Thrift store

Wyoming rescue mission sues state agency EEOC over religious employment rules

The Wyoming Rescue Mission in Casper, Wyoming sued the Federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the Wyoming Department of Workforce Services to protect its right to hire employees that affirm the Christian beliefs of the nonprofit group.

In 2020, according to the lawsuit filed Tuesday in Wyoming federal district court, the mission refused to hire a “self-proclaimed ‘non-Christian'” for the job of a thrift store associate.

The position required teachers in the group’s discipleship restoration program to “spread the gospel and model Christ.”

The nonprofit said the recovery program uses a year-long “Bible-based addiction recovery model” to meet the needs of people with alcoholism and drug addiction.

The mission says it was authorized to restrict these jobs to Christian believers, consistent with its religious mission, and cited exemptions in the State Fair Employment Practices Act of 1964 and Title VII of the Federal Civil Rights Act of 1964.

A potential candidate, who was not named in the mission’s lawsuit on Tuesday, filed a discrimination complaint over the candidacy requirements and a 16-month investigation ensued.

Although the federal EEOC did not immediately pursue the rescue mission, the state workforce agency wanted to force the nonprofit into a conciliation process that would include reimbursement of wages, refrain from religious hiring practices, and submit to agency compliance oversight.

The mission refused, citing its “constitutionally protected” employment rules.

Mission officials say they don’t post job openings on their website and left a vacancy at a thrift store, fearing scrutiny by the state agency.

“The Wyoming Rescue Mission does incredibly important work to uplift the community of Casper 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 embrace its faith, are essential to fulfilling its purpose,” said Ryan Tucker, senior counsel for Alliance Defending Freedom and director of the Group Center for Christian Ministries. statement.

The public interest law firm represents the rescue mission.

According to an ADF press release, in 2021 the Wyoming Rescue Mission “served 60,862 free meals to the public; provided 41,037 beds for men, women and children; enrolled 92 participants in the Discipleship Recovery Program; provided 5,597 case management sessions and donated 1,208 vouchers worth $39,649.92 for free clothing and essentials.

The Wyoming case isn’t the only recent one involving Christian rescue missions and job seekers who don’t support mainstream gospel beliefs.

Matthew Woods, an attorney, sued the Seattle Union Gospel Mission for not being hired for a job because he failed to comply with group rules. The Washington Supreme Court has ruled that the nonprofit employment exemptions only apply if the workers are ministers.

In March, the United States Supreme Court declined to hear the case, but the justices said they could consider it in the future.

The Washington Times contacted the Wyoming Department of Workforce Services and the EEOC for comment.