The Gospel may be good news, but it can and will also make people feel uncomfortable, Christians and non-Christians alike. Conviction and repentance are necessary parts of the Christian life, and facing hard truths that challenge a sinful lifestyle are bridges we all have to cross on our way to the Cross.
A Christian bookstore is full of uncomfortable truths, but that’s unavoidable and the very reason for its existence, right?
But owning such a bookstore and related website in Jacksonville, Florida, as Christie DeTrude does, with her desire to express biblical positions on marriage, gender and sexuality in the store and online, places her in danger of unlimited fines and court-awarded damages for doing so.
Christie owns the Queen of Angels Catholic Bookstore in Jacksonville, and she “gladly serves everyone, but she can’t speak messages that go against her religious beliefs,” according to attorney Rachel Csutoros, Senior Counsel with Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF). ADF has begun a federal lawsuit against the city of Jacksonville on Christie’s behalf challenging the constitutionality of the city’s public accommodations ordinance.
Jacksonville, like many left-leaning cities, mandates that businesses cannot discriminate against certain protected classes, including sexual orientation and gender identity. And that means, among other things, that Christie and her employees will be forced to use the “preferred pronouns” of their customers, she alleges.
“Following a disturbing nationwide trend, the City has expanded its public-accommodation law to cover gender-identity discrimination and thereby require businesses to address customers using their preferred pronouns and titles regardless of a customer’s biological sex,” Christie’s Verified Complaint filed in a Jacksonville federal court reads.
And it gets worse.
“The law even prevents businesses from publishing ‘any communication’ a customer or government official might subjectively interpret as making someone feel ‘unwelcome, objectionable, or unacceptable,’ such as statements opposing gender-identity ideology,” the court document continues.
And here’s the crux of the problem for Christie, according to the lawsuit:
As a Catholic bookstore, Queen of Angels follows Catholic teachings – including the belief that God created everyone in His image, male or female, worthy of equal dignity and respect. The store serves and sells everything in it to everyone regardless of gender identity. That includes customers who present as transgender.
The bookstore just cannot speak contrary to its beliefs – to affirm, for example, the view that sex can be changed. So the store cannot use customers’ pronouns or title contrary to their biological sex. Queen of Angels wants to put this policy in writing, publish it, and explain its Catholic views on gender identity to customers (emphasis in original).
But Jacksonville’s ordinance makes it illegal for Christie to do as the city requires. And if she refuses, the lawsuit alleges, she faces cease-and-desist orders, expensive investigations, hearings, uncapped fines, attorney-fee awards, and unlimited damages.
In short, the city requires her to violate her beliefs and conscience and speak a government-compelled message in order to stay in business.
Christie’s case underscores the urgency behind the pending U.S. Supreme Court decision in 303 Creative v. Elenis, which is expected sometime before the end of June. In 303 Creative, a Denver graphic artist and website designer named Lorie Smith faces a Colorado law similar to Jacksonville’s in that it prohibits Lorie from expressing her biblical beliefs about marriage in her business, and compels her to use her creative talents to express messages contrary to her Christian faith and personal conscience.
If the Supreme Court renders a favorable decision for Lorie, it will go a long way toward supporting Christie’s case against Jacksonville. It will also help long-persecuted Christian baker Jack Phillips, who after 10 years is still fighting the same Colorado law as Lorie, the latest lawsuit over a cake ordered by an activist attorney – in order to entrap Phillips – to celebrate his so-called “gender transition.”
We’ll keep you apprised of developments in Christie’s, Lorie’s and Jack’s legal proceedings.
Christie’s case is The Catholic Store, Inc. d/b/a Queen of Angels Catholic Bookstore v. Jacksonville.
Photo from ADF Media.