YAKIMA, Washington (LifeSiteNews) — A religious homeless shelter in Washington State is suing for the right to hire employees who share and abide by its religious beliefs, in the face of judicial interpretation of state law that has forced it to pause needed hiring decisions or face stiff penalties.
Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), which is representing Yakima Union Gospel Mission, explains that in 2021, the Washington Supreme Court ruled that the Washington Law Against Discrimination must not be interpreted as allowing religious entities to refuse to hire individuals whose sexual practices conflict with a would-be employer’s religious beliefs.
The mission, which offers shelter, meals, substance abuse rehabilitation programs, and free and low-cost health services without regard for the “identity” of the needy, now faces the threat of being forced to accept prospective employees who either flout or are openly hostile to its values. Until the matter is resolved, it has resorted to removing certain job postings and paused any hiring to fill two current vacancies, for an IT technician and an operations assistant.
ADF’s brief filed on Thursday with the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals argues that, “despite repeated opportunities, the State refuses to disavow enforcement of the WLAD against the Mission and fellow religious employers. Instead, the attorney general has promised to enforce the WLAD precisely in the way the Mission fears.”
“Religious organizations are free to hire employees who are aligned with and live out their religious beliefs,” said ADF Senior Counsel Ryan Tucker. “Yakima Union Gospel Mission faces substantial penalties under Washington state law for simply engaging in its constitutionally protected freedom to hire fellow believers who share the mission’s calling to spread the gospel and care for vulnerable people in the Yakima community. The Constitution allows religious institutions to make all of their hiring decisions based on an alignment of beliefs without fear of penalty. We are urging the 9th Circuit to allow the mission to seek protection in federal court so that it can continue its valuable services while continuing to adhere to the very beliefs that motivate its outreach.”
Washington is home to some of the most radical social policies in the Union, including laws making the Evergreen State a “haven” for visitors seeking abortions or underage “gender transitions” that would be illegal in their home states.
It also has a history of hostility to religious liberty, including a years-long effort to force Christian florist Barronelle Stutzman to provide flowers for homosexual “weddings.” The U.S. Supreme Court refused to resolve that case in 2021, though Stutzman reached a settlement with the plaintiffs several months later, in which she paid them $5,000 and they agreed to stop demanding she compromise her practices.