Alliance Defending Freedom is celebrating a significant victory after a district court ruled in favor of their clients, Queen of Angels Catholic Book Store and its owner, Christie DeTrude, in a lawsuit aimed to protect the store’s right to freedom of expression and religious freedom.
The case, Queen of Angels Catholic Bookstore v. City of Jacksonville, challenged a city law that required the for-profit Catholic bookstore to “profess an ideological view it opposes” and refrain from explaining its Catholic beliefs on human sexuality in the store and online, according to the lawsuit filed by Alliance Defending Freedom, an alliance-building, non-profit legal organization committed to protecting religious freedom, free speech, parental rights, marriage and family, and the sanctity of life.
Queen of Angels Catholic Bookstore, located in Jacksonville, Florida, is a Catholic bookstore offering an array of Catholic-themed products. The store is more than just a retail outlet; it serves as a community hub, welcoming people to learn about the Catholic faith, engage in prayer, and connect with the community.
However, the operation of the store was threatened by a Jacksonville law aimed at enforcing the use of pronouns inconsistent with biological reality, which would compel the bookstore to go against its religious convictions. Additionally, the law prevents businesses from publishing any communication that could be interpreted as making someone feel “unwelcome, objectionable or unacceptable.” Violation of this law could have resulted in significant fines and damages.
The lawsuit contended that the store serves and sells everything in it to everyone regardless of gender identity but that as a Catholic bookstore, it “cannot just speak contrary to its beliefs,” for example, to affirm that gender can be changed.
Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys argued that in preventing the bookstore from explaining its Catholic beliefs in the store and online, the law was, in effect, requiring the bookstore to stop being “fully Catholic.”
In September, after months of legal deliberation, the City of Jacksonville conceded in a settlement that Queen of Angels is an exempt religious organization under city law and Title VII. This crucial outcome allows the bookstore to operate in harmony with its religious beliefs, free from the threat of government punishment.
In a statement on Alliance Defending Freedom Media, ADF Senior Counsel Hal Frampton, who argued before the court on behalf of Queen of Angels in May, said that free speech is for everyone and that all Americans should be free to say what they believe without fear of government punishment. “Christie gladly serves everyone, but she can’t speak messages that conflict with her religious beliefs. Jacksonville’s law threatened her with costly investigations, fines, and damages if she used her store’s website to communicate Catholic beliefs about gender identity and human sexuality. Thankfully, the city has now agreed that Queen of Angels is a religious organization free to operate according to its faith,” Frampton said.
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