The Denver Rescue Mission bans employees from “acting on same sex attraction” and rejecting one’s “biological sex”

The nonprofit receives millions of dollars through contracts from the City of Denver.

Denver's STAR van drives past the Denver Rescue MIssion at Park Avenue and Lawrence Street. Feb. 12, 2021.

Denver's STAR van drives past the Denver Rescue MIssion at Park Avenue and Lawrence Street. Feb. 12, 2021.

Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite
kyle harris

UPDATE: The Denver Rescue Mission announced on Nov. 21 that it will remove the anti-LGBTQ language from its employee handbook. Read more here about how the language clashed with state and federal law and the city’s anti-discrimination policy that was included in its contract with the mission.

Our original story follows below.


The Christian nonprofit Denver Rescue Mission, which has an $8.7 million contract with the Department of Housing Stability, bans employees from “acting on same sex attraction” and “rejection of one’s biological sex” in the latest draft of its recently adopted employee handbook.

Denverite obtained a copy of the handbook and reviewed the language after receiving a tip.

Employees who violate the rules of unacceptable conduct can be disciplined by the organization “up to and including immediate termination from employment,” according to the handbook.

Employees at the organization have until Nov. 30 of this year to decide whether to sign a document acknowledging the receipt of the handbook. The first line of that form reads: “I have read the Denver Rescue Mission’s Employee Handbook and agree to abide by its contents.”

The document goes on to explain that employment with the Denver Rescue Mission is at will and employees can be terminated at any time.

What happens if employees don’t sign?

“We have never had an employee not sign the handbook,” wrote Denver Rescue Mission spokesperson Stephen Hinkel, in an email. “Individuals have left their positions at Denver Rescue Mission under their own accord. The handbook is not updated annually, only when clarification is needed.”

Here’s what the Denver Rescue Mission says about the clause.

“After questions from current employees, as a Christian organization we are trying to provide clarity to our employees about our core values and what we believe,” Hinkle wrote. “Individuals who choose to work with at Denver Rescue Mission do so because they are able to share their faith in an open and honest manner.”

He said the policy does not hurt the organization’s ability to hire the people it wants, and hiring is going well. The organization has successfully hired around 125 employees since adopting a 24/7 shelter model in the summer of 2021.

“Throughout the hiring process we are very clear about our Christian values,” he said. “When an individual is hired they sign and agree upon the employee handbook. Additionally, our Statement of Faith and Ministry Principles are publicly available on our website.”

We asked the Department of Housing Stability why it contracts with an organization that effectively bans LGBTQ+ employees from working there.

The agency did not respond directly to the question.

Instead, HOST addressed a related concern: whether the Denver Rescue Mission discriminates against guests of its facilities.

“HOST-contracted shelters may not discriminate in the provision of services, including based on sexual orientation or gender identity,” explained HOST spokesperson Derek Woodbury.

As for whether the Denver Rescue Mission discriminates against guests based on sexual orientation or gender identity, the answer, Hinkle wrote, is no.

“How we serve people has nothing to do with how they identify sexually or who they are sexually attracted to,” Hinkle wrote. “We will serve anyone who comes through our doors with dignity and grace. It may effect who decides to work here and who we hire as employees but it will never effect how we serve our guests.”

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