Speaking of good Christian behavior, the Union Gospel Mission of Sioux Falls works hard serving the poor in our eastern Queen City. The shelter describes its mission with this poem by longtime supporter Tony Javurek:
Union Gospel Mission is a Haven of Trust
Needful and shielding when life seems unjust.
Its workings inspired by God’s Holy Word
Obeying when cries for assistance are heard
No one’s denied its offering hand…
[Tony Javurek, 1985, posted on ugmsf.com]
Well, no one except folks management thinks shouldn’t be wearing dresses:
A transgender woman asked to leave the Union Gospel Mission said she’d hoped to find more acceptance.
Isabella Red Cloud went to the Mission on Saturday for breakfast, but was told she needed to change out of her dress and into male clothing before being served.
“I was told I could come back when I was dressed appropriately,” Red Cloud said.
Red Cloud went live on Facebook after being asked to leave. She said she was depressed about the situation until the following day, when she saw a steady stream of support from her Facebook friends.
At the urging of her friends, she returned to the mission with them and broadcast live once again, as the same unidentified employee escorted her out.
“If you are dressed in women’s clothing, you cannot. You need to leave,” the man said [John Hult, “Transgender Woman Asked to Leave Mission,” that Sioux Falls paper, 2017.04.24].
Union Gospel Mission exec Fran Stenberg justifies rejecting Red Cloud by rejecting Red Cloud’s identity:
“I don’t know a thing about a woman being turned away,” director Fran Stenberg told LGBTQ Nation in a phone interview. “It was a man that was turned away,” he said, and confirmed he understood what the term “transgender” means when informed Red Cloud identifies as a transgender woman [Dawn Ennis, “Transgender Woman Denied Food at Shelter Because She Was Wearing a Dress,” LGBTQ Nation, 2017.04.24].
Stenberg says Red Cloud’s presence in a dress at the Mission creates division:
“It’s not about transgender, it’s about what’s in the heart and soul of a man. God created you as a man,” Stenberg said.
Stenberg said that visitors to the kitchen who rebel against the expectations – including sobriety and a peaceful demeanor – “create division,” which means they’re asked to leave.
“We’re more concerned with how you’re being than how you look,” Stenberg said, noting that the Mission had crossed paths with Red Cloud before [Hult, 2017.04.24].
Ah—so transgender status is equivalent to being drunk or starting fights.
“We need to, first of all, make sure that it is a safe place because we have women and children here. Sometimes certain situations bring about animosity and so we have to eliminate that and sometimes that causes us to have to make the decision to deny a service, “says Executive Director of Union Gospel Mission Fran Stenberg [Rebecca David, “Transgender Woman Speaks Out After Being Denied Service at Union Gospel Mission,” KDLT, 2017.04.24].
Does this mean that when gubernatorial candidate Marty Jackley gets done putting Ehab Jaber through the wringer of overhyped, under-evidenced terrorism charges, if Jaber is down on his luck and goes to the Mission for a meal, the Mission will turn him away because he’s Muslim and his faith “brings about animosity” from others? Who really creates division, the person who does not conform to majority expectations, or the majority who respond with disruptive animosity toward the non-conformist?
Michael Stone of Patheos calls the Union Gospel Mission’s refusal to serve Red Cloud “yet another example of the mean-spirited bigotry many transgender individuals face from conservative Christians.” Patheos “Friendly Atheist” Hemant Mehta says this discrimination doesn’t break the law, but it does contravene the narrative of Christian love (oh! a theme for the day!):
This isn’t about illegal discrimination. The people who run Christian shelters have every right to be bigots, and South Dakota has no law preventing discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. But the Christians don’t deserve a reputation for being kindhearted and magnanimous when their generosity only extends so far. If they can kick you out for wearing a dress, then let’s not pretend they actually care about helping the “least of these.” Their love is very, very conditional [Hemant Mehta, “Christian Shelter Director Ejects Transgender Woman for Wearing Dress: ‘God Created You as a Man’,” Patheos, 2017.04.25].
Union Gospel Mission has a right to control entrance to its property. It has a duty to maintain a safe environment for all whom it serves. But the Mission also professes a duty to serve all who cry for assistance. The Mission serves and was even founded by people who have done much worse than wear a dress. Ennis notes that the Union Gospel Mission was founded by Thomas F. Morse, who served time for shooting a man in Sisseton. Red Cloud just got out of prison for stealing a car. Red Cloud’s crime doesn’t disqualify her from assistance; neither should wearing a dress.