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Religious Bookstore Files Lawsuit Over Pronoun Usage

June 30th, 2023

Transgender women and girls in South Dakota will be prohibited from competing on school sports teams with cisgender women.
A Catholic bookstore is suing over a non-discrimination ordinance it claims will force it into specific pronoun usage it disagrees with.

Pronoun usage is an issue that has only come to the forefront within the last decade in the United States, but it is already proving to be a controversial subject. There are many debates wrapped up in this issue, including those surrounding free speech, religious expression, and more. Although atheist and agnostic people have voiced opposition to the enforcement of correct pronouns, conservative religious Americans seem to be pushing back the most against pronoun usage. And at least one religious group is embarking on a legal challenge as a result. 

The Human Rights Ordinance at the Center of the Case

The Jacksonville City Council in 2020 enacted an anti-discrimination ordinance known as the human rights ordinance that seeks to prohibit discrimination based upon sexual orientation or gender identity. The 2020 ordinance was updated after a previous 2017 version was thrown out by the courts over technicalities. The ordinance includes exemptions for businesses with fewer than 15 employees and does not apply to religious organizations.

Jacksonville Catholic Store’s Lawsuit Over Pronoun Usage

The city is home to a store called the Queen of Angels Catholic Bookstore, and this store has interpreted this fairly straightforward non-discrimination ordinance to mean they will be forced into pronoun usage that violates their religious beliefs and free speech rights. The bookstore prefers to use pronouns that match the birth gender of individuals rather than the stated or implied gender identity of customers.

The store has filed a lawsuit against the city, claiming that Jacksonville’s ordinance violates their constitutional free speech rights and their freedom of religious expression. The lawsuit now revolves around the legal definition of the store itself and whether or not it qualifies as a “religious corporation” since the ordinance did in fact exempt religious organizations and corporations from the law. Lawyers representing the store have argued that it cannot possibly be viewed as anything other than a religious corporation, while the opposing side is now trying to prove the opposite. The issue has yet to be resolved as of this writing. 

Christian University Fires Dorm Directors Over Pronoun Usage in Email Signatures

On the other end of the legal spectrum, some people are being fired for continuing to specify their gender pronouns when specifically instructed to stop. Such was the case when two dorm directors at a Christian university in upstate New York refused to remove pronoun signatures such as “he/him” in their emails. They claimed that this was necessary since their names (Shua and Raegan) are unconventional, leading to confusion over their gender. These individuals have not decided to sue, but they have complained loudly – attracting the attention of various media organizations. 

The school argues that they simply wanted consistent branding across the emails and that their employees are expected to follow the same general format. One might argue that the inclusion of a pronoun signature is not necessary, even for those with unconventional names. On the other hand, you might argue that this represents a violation of free speech rights. 

Christian Doctor Fired for Not Using Pronouns

It was also reported that a Christian doctor in the United Kingdom had been fired for refusing to use pronouns in line with the gender identity of his patients. This led to his firing in 2019. He argues that he did this because of his Christian views and that it would be dishonest of him if he were to use patient’s preferred pronouns, “because it is impossible for a person to change sex.” His case is still on appeal.

The Goal of the Universal Life Church’s Blog

Each week, the Universal Life Church’s blog focuses on documenting the most noteworthy cases involving the required separation between church and state, free speech, LGBTQ+ rights and religious discrimination. Despite required Constitutional separation, many fear that the Supreme Court’s current majority could erode these rights. Our blog focuses on describing matters in a way that objectively examines both sides and which can be easily understood by readers. 

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