Two churches, a Christian school, and a network of Care Net pregnancy centers in Virginia recently reached a settlement with the state attorney general that re-established and re-affirmed vital religious freedoms in regards to hiring and human resources practices.

Attorneys with 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 to challenge the Virginia Values Act, which was passed into law two months earlier.

The Virginia Values Act compelled ministries to hire employees who do not share their beliefs on marriage, sexuality, and gender identity. The act threatened fines up to $100,000 for each violation. According to ADF, a companion law required the ministries and others like them to include in employee health care plans coverage for sex reassignment and gender-affirming surgeries that run contrary to their beliefs. It also prohibited the ministries from offering sex-specific Bible studies and youth activities.

ADF Senior Counsel Kevin Theriot applauded the settlement.

“Religious organizations are free to operate their ministries without fear of government punishment, and Virginia’s law protects that foundational right,” he said. “Our clients are motivated by their faith to offer spiritual guidance, education, pregnancy support, and athletic opportunities to their communities.”

As part of the agreement in Calvary Road Baptist Church v. Miyares, Virginia officials conceded that the ministries, as religious organizations, are free to only hire “individuals who profess and live according to religious beliefs held by [the ministries], including beliefs on abortion, marriage, sexuality, sex, and gender.” Virginia officials also agreed that commonwealth law protects the ministries from having to pay for or facilitate any gender dysphoria treatment that violates their religious teachings.

On the Colson Center’s Breakpoint podcast, John Stonestreet said, “The ability for nonprofit organizations to hire people who share their beliefs and mission is equivalent to their right to exist.”

“Faith is deeply personal, but it’s not private. The idea that organizations like pregnancy care centers or Christian schools should not be allowed to operate or hire according to their beliefs is dangerous and deeply un-American. As long as there are laws on the books and policies in place that try to force religious Americans to leave their consciences at home or in church, we should defend our first freedom.”

ADF’s successful defense of religious freedom for the churches, Christian schools, and Care Net was evident in the court settlement document. In addition to the acknowledgement that Virginia commonwealth law protects the religious organizations’ ability to operate consistent with their faith, the attorney general’s office agreed that it would not enforce the Virginia Values Act in regards to the plaintiffs.

“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,” said Theriot.