Churches, Faith-Based Schools in Virginia Sign Letter against Breach of their Beliefs

An open letter to Virginia Governor, Ralph Northam, has been signed by some churches, businesses, and faith-based schools. In the petition, the governor was asked not to enforce the Virginia Values Act which aims at "compelling" Christians to breach their beliefs under the law penalty that attracts a fine amounting to $100,000. Below is an excerpt of the letter.

"We, the undersigned religious organizations and ministries, urge you to refuse to enforce the so-called Virginia Values Act in a way that would force Virginians of faith to violate their consciences. Applying this new law against faith-based entities is antithetical to the foundational belief in religious freedom that the Commonwealth was built upon.

"Everyone should be free to live and work according to their beliefs without fear of unjust government punishment regardless of whether those beliefs are religious. Our government should protect, not threaten, this freedom.'

On July 1, 2020, S.B. 868, also known as the Virginia Values Act, became law after being signed by Gov. Northam in April. The law states that employers may not hire, discharge, or otherwise discriminate against any individual with respect to such individuals compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment because of such individuals sexual orientation [or] gender identity.

When employers use sexual orientation or gender identity as a basis for employment, even though other factors are considered, the employers would be considered to have engaged in an unlawful employment practice. This practice has been termed a civil discrimination and it attracts a fine of up to $100,000 for each violation. Also, there will be an addition of a compensatory and disciplinary damages awarded by a court.

Furthermore, the law does not exclude religious entities. Hence, Christian schools, churches and other facilities cannot decline to employ or terminate the employment of individuals whose lifestyle contradicts the faith-based standards and teachings of those ministries and businesses.

Likewise, a companion law does not allow employers to reject sex change-related operations from their health care coverage plans. According to reports in September, 2020, Calvary Road Baptist Church and its Calvary Road Christian School, Community Fellowship Church and its Grace Christian School, and Community Christian Academy, along with the crisis pregnancy center Care Net, filed suit to ensure that they have the ability to operate in accordance with their faith without fear of punishment. Below is an excerpt of the lawsuit.

"Calvary Road Christian School, Grace Christian School, and Community Christian Academy could be forced to retain teachers who are in same-sex relationships while teaching students that such behavior violates their faith.

"The Act threatens to undermine the very mission that holds us together. It would force us to violate our central purpose by stripping us of our right to hire employees who agree with and live by our mission and core beliefs. That Act also prohibits us from using our facilities and ministering to the community in accordance with those beliefs. In doing so, it penalizes people of faith for trying to adhere to our own values."

Presently, an open letter asking Governor Northam not to put them in a situation where they would have to "choose between bankruptcy and our beliefs" have been signed by other churches, Christian schools, ministries and businesses.

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