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Wyoming homeless shelter defends its freedom to hire only those who share its beliefs

ADF attorneys represent Wyoming Rescue Mission in federal lawsuit.
Wyoming Rescue Mission Executive Director Brad Hopkins at the mission’s facility in Casper.

CASPER, Wyo. – The Wyoming Rescue Mission filed a federal lawsuit Tuesday against state and federal officials for threatening to punish the Christian nonprofit for hiring employees who share the ministry’s religious beliefs. Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys represent the faith-based organization in its civil rights suit to protect its ability to hire like-minded individuals who share its beliefs and mission to spread the gospel of Jesus Christ through its homeless shelter, clothing vouchers, faith-based recovery programs, and life-rebuilding assistance to Casper residents.

“The Wyoming Rescue Mission is doing exceedingly important work to uplift the Casper community by providing free meals, shelter, recovery programs, job training, and hope. The mission’s hiring practices, including its ability to hire like-minded employees who subscribe to its faith, are essential to fulfilling its calling,” said ADF Senior Counsel Ryan Tucker, director of the ADF Center for Christian Ministries. “The First Amendment allows religious organizations the freedom to hire those who share their beliefs without being threatened. This mission simply wants that truth recognized.”

In 2020, the mission decided not to hire a self-proclaimed non-Christian for one of its thrift store associate positions—a role that is expected to teach the mission’s Discipleship Recovery Program guests how to spread the gospel and model Christ. The applicant then filed a discrimination charge, and government officials conducted a 16-month long investigation to determine if the mission engaged in discrimination prohibited by law. The government officials determined the mission likely violated the Wyoming Fair Employment Practices Act of 1965 and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 for refusing to hire the applicant, ignoring the fact that neither of those laws apply to faith-based organizations’ religiously based employment decisions.

“These laws don’t demand that a religious organization risk undermining its mission and very reason for existence by hiring people who don’t even share its foundational beliefs,” said ADF Legal Counsel Jacob Reed. “Although both laws allow religious organizations to hire those who share their beliefs, the government has ignored those provisions, putting the Mission to the impossible, and unconstitutional, choice of either furthering its religious purpose or changing its hiring practices to avoid penalties and liability.”

The mission currently has an open store associate position to fill, but it is refraining from doing so because the government’s application and interpretation of the law would force the mission to hire individuals who do not share its religious beliefs, which are essential to the mission’s very purpose. Last year, the Wyoming Rescue Mission served 60,862 free meals to the public; provided 41,037 beds for men, women, and children; enrolled 92 Discipleship Recovery Program participants; offered 5,597 case management sessions; and gave 1,208 thrift store vouchers worth $39,649.92 that provided free clothing and essentials to families and guests in need.

ADF attorneys filed the lawsuit, Wyoming Rescue Mission v. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, in the U.S. District Court for the District of Wyoming.

John G. Knepper, one of more than 4,600 attorneys in the ADF Attorney Network, is serving as local counsel for the Wyoming Rescue Mission.

Alliance Defending Freedom is an alliance-building, non-profit legal organization committed to protecting religious freedom, free speech, parental rights, and the sanctity of life.

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Ryan Tucker
Ryan Tucker
Senior Counsel, Director of the Center for Christian Ministries
Ryan Tucker serves as senior counsel and director of the Center for Christian Ministries with Alliance Defending Freedom.
Jacob Reed
Jacob Reed
Legal Counsel
Jacob Reed serves as legal counsel for the Center for Christian Ministries with Alliance Defending Freedom.