Seattle Homeless Ministry Petitions Supreme Court To Intervene After Lawsuit Forces It To Violate Its Beliefs

Seattle's Union Gospel Mission

A charitable institution for the homeless based in Seattle has petitioned the United States Supreme Court to intervene with a lawsuit that forces them to violate its beliefs.

CBN News reported that Seattle's Union Gospel Mission was sued in 2017 by the bisexual Attorney Matt Woods when he was not hired for its free legal aid clinic.

Woods alleged that the charitable institution discriminated against him when he disclosed he was in a same sex relationship. But Union Gospel Mission raised that Washington's anti-discrimination law does not apply to them being a religious employer. The lawsuit was dismissed by a King County Superior Court Judge who sided with Union Gospel Mission.

Woods filed an appeal with the Washington Supreme Court who sided with him and overturned the County Court's decision. The state's Supreme Court also questioned the basis of the exemption in terms of its application to a staff attorney of a religious organization's legal aid clinic.

Woods' legal counsel said Washington's exemption on the anti-discrimination law for religious organizations is not covered by the services provided by the Mission in their legal aid clinic. The said clinic helps the homeless resolve legal issues on immigration problems and old warrants

The Mission then filed a petition to the US Supreme Court arguing that lawyers who work for religious organizations should adhere and represent said organization's religious message so as to retain its credibility with the public.

"Staff attorneys are the primary contact and form ongoing relationships with Mission clients, collaborating with Mission caseworkers. Like all employees, staff attorneys talk about their faith, often pray with clients, and tell them about Jesus," Union stressed in its 309-paged petition.

"They also participate in regular Mission worship services, prayer meetings, staff meetings (including prayer and devotionals), trainings, and other events," they added.

In the petition, Union Mission Church highlighted that it operates on the basis of its Christian faith and such operation encompasses the hiring of employees who affirm the same beliefs as stipulated in its handbook. The mission stressed this importance because employees are regarded as its "hands, feet, and mouthpieces." The mission pinpointed that employees are asked to refrain from acts and beliefs contrary to the Gospel such as on sexual relationships outside of marriage.

"The Mission expresses its religious beliefs and accomplishes its religious purpose through its full-time employees, who serve as the Mission's hands, feet, and mouthpieces. Consequently, the Mission requires paid staff and high-impact volunteers to affirm its statement of faith which declares, in part, that 'the Bible is the inspired, infallible, authoritative Word of God'," the petition said.

"Its employee handbook requires staff to abide by the Mission's understanding of the Bible's teachings by-for instance-refraining from '(a)cts or language which are considered immoral or indecent according to traditional biblical standards,' including "extra-marital affairs, sex outside of marriage, (and) homosexual behavior.' Hiring those who live out the Mission's religious beliefs is crucial to its ministries' success," it added.

The Alliance Defending Freedom, who serves as Union Gospel Mission's legal counsel, explained the importance of a religious institutions hiring process in the overall credibility of its organization. ADF stressed that Union's hiring process involved "internal faith matters" that "the government should stay out of."

"That's why churches and religious institutions, like the Mission, must be able to decide who they employ. If one employee explains to a client what it means to have a new life in Jesus Christ and then another employee contradicts or denies that message, the Mission loses credibility with those that it seeks to serve," ADF said in its website.

"The lawyer was not active in a local church, disagreed with the Mission's beliefs, and even explicitly stated that he applied for the position hoping to change the Mission's religious beliefs," ADF added pertaining to Woods. "If the Mission wants to continue sharing the Gospel message of new life in Christ with its homeless neighbors, it cannot hire people who disagree with its Christian beliefs."