sex marriage; but those with sincere religious objections to marriage between people of different races, ethnicities, or faiths could just as readily demand the same exemption,” argued the appellate court.
In California, a judge ruled the opposite way, when a Christian baker refused to bake a cake for a gay wedding. Like the Kleins, she argued that baking the cake would force her to go against her own beliefs.
County Superior Court Judge David Lampe wrote in his original decision:
The right to freedom of speech under the First Amendment outweighs the State’s interest in ensuring a freely accessible marketplace. The right of freedom of thought guaranteed by the First Amendment includes the right to speak, and the right to refrain from speaking. Sometimes the most profound protest is silence.
It will be interesting to see which way the Oregon Court system rules in this case. Will they stick with their precedent of the Klein cake ruling or will they set a new precedent for the future of religious liberty in the state by siding with the church?
(H/T: The Christian Post)