By Aaron Earls
An Oregon business has sued a church for $2.3 million because they claim the church caused them to go out of business.
Ambridge Event Center once rented space from a building owned by Holy Rosary Church in Portland, Oregon. In 2015, an African American LGBT group wanted to rent the space for their annual party.
The venue said they had to reject the party because of a “moral clause” in their agreement with Holy Rosary.
At the time, Khali Edwards, the director of the gay group, told The Oregonian that a venue employee told them “because we were an LGBT organization, the church doesn’t approve.”
Later, Ambridge apologized, offered to host the group for free, and hired an openly gay events coordinator.
But, according to their lawsuit against the church, they claim government agencies and other businesses who had previously scheduled events refused to use the venue because of the bad publicity.
Shortly after the 2015 incident, Holy Rosary Church sent a notice to the event center to vacate.
The lawsuit claims Ambridge was removed from the property as “retaliation” for hiring the gay events coordinator and because the venue had “chosen to associate itself with the LGBTQ community.”
The business has since closed and is suing the church for more than $1.8 million in lost income, plus reimbursements for property taxes and money they claim to have spent on property improvements—totaling more than $2 million.
According to the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries, no complaint was ever filed against Ambridge Event Center or Holy Rosary Church for rejecting the LGBT group’s event.
Christine Lewis, the labor bureau’s legislative director, told The Oregonian, that she couldn’t say if it was legal for the church to refuse to rent their space to the gay group.
Oregon state law allows a church or religious institution to refuse to allow a group to use its facilities based on sexual orientation if “the use of the facilities is closely connected with or related to the primary purpose of the church or institution and is not connected with a commercial or business activity that has no necessary relationship to the church or institution.”
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AARON EARLS (@WardrobeDoor) is online editor of Facts & Trends.