AERC attempted to silence DHC’s attorney Kevin Clarkson and his law firm, Brena, Bell & Clarkson (BBC), from communicating with media outlets regarding the Center’s case. After local news published stories about the case in which Clarkson was quoted, the AERC brought charges against his firm for violating local speech ordinances, forcing him to withdraw from representing DHC. BBC then sought the legal help of First Liberty Institute, which filed a motion for dismissal of the AERC’s charges.
Now what is really interesting about this whole case is that it was initiated by the AERC who had previously brought charges against the Center, which was the reason for Clarkson’s representation in the first place. The initial charges brought against the Downtown Hope Center were that they had turned away Timothy Cole (a biological male who identifies as a woman named Samantha Cole) from their shelter because of his biological sex, disregarding his gender identification.
But the facts of the matter do not support their contention (or of Cole’s complaint which launched the lawsuit). On February 1, Cole was denied admittance because he was intoxicated at the time of arrival and had arrived at a time when DHC was not accepting new admissions into its shelter. Additionally, Cole had just been kicked out of another homeless shelter (the Brother Francis Shelter), for engaging in a fight earlier in the evening. After denial of admission, DHC supplied Cole with cab fare to travel to a local hospital to seek medical assistance for injuries he had apparently sustained in the fight.
Can you imagine the fear and psychological damage to women who had been victims of battering or sexual abuse if forced to sleep in the same room with an intoxicated male?
Cole responded by filing a complaint against the DHC with the AERC, alleging that DHC refused to provide him services on the basis of his sex or gender identity. Now the Downtown Hope Center is a privately funded shelter, and specifically provides free housing to homeless women, primarily to those who are victims of battering and/or have escaped from human trafficking. Being a private (not a public) shelter, the DHC has every right to limit the number of people admitted and to specify which group or groups it can house.
Can you imagine the fear and psychological damage to women who had been victims of battering or sexual abuse if forced to sleep in the same room with an intoxicated male? But the DHC went out of their way to help Timothy Cole by providing him the means to go to a local hospital (or another homeless shelter if he so chose). This was not about discrimination, but rather the AERC’s harassment of a shelter tasked with protecting women from abuse. Actually, it’s the ongoing intolerance from the state of those who have even a “smell” of a conservative/Christianized worldview.
But sanity prevailed, and on October 2nd, the AERC dropped its charges, especially when First Liberty Institute pointed out several examples of federal and state unconstitutionalities with AERC’s charges in their motion for dismissal. While it is frustrating to read of such frivolous and illogical lawsuits being brought forward at all, it’s encouraging to see that there are still legal firms (that we need to support) out there who are fighting for the religious liberties of individuals and non-profit organizations.
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This item was written with the assistance of AiG’s research team.