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SIOUX CITY | The Rev. Cary Gordon on Friday said his Sioux City church is starting an effort to help small owners and church officials who feel targeted by the Iowa Civil Rights Commission or municipal human rights commissions.

Gordon, executive pastor of Cornerstone World Outreach, said Friday afternoon the Sioux City Council's refusal to remove a new member of the city's Human Rights Commission prompted him to take the action.

The council appointed Scott Raasch to the 11-member Human Rights Commission on July 8. Gordon called on the council to remove him because of comments Raasch posted on Gordon's Facebook page in December 2010.

Raach criticized Gordon for lobbying voters to remove three state Supreme Court judges following the high court's unanimous decision to legalize gay marriage. Raasch, who is gay, wrote that Cornerstone members "are haters and bigots."

Mayor Bob Scott last week said the City Council does not have the legal authority to remove Raasch because he wrote the remarks before being named to the commission. Raasch has apologized to Gordon.

Human Rights commissions in Iowa are charged with enforcing local, state and federal anti-discrimination and fair housing laws.

A call to the Iowa Civil Rights Commission late Friday was not immediately returned. 

Gordon wants the panels to have religious values represented. He said Friday that small business owners are most at risk if the owners stand up for their religious beliefs and are accused of religious discrimination in complaints to the commissions.

"Their greatest fear is being drug into court and having to put down a $20,000 retainer for an attorney for having done nothing wrong," he said. "A lot of people just give in under the pressure of the financial strain."

He said they want to connect people with lawyers.

In a press release announcing the plans, he said the church "wants all Iowa citizens to know that when any local branch of the Iowa Civil Rights Commission puts citizen religious liberties in their cross-hairs and elected officials refuse their obligations to protect the public from those who wish to violate their First Amendment rights, we are one phone call away."

 

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