The Yakima Union Gospel Mission has been around for decades. It serves its community through its homeless shelter, health clinics, and recovery programs, while also providing free meals three times a day.
Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), the firm representing the mission, points out that the Yakima Union Gospel Mission will serve anybody, and attorney Jacob Reed says to achieve its purpose and calling, "everyone it hires has to agree with and live out its Christian beliefs," including abstaining from any sexual conduct outside of marriage between a man and a woman.
"To protect that right, the mission has had to file suit against Washington state officials," he explains. "There is a state law in Washington that prohibits employers -- including the mission -- from discriminating against people based on their sexual orientation."
The Washington Law Against Discrimination did not apply to religious organizations until a few years ago, when the Washington Supreme Court decided to eliminate religious protections.
In the wake of that new interpretation of the law, the mission has received applications from people who openly disagree with, or are hostile to, its religious beliefs on marriage and sexuality. To avoid being penalized by the state, ADF says the mission recently removed an online employment posting for an IT technician, refrained from posting an operations assistant position, and has paused hiring for those two positions.
"Currently today, the mission is risking liability and punishment and investigation for continuing its faith-based hiring practices," Reed notes.
Union Gospel Mission of Yakima v. Ferguson is filed in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Washington.