Christian Businesses in Trouble Over Christian Policies

By:  Raven Clabough
Christian Businesses in Trouble Over Christian Policies

A Mennonite couple in Iowa may be forced to choose between financial penalties or disregarding their own principles after the Iowa Civil Rights Commission filed suit against them for refusing to host a same-sex wedding. 

Dick and Betty Odgaard, who operate The Gortz Haus Gallery in Grimes, Iowa, has filed a counter-lawsuit against the state’s Civil Rights Commission in the hopes that they may be able to maintain their own convictions without penalty.

The Odgaards’ Gallery served as the location of a Lutheran church for over 60 years, but is now a bistro, floral and arts shop, as well as a wedding facility. They declined a request from Lee Stafford and his partner Jared to host a same-sex wedding in August. According to their countersuit, they did so “because their religion forbids them from personally planning, facilitating or hosting wedding ceremonies not between one man and one woman.”

His wife Betty explained to local television station KCCI that the company policy reflects their Christian faith. “That decision is based on our religious beliefs,” she stated. “And we want to honor that. We want people to know that is our stand, [which] comes from our faith and convictions, and I think we should stand by those [convictions] no matter what.”

The Odgaards did offer to provide the flowers or cake for the ceremony, but indicated that they were not comfortable allowing an exchanging of vows between the two men on their premises. “I would serve them in every other way; we simply don’t want to take part.… It just comes down to that final line of taking their vows in our facility,” she told reporter Billy Hallowell. “I do not hate these people and they have the right to do what they want to do under the law and in humanity.”

Their offer was not well-received by Stafford, who filed a complaint with the Iowa Civil Rights Commission and accused the Odgaards of violating state law, as same-sex "marriage" was legalized in Iowa in 2009 after a state Supreme Court ruling. “They discriminated against us based on our sexual orientation. Iowa code says if you have a public accommodation, you can’t discriminate based on sexual orientation,” said Stafford.

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