Last updated on May 27th, 2023 at 04:54 pm
In Maine, a growing church has filed a lawsuit against a local school board for applying a religious test during their negotiations to rent school space for services. The Pines Church in Bangor, Maine, is being represented by Advocates for Faith & Freedom in this case, with the firm arguing that public institutions seeking to lease their facilities should not discriminate based on religious or political convictions.
The Pines Church had been looking to move its operations to Hermon, Maine, where many of its members reside, and Hermon High School appeared to be the best available option. Despite not having any inquiries about organizational beliefs in their facilities request form, the church found itself answering detailed questions from the school board about its stance on “issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion.”
The church received queries from Superintendent Micah Grant and a school board member, Chris McLaughlin, about its views on a range of topics including same-sex marriage, access to abortion and gender-affirming medical care, conversion therapy for LGBTQIA+ individuals, and inclusive sexual education for youth. According to the lawsuit, the church believes that these questions implied that their lease proposal would not be supported unless they aligned with the board’s religious and political beliefs.
As a result of its religious beliefs on subjects such as abortion, sexual orientation, gender reassignment, conversion therapy, and marriage, the church’s proposal to lease the high school for either six months or a year was rejected. Instead, the church was offered a month-to-month rental option, which it deemed unfeasible due to the lack of planning and budgeting certainty.
The Pines Church argues that the school board’s actions have violated its rights under the First Amendment, the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act, and Maine’s public accommodations laws. The lawsuit requests a court order granting the church either a six-month or a yearlong lease, along with compensatory damages. Despite their disappointment with the process, the church remains hopeful that they will be able to continue their worship without facing discrimination.