Church Sued for $2.3 Million for Not Hosting LGBT Event in Building It Owns
An Oregon business has filed a complaint against a church that prohibited it from hosting an LGBT event in a building owned by the church, claiming that the fallout from that decision has harmed the company.
In 2015, Ambridge Event Center, which once rented out a space owned by Holy Rosary Church for various events, was compelled to reject an LGBT group's request to hold an event on the property due to the church's "morals clause."
In a lawsuit filed last week in Multnomah County Circuit Court in Oregon, Ambridge alleged that the church's rules against them hosting the LGBT event caused them harm. They are seeking $2.3 million in damages.
The PFLAG Portland Black Chapter, an African-American LGBT support group, sent a request to Ambridge to have an event held at the venue they were renting from Holy Rosary.
Ambridge had to decline the request and then apologized, stating that the refusal came at the order of Holy Rosary.
Although PFLAG considered filing a complaint with the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries, the organization did not do so in part because churches are exempted from state antidiscrimination law, according to Oregon Live.
Rod Dreher, a senior editor at The American Conservative and author of the book, The Benedict Option, wrote in a column published Tuesday that "this will not be the last challenge of this sort against churches."
"If an LGBT activist group targets a private business for working with a church it considers to be anti-LGBT, and its campaign results in that business going under, will the business owners take the church to court seeking damages? It would seem to me to be a frivolous lawsuit, but then again, in this climate, who knows?" wrote Dreher.
"The fact that Holy Rosary Church has to defend itself in this ridiculous lawsuit is a burden on a charitable organization that no doubt operates on a very tight margin."
In its lawsuit against the church, Ambridge claims: "Even businesses and government entities that had previously scheduled events with Ambridge who were not affiliated with the LGBTQ community but had equity-driven internal policies, refused to work with Ambridge after reading or hearing about the discriminatory policy involved in its employment relationship with the church."
Ambridge also took issue with the church's decision to end their contract deal after the company hired an openly gay events coordinator as part of their efforts to "restore its image with its clientele and its relationship with the LGBTO community."
"The church breached the contract by refusing to discuss or mediate the contract termination with Ambridge, by issuing unilateral restrictions on use of the event center and adjoining property, by demanding Ambridge pay taxes not owed under the contract, and by failing to exercise any effort, best or otherwise, to reach an amicable and mutually agreeable solution to the issues arising under the contract," continued the complaint.
Ambridge's complaint against Holy Rosary comes months after the Oregon Court of Appeals ruled against a Christian couple who were sued for $135,000 for refusing to make a gay wedding cake due to their religious objections.
Aaron and Melissa Klein, former owners of Sweet Cakes by Melissa, lost their appeal last December when the court decided that their effort to get an exemption was "a special license for discrimination."
"The Kleins seek an exemption based on their sincere religious opposition to same-sex marriage; but those with sincere religious objections to marriage between people of different races, ethnicities, or faiths could just as readily demand the same exemption," argued the appellate court.