The Downtown Hope Center (DHC) is a religiously affiliated, private non-profit organization that provides numerous services to Anchorage’s homeless population, including providing a free shelter for homeless women, many of whom have been battered and abused and some of whom have escaped from human trafficking. In addition to caring for Anchorage’s homeless population, DHC maintains and operates a church on its property. DHC does not provide any commercial services, nor does it serve the general public.
In early 2018, a biological male self-identifying as a female sought to enter the facility. DHC had to turn the individual away because the individual was intoxicated and arrived at a time when DHC was not accepting new admissions into its shelter. At the time, DHC supplied the individual with cab fare to travel to a local hospital to seek medical assistance for injuries he had apparently sustained in a fight that led to his being expelled from the Brother Francis Shelter, another homeless shelter with which DHC has historically worked cooperatively to shelter homeless and battered women.
The individual responded by filing a complaint against DHC with the AERC, alleging that DHC refused to provide him services on the basis of his sex or gender identity.
In early 2018, Kevin Clarkson, an attorney with Brena, Bell & Clarkson, P.C., agreed to represent DHC. In pleadings before the AERC, Mr. Clarkson stated that DHC, as a religious organization, does not house biological men in its abused women’s shelter because doing so would traumatize and present unreasonable safety risks for the abused and battered women who have experienced domestic violence or other forms of abuse.
At the same time the charges were brought against DHC, Anchorage was in the midst of a ballot initiative involving the use of public facilities by biological gender. Consequently, the charges against DHC generated numerous media stories. After media reports about the case included statements from Mr. Clarkson regarding his defense of DHC’s religious liberty, the executive director of the AERC, Pamela Basler, also brought charges against Mr. Clarkson’s firm for violating local “non-discrimination” ordinances.
The attorney-client relationship is one of the most important in American jurisprudence. Attorneys are tasked with zealously defending their clients. The Supreme Court has affirmed that legal counsel should be allowed “full freedom of speech . . . not impaired by numerous and refined distinctions.” Imbler v. Pachtman, 424 U.S. 409, 426 n.23 (1976). The actions by AERC drove a wedge between the law firm and its client and make it impossible for any attorney to talk about this case in public without the threat of being investigated by the AERC.
On behalf of Brena, Bell & Clarkson, P.C., attorneys for First Liberty argue that the Anchorage Equal Rights Commission is preventing an attorney from zealously advocating for his client by ignoring widely recognized protections for the attorney-client relationship, bringing charges against both DHC and its attorneys beyond its legal jurisdiction, and is violating the First Amendment rights of the attorney and client.
For Immediate Release: July 5, 2018
Contact: Lacey McNiel, email@example.com
Commission says attorney cannot talk about his client’s beliefs
Anchorage, AK—Attorneys with First Liberty Institute today filed a motion to dismiss before the Anchorage Equal Rights Commission (“AERC”) on behalf of the law firm Brena, Bell & Clarkson, P.C. in response to charges the AERC brought against it for defending the religious liberty of its client, a homeless shelter for women known as the Downtown Hope Center.
“No attorney should be discriminated against or harassed by the government for representing his client,” said Hiram Sasser, General Counsel to First Liberty. “These unelected bureaucrats overstepped their authority by issuing a complaint against the shelter. They’re now attempting to punish the shelter and its attorney for talking about this case. Can anyone but the AERC talk publicly about this case?”
Brena, Bell & Clarkson, P.C. attorney Kevin Clarkson represented the Downtown Hope Center (“DHC”), a religiously affiliated women’s homeless shelter, after the AERC accused it of violating Anchorage’s non-discrimination policy by preventing a biological male self-identifying as female from residing at the facility. As a religious organization, the DHC does not house biological men because doing so would traumatize and present unreasonable safety risks for many female residents who have experienced domestic violence or other forms of abuse. After local media outlets published stories about the case in which Mr. Clarkson discussed the AERC’s overreach and his defense of the DHC’s religious liberty, the Commission brought charges against his firm for violating local speech ordinances, forcing him to withdraw from representation.
On behalf of Brena, Bell & Clarkson, P.C., attorneys for First Liberty argue that the AERC is preventing an attorney from zealously advocating for his client by ignoring widely recognized protections for the attorney-client relationship, bringing charges against both DHC and its attorneys beyond its legal jurisdiction, and is violating the First Amendment rights of the attorney and client.
To read the motion to dismiss, click here.
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About First Liberty Institute
First Liberty Institute is the largest legal organization in the nation dedicated exclusively to defending religious freedom for all Americans.
To arrange an interview, contact Lacey McNiel at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 972-941-4453.
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To The American Legion:
As a grateful citizen, I support your effort to honor those who have fallen in battle and to keep the Bladensburg WWI Veterans Memorial standing as a visible reminder of valor, sacrifice, endurance, and devotion.
Veterans memorials like the one in Bladensburg, MD are symbols reminding us of the sacrifice of our service members and the cost of war. Tearing down the Bladensburg Memorial would erase the memory of the 49 fallen heroes of Prince George’s County—like they never even existed.
We cannot allow the Bladensburg Memorial to be bulldozed.
Please know that you have my support and backing in your petition to the U.S. Supreme Court.✖