Churches, ministries, schools, and Christian-owned businesses from across the state of Virginia signed an open letter to Gov. Ralph Northam and members of the Virginia General Assembly that urges them not to force religious citizens to violate their beliefs under the so-called “Virginia Values Act.”
The law, enacted July 1, on its face compels churches, religious schools, and Christian ministries to hire employees who do not share their stated beliefs on marriage, sexuality, and gender identity — or face fines of up to $100,000 for each violation. A companion law requires the ministries and other Christian nonprofits and Christian-owned businesses to include in employee health care plans coverage for “sex reassignment” and “gender affirming” surgeries that run contrary to their beliefs. It also prohibits the ministries from offering sex-specific sports, classes for parenting, and Christian discipleship, if those programs are based on biological sex.
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“Our clients offer spiritual guidance, education, pregnancy support, and athletic opportunities to their communities because of the religious values that motivate them,” said ADF Senior Counsel Denise Harle. “But Virginia’s new law forces these ministries to abandon their convictions or pay crippling fines. Such government hostility has no place in a free society. Virginia ministries are committed to their faith, and they are asking that the state allow them to live and work according to their beliefs, as other Virginians are permitted to do.”
“The Act threatens to undermine the very mission that holds us together…,” the statement explains. “But if the Commonwealth insists on forcing us to choose between bankruptcy and our beliefs, our communities will suffer. Freedom will suffer, too, if the ‘Virginia Values Act’ is used as a weapon against our organizations and our values.”
ADF attorneys represent Calvary Road Baptist Church, Community Fellowship Church, Community Christian Academy, and Care Net, in a legal challenge to the law filed in September.