….ADF Legal Counsel Denise Harle said many of the women Downtown Hope Center serves have suffered rape, physical abuse and domestic violence.
“They shouldn’t be forced to sleep or disrobe in the same room as a man,” she said.
“Battered women need a safe place to stay, but, incredibly, Anchorage is trying to take that place away.”
The complaint contends the city is trying to shut down the religious ministry “through an unconstitutional application of its public accommodations and fair housing laws.”
Anchorage “prohibits public accommodations from denying services based on sex or gender identity or state those services will be denied. It also forbids property owners or their agents from communicating any preference or limitation on the use of real property based on sex or gender identity,” the lawyers told the judge.
“Hope Center has not violated this law. It is not a public accommodation, and the code exempts homeless shelters, like Hope Center,” the brief explains.
“The last eight months, Anchorage has used the code to investigate, harass, and pressure Hope Center to admit men into its women’s only shelter, and to stop Hope Center’s exercise of its religious beliefs.”
It was because the center “had directed an inebriated and injured transgender individual to a hospital.”
Not only did Basler attack the center, she then “initiated a second complaint” accusing its lawyers of violating the code by answering questions about the case in the media.
Then it refused to dismiss the complaints, instead continuing its prosecution, which forced the center and its lawyers “to stay silent about its policies and its religious beliefs.”
“These actions are not only unconstitutional, they have handcuffed Hope Center’s ability to defend itself in public and hindered its ability to raise funds,” the filing says.
The result is that the center “faces the prospect of closing its shelter, and needs immediate injunctive relief to stop Anchorage’s unconstitutional targeting.”
There was such hostility on the part of the city’s commission that when ADF, an internationally known organization that frequently argues before the U.S. Supreme Court, stepped in, the city initially refused to correspond with its lawyers.
Further, the city’s agency refused to let a lawyer for the center have a conference transcribed so there would be a record. City officials accused the center of lying in its answers, but they refused to make public the “materials that supposedly proved inconsistencies.”
Then city officials continued their “provocative behavior” by accusing the center of failing to supplement its responses “even though it had previously tried to do so and had been instructed by the commission that no more documents need be exchanged.”
And the city missed a 240-day deadline for filing the first complaint, a fault that was ignored when the city eventually dismissed the second complaint.
The complaint also warns the city.
“When government acts with hostility toward religion, litigants establish a free-exercise violation without need to satisfy strict scrutiny,” the filing said. “Anchorage has acted with such hostility because it is using the code to pressure Hope Center to change its religious beliefs and practices. This is most evidence because the code does not even cover Hope Center. Hope Center’s women shelter is not a public accommodation.”
The state of Colorado’s “hostility” against baker Jack Phillips of Masterpiece Cakeshop, in prosecuting him for refusing to promote homosexuality in violation of his faith, was cited by the U.S. Supreme Court in its June decision in Phillips’ favor.
The complaint in the Anchorage case provides many examples of the city’s hostility, including the commission’s orders that the center “stay silent about its religious policies and beliefs.”…