On December 14, 2018, the Court strongly reiterated that Wisconsin Law provides strong protections from a church or non-profit religious organization being considered a “place of public accommodation”. This was a crucial ruling for several reasons:
If the De Pere ordinance had been upheld it could have forced churches and non-profit religious organizations to hire individuals directly opposed to their deeply held religious beliefs.
Churches and religious organizations could have been subject to fines for any written communication that reiterated the Bible’s clear teachings on sexuality, gender or other clear biblical doctrines. As pointed out in the court hearing this might have included sermon notes and messages shared on websites.
It could have required churches and non-profit religious organizations to allow their facilities to be used for groups that oppose the teachings, beliefs and lifestyles taught in the Bible.
It could have forced churches to provide every service to any citizen regardless of their belief system or lifestyle. It could have forced churches to perform homosexual, transgender or Atheist marriage services.
It could have forced this radio station to hire people living a lifestyle contrary to biblical teaching, and forced us to promote on air events of organizations that stand directly opposed to the teachings of the Bible.
Perhaps we would have one day been forced to play — other than Christian music — music that did the opposite of glorifying God and drawing you nearer to Him.
One cannot discount the danger of allowing government in any fashion to break down the constitutional wall of protection churches have been granted against the intrusion of government. It is the most dangerous of slippery slopes toward government mandated religion.
The Pacific Justice Institute, who graciously represented the 5 Christian Churches and Q90 FM, felt this was perhaps the most blatant attack on religious freedom they had ever encountered. The City’s proposed ordinance would have opened a dangerous door to government intrusion into the activities and teachings of churches and religious non-profit organizations.
The Jack Phillips case recently heard by the U.S. Supreme Court dealt with places of commerce that are generally accepted to be places of public accommodation. But this ordinance, if it had been allowed to stand, would have been a direct attack on churches and religious organizations, in effect placing them under government legislation and control.
There are cities in Wisconsin, including Appleton, that are currently governed by the same ordinance DePere tried to enforce. I have heard of at least one church in the Appleton area that has quit conducting marriage services, choosing to bow to the government. The favorable ruling we received on December 14th opens a door for similar ordinances to be legally challenged—if the pastors have the courage to do so.
The 5 Christian Churches and Q90 FM were convicted by the Holy Spirit that a strong stance had to be taken. We could not stand by and allow the government an open door to dictate who we can serve, what services should be provided to whom, and what we can teach as ministers of the gospel.
Some will look at our stance as “homophobic”, but that is not what this case was about. Our challenge had nothing to do with denying gender confused people access to public businesses or fair housing. It was about Federal and State Law protecting churches and religious organizations from intrusive activities of government. The ramifications of this ordinance, had it been allowed to stand, would have been innumerable and devastating to the mission of churches and religious organizations: Sharing the truth of God and His Word in hopes of helping people come into saving faith in Jesus Christ. He is the only answer to all life’s challenges and problems.
We pleaded with the City of De Pere during the public hearings on the ordinance to make sure the ordinance they eventually passed provided adequate protection of religious expression and conscience, consistent with well-established Wisconsin Law. We warned them that failure to do so would necessitate a legal challenge. We did everything we could do to avoid a legal fight. But De Pere City Council refused to make any modifications and we took the action we deemed necessary to protect religious freedom and conscience of churches and non-profit religious organizations.
We want to thank all of you who prayed for us during this difficult year. The battle against religious freedom, expression and conscience is far from over—it has only begun. But of utmost importance as we are dragged into this battle is this: that we recognize who the true enemies are, and who are casualties of the cause of those enemies. Satan and his minions are the enemies of the church, not people struggling with sexual identity or gender confusion.
They are human beings created in the image of God who we are to love and respect, even when their lifestyle opposes God’s teaching. I hope this regretful but necessary battle will spur Christians to reach out to people struggling sexually or with gender identity and address their questions and pain. May it motivate us to speak the truth with love and graciousness, sharing the hope and healing that can only be found in Jesus Christ and the gospel He delivered once and for all.
MEDIA & RESOURCES
Listen to Mike LeMay deliver this message (begin at 30:24)