One Christian homeless shelter just won a major religious freedom case in federal court.
After the women-only shelter found themselves in court for turning away a man who claimed to be a woman, they feared they would be shut down.
But a federal judge just ruled that the shelter had acted well within its rights.
The Downtown Soup Kitchen Hope Center, better known as the Downtown Hope Center, opened over 30 years ago in Anchorage, Alaska.
“Inspired by the love of Jesus, we offer those in need support, shelter, sustenance, and skills to transform their lives,” reads Hope Center’s website.
The Hope Center serves over 400 cups of soup every day, but provides much more than food – job training and long-term support are the foundation of Hope Center’s outreach.
Additionally, the Hope Center provides a women-only shelter with daily meals, laundry services, and an attached culinary school. Homeless women in Anchorage are given shelter and the support they need to get back on their feet, often after difficult experiences.
However, the Hope Center’s women-only rule — seemingly common-sense — was recently challenged.
A biological male who claims to identify as a female named “Samantha” Coyle was turned away from the shelter one night.
“They let two women in… then stopped me and said, ‘No, you can’t come in, you’re not female. You’re male.’ No, I’m female,” said Mr. Coyle.
Staff at the Hope Center’s shelter politely told Mr. Coyle that, as a biological man, he was not allowed to stay in a female-only shelter. Moreover, Mr. Coyle was inebriated when he came to the shelter, proving that he would be a danger to others staying there.
Offended by this turn of events, Mr. Coyle lodged a complaint against the Hope Center through the Anchorage Equal Rights Commission.
“What you are doing is wrong,” argued Mr. Coyle.
“Jesus Christ would not have denied me entrance or anybody like me based on my outer appearance. We must treat people with love and respect and dignity whomever they are, because it’s on the inside, and that’s all I have to say.”
On the contrary, the Hope Center is doing its best to treat homeless women with love, respect, and dignity, and that’s exactly why the shelter’s staff turned Mr. Coyle away.
“No woman — particularly not an abuse survivor — should be forced to sleep or disrobe next to a man,” said Kate Anderson, the Hope Center’s attorney.
The Hope Center recognizes that many women — and many homeless women in particular — have experienced trauma at the hands of men, and want to provide a place where those women feel safe, protected, and honored.
“Some of the women have said to the shelter, if you allow biological men to sleep right next to us at night…we’ll brave the cold,” continued David Cortman, another attorney for the shelter.
“This is for the women they are protecting.”
Nevertheless, the Equal Rights Commission filed a formal complaint against the Hope Center, asking the U.S. District Court for the District of Alaska to issue an injunction against the shelter for its “discriminatory” women-only policy.
The Equal Rights Commission hoped to force the shelter to open its doors to biological males who claim to identify as women, even though Hope Center has said it would rather close down than deviate from its biblical views.
Common sense has won the day so far, as District Court Judge Sharon Gleason ruled in the Hope Center’s favor.
Mr. Coyle’s accusations of discrimination “do not appear to apply to Hope Center’s homeless shelter,” declared Judge Gleason, and she praised the Hope Center’s work.
“Moreover, the provision of overnight living space for homeless persons furthers the public interest.”
The Hope Center’s shelter is doing good work — work that Mr. Coyle and the Equal Rights Commission want to stop.
But thanks to Judge Gleason, Hope Center is still thriving in its mission to protect vulnerable women!
“All Americans should be free to live out their faith and serve their neighbors—especially homeless women who have suffered sexual abuse—without being targeted or harassed by the government,” said the shelter’s attorneys, celebrating the victory.
Pray that the Hope Center will stand strong in its commitment to biblical views of gender and in their God-given mission to help homeless women!
If you’d like to learn more about Hope Center, please visit their website.