A Christian nonprofit organization that serves as Wyoming's largest homeless shelter recently secured a favorable settlement with state and federal government officials that will allow the shelter to hire only those who share its Christian beliefs.
Wyoming Rescue Mission, based in Casper, finalized the settlement a couple of months after the nonprofit filed a lawsuit in response to the threat of punishment from state and federal officials for only hiring Christian employees.
Alliance Defending Freedom, a prominent legal nonprofit specializing in religious freedom cases representing the nonprofit, announced that as part of the settlement, state officials acknowledged that the religious charity has the right to hire employees who share its religious beliefs and mission.
ADF contends that the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution "protects Wyoming Rescue Mission's freedom to hire those who share its beliefs without being threatened and investigated by the government."
"We're pleased to favorably settle this case for the rescue mission so it can continue its critical work of serving some of Casper's most vulnerable citizens and spreading the gospel," ADF Legal Counsel Jacob Reed said in a statement.
Founded in 1978 and originally called Soul's Anchor, WRM is considered the largest homeless shelter in the state and serves about 100 residents, according to Wyoming Public Radio.
In 2020, a non-Christian individual applied to work at the rescue mission. Upon being rejected, the individual filed a discrimination complaint against the WRM, prompting an investigation by the Wyoming Department of Workforce Service and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
At issue is whether the charity violated the Wyoming Fair Employment Practices Act of 1965 and Title VII of the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964.
The EEOC and the state agency concluded that there was probable cause that discrimination occurred and rejected WRM's claims of religious exception.
In response to the investigation, WRM sued the Wyoming Department of Workforce Service and the EEOC. In light of the settlement, a dismissal order was filed last Monday.
"As a Christ-centered organization, if you reject Him, then we just don't see that as a best fit when we're trying to communicate His loving message of care and kindness to the people that we serve," said WRM Executive Director Brad Hopkins, as reported by Wyoming News Now in September.
"We serve everybody regardless of belief or background, personal experience but through the years, our entire history, we hire folks on our staff who share a common faith in Jesus Christ and have the ability to communicate that faith as well."