The former manager of an event center owned by a Catholic church is suing the church because it had a morals clause in its contract banning LGBT events.
The dispute began three years ago when a group of African-American LGBT activists asked to use the Ambridge Event Center in Portland, Oregon.
The application was turned down because the center is owned by the Holy Rosary Catholic Church. The church had a morals clause in the agreement under which Holladay Investors was managing it the center.
Ambridge manager Alan Peters apologized to the LGBT organization and said “he would update the center’s policies to affirm compliance with the law and would re-train employees.”
The for-profit company soon hired an LGBT employee as well.
Now, Courthouse News reports Ambridge is suing the church because soon after the conflict with the black LGBT group, it terminated the Holladay Investors contract to manage the facility.
The case in Multnomah County Court is seeking $2.4 million damages for breach of faith, discrimination and violations of Oregon’s civil rights and business laws.
The complaint, CN reported, owns the center and has leased it out under a number of contracts sinced 2008.
The “morals clause” of the 2012 contract prohibits Ambridge from renting the center “to organizations and groups of people with whom the church wished not to affiliate,” the report said.
“The church was explicit in prohibiting Ambridge from renting out the event center to members of or groups affiliated with the LGBTQ community,” the complaint states.
Ambridge said it followed the terms but then suffered financial damage and reputational harm because of the 2015 lawsuit.
“As a result, there was a significant amount of negative press the organization generated against Ambridge and the church due to the discriminatory policy in the contract and in their rental of the event center,” the complaint states.
Ambridge alleges: “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.”
It was only months after the dispute began that the church dismissed Ambridge.
The events cost Ambridge “$1,875,000 in lost income, $69,000 in improperly assessed property taxes that Ambridge was forced to pay under duress, $250,000 in improvements made to the event center and adjoining church property, plus interest.” CN reported.
The core issue – whether LGBT community members can force members of faith organizations to endorse their lifestyle – now is before the U.S. Supreme Court, with a decision expected in the coming weeks.
That case centers on Jack Phillips, a Colorado baker who declined to provide a wedding cake for a homosexual duo at a time when same-sex marriage in his state was illegal.
Since the U.S. court’s creation in 2015 of same-sex marriage, LGBT activists have sued Christian businesses, people and non-profits that don’t endorse their lifestyle, even though the high court opinion specifically upheld their right to express their beliefs.
In the same-sex marriage case, Justice Anthony Kennedy said religious believers who publicly object to same-sex marriage are protected by the First Amendment.
He said it “must be emphasized that religions, and those who adhere to religious doctrines, may continue to advocate with utmost, sincere conviction that, by divine precepts, same-sex marriage should not be condoned.”
“The First Amendment ensures that religious organizations and persons are given proper protection as they seek to teach the principles that are so fulfilling and so central to their lives and faiths,” Kennedy wrote.
The Colorado case against Phillips was based on state nondiscrimination requirements that promote homosexuality. Similar rules are being cited in the Oregon case.
In Colorado, the state antipathy toward Christianity was evident when the state Civil Rights Commission first punished Phillips, then cleared three other bakers who also had refused to bake cakes on religious grounds. All three cases involved bakers refusing to provide pro-Christian messages.
The state commission’s antagonism to Christian beliefs became evident at the outset of the case, when one member, Diann Rice, publicly exhibited bias against Phillips during a hearing, comparing him to a Nazi.
“I would also like to reiterate what we said in the hearing or the last meeting,” Rice said during consideration of Phillips’ case. “Freedom of religion and religion has been used to justify all kinds of discrimination throughout history, whether it be slavery, whether it be the Holocaust, whether it be – I mean, we – we can list hundreds of situations where freedom of religion has been used to justify discrimination. And to me it is one of the most despicable pieces of rhetoric that people can use to – to use their religion to hurt others.”
Hear a recording of Rice’s statement: