A Christian homeless shelter filed a lawsuit against Washington state officials Thursday alleging that the state’s anti-discrimination law prevents the shelter from only hiring employees that agree with their faith-based worldview.
Yakima Union Gospel Mission (YUGM) in Yakima, Washington, describes its mission as “helping people move from homelessness to wholeness” on its website and has been working in the community for 35 years, according to a press release by Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), the world’s largest law firm representing faith and free speech issues. The shelter explains in the lawsuit that the defendants, Attorney General Robert Ferguson and Executive Director of the Washington State Human Rights Commission Andreta Armstrong, have been using Washington’s anti-discrimination law to prevent the organization from hiring in line with their faith, according to the lawsuit.
“The Mission’s Christian religious beliefs are the foundation for its existence and are the very reason it serves the homeless, hungry, and hurting,” the lawsuit reads. “The Mission serves everybody equally, yet it furthers its religious purpose by maintaining an internal body of coreligionists: like-minded believers who agree with and live out the Mission’s Christian beliefs and practices. But the Washington Law Against Discrimination (“the WLAD”) prohibits sexual orientation discrimination in employment, and Defendants view the Mission’s Christian behavior requirement on marriage and sexuality as unlawful sexual orientation discrimination under the WLAD.”
YUGM’s CEO Mike Johnson told the Daily Caller News Foundation that the shelter’s employees are “the hands, feet and messengers of our faith in Christ.”
“But Washington state officials are threatening our right to hire people who share the Mission’s beliefs and live them out,” Johnson said. “As a religious organization, we have the freedom to hire people who believe in our mission and share the same beliefs.”
Ferguson, in particular, has been actively enforcing the law by investigating Seattle Pacific University for alleged discrimination against the LGBTQ community after the university declared that it would require its employees to adhere to biblical standards.
ADF Senior Counsel and Director of the ADF Center for Christian Ministries Ryan Tucker told the DCNF that religious businesses’ right to hire in line with their faith is protected under the First Amendment.
“Government officials have been increasingly bold in their discrimination against religious people and organizations,” Tucker said. “Yakima Union Gospel Mission and others are only asking for the same freedom as everybody else: to live and work according to their religious beliefs.”
Ferguson and Armstrong did not immediately respond to the Daily Caller News Foundation’s request for comment.
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