A faith-based women’s shelter in downtown Anchorage filed a lawsuit in federal court this week to once again stop Anchorage officials from using a new ordinance to force the Hope Center shelter to admit males and let them sleep alongside women who have suffered physical and sexual abuse.
The controversial ordinance, passed last month, also shuts down the Downtown Hope Center’s ability to communicate about its religious beliefs on its website and on other signs posted around the center.
“Downtown Hope Center serves everyone, and its overnight women’s shelter exists to provide a safe place for women, many of whom have suffered due to sex trafficking, rape, or domestic violence at the hands of men,” said Alliance Defending Freedom’s Senior Counsel Kate Anderson.
“Women deserve a place to sleep where they can feel secure. City officials have no business trying to force the center to violate its beliefs by demanding that the shelter allow biological men to sleep mere feet from vulnerable women. This is the second attempt by the city to force Downtown Hope Center to violate its religious beliefs to the detriment of the women it serves,” she said.
This is the second time the center has had to defend its practice of allowing only biological women to spend the night. In 2018, the faith-based group filed a federal lawsuit against the city after the shelter referred an inebriated and injured man to a hospital to get the care he needed and paid for his taxi ride there.
The man later filed a complaint with the Anchorage Equal Rights Commission alleging the center didn’t let him stay at the shelter, where he would have been sleeping next to abused and homeless women. The city then chose to pursue the complaint against the center, prompting ADF attorneys to file suit on the center’s behalf.
The city eventually dropped the complaint, and both the city and the center agreed to make the court’s temporary order against the city permanent. But since the city’s first loss in federal court, the Anchorage Assembly has amended the city ordinance in an attempt to find a new way to target Downtown Hope Center and force it to let males sleep next to women who have been abused.
“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. “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.”
Sonja Redmond, one of nearly 3,500 attorneys allied with ADF, is local counsel for Downtown Hope Center in the case, The Downtown Soup Kitchen d/b/a Downtown Hope Center v. Municipality of Anchorage, filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Alaska.