Alliance Defending Freedom Ensures Virginia Ministries Can Operate According To Their Beliefs

Alliance Defending Freedom is celebrating a victory for religious freedom after Virginia officials agreed to settle a lawsuit, allowing faith-based organizations to operate according to their sincerely held beliefs regarding marriage, sexuality, gender, and biblical …


Alliance Defending Freedom is celebrating a victory for religious freedom after Virginia officials agreed to settle a lawsuit, allowing faith-based organizations to operate according to their sincerely held beliefs regarding marriage, sexuality, gender, and biblical teachings without facing crippling fines or punitive action by the state.

What is Alliance Defending Freedom?

Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) is an alliance-building, nonprofit legal organization committed to protecting religious freedom, free speech, parental rights, marriage and family, and the sanctity of life.

Alliance Defending Freedom has a specialized branch –  – the ADF Church & Ministry Alliance – dedicated to providing legal resources to help churches and ministries navigate compliance with government regulations, safeguard their religious liberties, and obtain assistance for any legal matters that may arise in the course of carrying out their ministries.

The settlement in Calvary Road Baptist Church v. Miyares stems from a 2020 law called the Virginia Values Act that added sexual orientation and gender identity to the state’s nondiscrimination laws.

The law mandated that churches, religious schools, and Christian ministries must employ individuals regardless of their beliefs about marriage, sexuality, and gender identity – prohibiting these organizations from upholding their beliefs on these topics through hiring practices or public communications. 

An accompanying law compelled these ministries to provide health insurance coverage for gender transition procedures that conflicted with their religious convictions. The legislation also barred ministries from offering gender-specific Bible studies or youth programming.

In essence, the laws required religious entities to act contrary to their deeply held beliefs concerning gender, sexuality, and biblical interpretations of marriage by restricting their ability to hire, create policies, offer programs, and disseminate teachings in accordance with their faith traditions.

In response, attorneys from the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) filed a lawsuit in September 2020 on behalf of Calvary Road Baptist Church, Community Fellowship Church, Community Christian Academy, and Care Net. The lawsuit challenged the Virginia law that forced nonprofit religious ministries to violate their core convictions by abandoning belief-based hiring and operational policies, under threat of fines up to $100,000 per violation.

In 2021, the Circuit Court for Loudoun County dismissed the case, stating that nonprofits could not challenge the law until directly threatened with fines or prosecution.

Shortly after, Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys filed a motion for reconsideration in light of three new appellate court rulings around that time, which had a bearing on the case.

One of the key decisions cited in the motion was the ruling from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit in the Alliance Defending Freedom case 303 Creative v. Elenis. As explained in the motion, the 10th Circuit held that a pre-enforcement challenge against Colorado’s anti-discrimination law was permissible because the plaintiff, Lorie Smith and her company faced ‘a credible threat Colorado [would] prosecute them under that statute.’  This determination was made despite the fact that the plaintiffs did  ‘not yet offer wedding-related services’ but merely ‘intend[ed] to do so in the future.’ 

“That intent was enough because the plaintiffs’ ‘potential liability [was] inherent in the manner they intend[ed] to operate—excluding customers who celebrate same-sex marriages.’ And the threat was especially credible given ‘Colorado’s strenuous assertion that it [had] a compelling interest in enforcing CADA.’ All the more so here, where Plaintiffs have long engaged in their religious speech, policies, and practices that are inherent in their operation as Christian ministries and unlawful under a reasonable reading of the Act that Defendants are admittedly committed to enforcing.” the motion stated. 

In 2023, Alliance Defending Freedom secured wins in two cases – 303 Creative v. Elenis, which had been appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, and Vlaming v. West Point School Board at the Virginia Supreme Court – that further strengthened the plaintiffs’ claims in the Calvary Road case. 

Facing these precedents, in March, Virginia officials agreed to settle. The state acknowledged its laws protect religious organization’s ability to employ “individuals who profess and live according to religious beliefs held by [the ministries], including beliefs on abortion, marriage, sexuality, sex, and gender.”  Officials also affirmed ministries cannot be forced to pay for treatments or surgeries that violate their beliefs, including puberty blockers, cross-sex hormones, so-called “sex reassignment” surgeries, or any other “gender transition” procedures.

In a statement on Alliance Defending Freedom Media, ADF Senior Counsel Kevin Theriot said, “Religious organizations are free to operate their ministries without fear of government punishment, and Virginia’s law protects that foundational right. 

“Our clients are motivated by their faith to offer spiritual guidance, education, pregnancy support, and athletic opportunities to their communities. The commonwealth must respect their right—just like anyone else’s—to continue operating by their own internal policies and codes of conduct about life, marriage, and sexuality,” Theriot added. 

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