A Catholic bookstore in Jacksonville, Florida, filed a federal lawsuit on Wednesday challenging a city law that requires it to speak against its beliefs and to silence its religious views to remain in business.
The Queen of Angels Catholic Bookstore sells books, crucifixes, and other Catholic resources.
Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), who is representing the bookstore, explained in a statement that “in everything it does, Queen of Angels and its owner Christie DeTrude strive to honor God and promote their Catholic beliefs, including through the store’s website and YouTube channel. The bookstore serves all customers and gladly sells its products to anybody but DeTrude and her bookstore staff cannot speak messages that violate their faith.”
The city passed a Human Rights Ordinance in 2017 that added sexual orientation and gender identity to the civil rights law.
“Thus, they affirm that men and women are different and cannot use pronouns or titles that don’t align with a customer’s sex,” the statement continued. “DeTrude also wants to explain this policy and her Catholic beliefs about gender and sexuality in her store and on the store’s website. However, doing so is illegal under Jacksonville’s Human Rights Ordinance, which forbids communications that could lead someone to feel ‘unwelcome’ based on various protected traits. The law threatens Queen of Angels with unlimited fines and damages if it doesn’t comply.”
The lawsuit was filed on Ash Wednesday in protest.
“Free speech is for everyone. Americans should be free to say what they believe without fear of government punishment,” said ADF Legal Counsel Rachel Csutoros. “Christie, owner of Queen of Angels Catholic Bookstore, gladly serves everyone, but she can’t speak messages that go against her religious beliefs. Yet Jacksonville is illegally mandating Queen of Angels abandon its religious beliefs—the very faith that motivates the store to open its doors to customers every day.”
The 52-page lawsuit states that “in effect, the law requires this Catholic bookstore to stop being fully Catholic.”
“Christie established Queen of Angels bookstore to serve the Jacksonville community and to share her Catholic beliefs, but city officials threaten her with unlimited fines if she does so,” said ADF Senior Counsel Hal Frampton. “This case is the latest example of government officials across the country using radical ideology to cancel those who disagree. Punishing someone because of their views not only runs afoul of the First Amendment, but it also has devastating consequences for free speech, working professionals, women, and children.”