Christian homeless shelter accused of requiring attendance, tithing at Alabama’s largest megachurch

Church of the Highlands

A Christian women’s shelter in Alabama is being accused of forcing homeless residents to attend the state’s largest megachurch and when they finally get employed, tithe 10 percent of their income to the church. reports Jessie’s Place, a women and children’s shelter in downtown Birmingham, is asking the women who stay there to specifically attend Alabama’s largest megachurch, Church of the Highlands, regardless of their church preferences. And ultimately, once employed, to tithe the Bible-recommended 10-percent to the church.

Dana Johnson, who has been homeless on and off for two years, told her story saying that the shelter required her to attend Church of the Highlands rather than her own church, First Presbyterian Church of Birmingham.

When her pastor at the First Presbyterian, Rev. Shannon Webster, found out, she reached out to Jessie’s Place asking why the women were all required to attend the same church.

LaTonya Melton, director of Jessie’s Place, responded to Webster explaining the shelter policy “prevents women from lying and saying they went to church when they didn’t. She also said that tithing is required, but the women can tithe to whichever church they want.”

Tony Cooper is the executive director of Jimmie Hale Mission, which operates Jessie’s Place, says he has no problem with the tithing, but does take issue with telling the women where to specifically tithe.

“We are a Christian ministry,” Cooper told “Tithing is just a part of our Christian walk. We’re trying to get them to exercise the discipline of giving back to God what’s his. We charge them nothing. It’s not like we’re trying to get their money. The tithe does not go to us. We’re trying to teach them Christian discipline. Tithing is part of the budgeting process. Whatever your policies are, they’re not going to please everybody.”


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