Dick and Betty Odgaard are in the process of closing the Gortz-Haus and creating their own ministry called God's Original Design Ministry. The art gallery and bistro were at the center of a 2013 discrimination complaint when the Odgaards refused to allow a same-gender couple use of the facility for their wedding. The complaint was settled with a payment of $5000 to the couple and, to meet their agreement not to discriminate against same-gender couples, the Odgaards stopped providing wedding services altogether. Now the facility is up for sale and the church the Odgaards attend is rumored to be an interested party.
This little venue in Grimes, Iowa has garnered a great deal of attention. Presidential hopeful Ted Cruz responded to the shuttering of the business by saying that "the Odgaards livelihood has been taken away by this liberal fascism." Radio personality Steve Deace recently wrote: The Odgaards' are living proof the Rainbow Jihad is a movement of liars." At One Iowa we simply believe that religious liberty is alive and well.
Perhaps a lesson in the true meaning of religious liberty, as our founders envisioned it, is the best way to have this discussion.
In this country we enjoy America's first freedom, the freedom of religion. A house of worship should be able to perform marriage ceremonies and offer the blessings of marriage to those couples it has defined within its guidelines and beliefs. Within the tenets of that religion, whatever it is, it can and does make choices about who it will and who it will not marry. That is religious liberty.
LGBT people in Iowa also have access to the same basic rights and freedoms that government offers to all citizens, including the right to marry. And so, a same-gender couple has the right to legally marry and to marry within a faith tradition that embraces their marriage if they so choose. That is also religious liberty.
Public accommodation must be free from religious distinctions. A business, open to the public, must provide the services it normally provides to anyone regardless of race, religion or sexual orientation. And that is also a part of our constitutional guarantees.
In this country our government is prohibited from establishing an official church - that is the establishment cause of the first amendment - and, people are free to worship as they please, or not at all - that is the free exercise clause.
Very simply, the Gortz Haus is a secular space - a gallery and an event venue. It is no longer a church and as long as it is not a church it's services and uses must be made available.
Religious liberty cannot be used as a weapon of discrimination; not at the lunch counter, not at the grocery store and not at an art gallery and wedding venue.