Hope Center is a private, nonprofit Christian organization that provides free shelter, food, showers, clothing, laundry services, job-skills training and religious instruction to Anchorage, Alaska’s, homeless. For over 30 years, Hope Center has served everybody from all walks of life, regardless of race, color, religion, national origin, age, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, marital status, disability or any other characteristic.
Each month, Hope Center provides over 9,000 cups of soup, 1,200 showers and over 22,800 loads of laundry to those in need – all for free. At night, the center provides a shelter for 50 women to sleep safely. Many of those women have suffered physical or sexual abuse at the hands of men or are fleeing from a potential domestic violence situation.
But the center has been targeted by the city of Anchorage and its Equal Rights Commission with a new public accommodations ordinance that will require the shelter to house biological men – i.e., those identifying as “transgender women” – along with the biological women it serves. The shelter consists of an open room with mats and blankets on the floor, with the women sleeping three to five feet from each other.
Because it fears for the safety of its women, and because of its biblical beliefs concerning gender and sexuality, Hope Center does not want to allow “transgender women” to sleep at the shelter overnight, even though it gladly serves them during the daytime with all its other resources.
But that’s not good enough for Anchorage, which charged Hope Center three years ago with the same type of “discrimination,” and lost. Instead of respecting the center’s beliefs and the safety of the women the shelter serves, the city simply amended its public accommodation ordinance in order to try again.
Hope Center, through its attorneys with Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), recently brought a lawsuit against the city and its Equal Rights Commission for violating the center’s religious freedom and free speech rights under the First Amendment.
“All Americans should be free to live out their faith and serve their neighbors—especially homeless women who have suffered sexual abuse or domestic violence—without being targeted or harassed by the government,” said ADF Senior Counsel Ryan Tucker, director of the ADF Center for Christian Ministries, in a press release. “Downtown Hope Center is once again in court standing up for its religious beliefs. No woman—particularly not an abuse survivor—should be forced to sleep or disrobe next to a man.”
The lawsuit asks the court to issue an injunction blocking the city’s attempt to enforce its new ordinance and declare those sections unconstitutional as applied to Hope Center.
The case is The Downtown Soup Kitchen d/b/a/ Downtown Hope Center v. Municipality of Anchorage.
Photo from ADF