ANCHORAGE, Alaska — A Christian women’s shelter in Alaska has filed suit as the Anchorage Equal Rights Commission has not dismissed its investigation into the facility after a man who identifies as a woman filed a complaint because he was not accepted for admittance to the shelter.
According to the lawsuit, the Hope Center is unabashedly Christian in nature, and offers Christian counseling, Bible studies and group devotions to the women who stay at the facility. Prayers are said before meals. Staff also play Christian music and television inside the shelter, and the building is decorated with Christian messages. A cross rests atop the building that reads “Jesus saves.”
“By loving, serving, and teaching homeless women in this environment, Hope Center seeks to encourage them to put their faith in Jesus Christ and free themselves from destructive addictions, habits, or situations,” the legal challenge explains.
The Hope Center also holds to the belief that biological men should not change their clothes or sleep in close proximity to women, and therefore, it only accepts biological women for admittance for the sake of the other women staying at the facility. The sleeping room at the Hope Center features rows of mattresses three to five feet apart.
It additionally requires that those staying at the center not be under the influence of drugs and alcohol.
Therefore, on Jan. 26, when members of the Anchorage Police Department dropped off a man who was inebriated and had a cut above his eye, staff asked Executive Director Sherrie Laurie to assess the situation. She decided that it would be best to send the man—whose name has not been provided—to the local hospital for care, and paid for his cab to the emergency room.
The lawsuit states that the man came back the next day, but was not admitted as the shelter was not accepting new guests at the time. He then filed a complaint with the Anchorage Equal Rights Commission, alleging discrimination because of his “gender identity.”
The Hope Center denied that it had committed any wrongdoing, stating that the man had been sent elsewhere because he was drunk and the facility wasn’t offering admittance to anyone at the time. The commission placed the shelter under investigation and required it to answer various questions and attend a fact-finding conference.
As the matter has not yet been dismissed, the Hope Center filed suit on Thursday, and argues in its lawsuit that a 2015 city ordinance cited by the commission does not apply to the shelter because it is not a public accommodation in that it is not a “business or professional activity that is open to, accepts or solicits the patronage of, or caters or offers goods or services to the general public.”
“Hope Center’s women’s shelter is not a business or commercial enterprise, nor does it currently receive any government funds directly,” the official complaint outlines. “Instead, Hope Center receives private donations from individuals, other non-profits, businesses, foundations, and churches. It operates exclusively on a charitable basis.”
It also notes that a section of Anchorage’s equal rights ordinance says that “shelters for the homeless” are exempted from the city’s requirements.
“[G]uests of the women’s shelter have an expectation of privacy when they enter the facility. They are told that Hope Center is a loving and safe environment for women and do not expect to undress and sleep next to biological males,” the lawsuit states. “[T]hat expectation is one society should recognize as reasonable.”
The Hope Center is seeking an injunction so that the commission will not force the facility to admit men who identify as women.