Intermountain Fair Housing Council v. Boise Rescue Mission Ministries

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Civil Law
  • Date Filed: 09-19-2011
  • Case #: 10-35519
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Circuit Judge Graber for the Court; Circuit Judge Thomas and District Judge Selna
  • Full Text Opinion

Faith-based homeless shelters and rehabilitation facilities are permitted to demonstrate preference based on religion because of the religious exemption 42 U.S.C. § 3607(a) provides to §3604's anti-discrimination provisions.

Boise Rescue Mission Ministries operated two faith-based Christian homeless shelters where plaintiff Chinn sought services. Boise Rescue also operated one faith-based Christian rehabilitation facility where plaintiff Cowles was admitted following a court order that she be released “on probation pending her successful completion of the program,” otherwise she would be required to “serve out her sentence.” Boise Rescue published to both Chinn and Cowles their policies and religious intentions regarding the services prior to either plaintiff's acceptance of services. Chinn claims to have received inferior service because he is Mormon. Cowles claims to have been released from the rehabilitation program—resulting in her return to jail—because she refused to convert to Christianity. Both filed complaints with the Federal Department of Housing and Urban Development. HUD dismissed both claims and plaintiffs brought their actions in Federal Court, which granted Boise Rescue's motion for summary judgment. The Court here affirms. The Court considers 42 U.S.C. § 3604 but declines to interpret whether the term “residence” applies to homeless shelters, determining that the question is irrelevant given the applicability of the religious exemption provided in §3607(a). Construing this exemption narrowly, the Court still finds that it “exempts the practices challenged here.” Reviewing the claims presented by both Cowles and Chinn, the Court found that they constitute merely a demonstration of “preference to persons of [Boise Rescue's] religion.” And, assuming such preference did occur, it is not unlawful “because the preference for Christians, and those who desire to become so, falls within the scope of §3607(a).” AFFIRMED.

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