This is a bittersweet victory for church/state separation:
The New York Civil Liberties Union announced the approval yesterday of a settlement in Lowe v. The Salvation Army,a 10-year old lawsuit on behalf of 19 Salvation Army employees, including two who claim they were fired in retaliation for protesting the imposition of religious requirements on employees paid with government grant money. A 2003 national reorganization plan by the Salvation Army led to blurring the separation between the organization’s government-funded social service programs that employ some 300 people in New York, and its religious mission. It began to require employees paid with government funds to give information on their religious affiliation and frequency of church attendance, and to commit themselves to providing social services in a manner consistent with the Christian religious principles of the Salvation Army.
In 2010 the NYCLU settled claims against government agencies that had also been sued. They agreed to monitor the Salvation Army to make sure it does not impose religion on recipients of government-funded social services. In yesterday’s settlement, the Salvation Army agreed to provide employees in government-funded positions with a document indicating that it abides by equal employment opportunity provisions as to creed and sexual orientation, will not inquire into employees’ religious beliefs, and requires its employees to furnish social services using sound practices without regard to whether they conflict with Salvation Army religious principles. However employees may not undermine the Salvation Army’s religious mission. In the settlement, the Salvation Army will also pay $450,000 for damages and attorneys’ fees. Newsmax reports on the settlement.
It’s bittersweet because the money isn’t going to come out of supporting the SA’s religious mission, it’ll come out of its social programs. So while church/state wins a necessary battle, the world still loses a little bit – and it didn’t have to if the SA felt that helping people was enough. But no, it wanted to make sure people were Christian first, before the SA would let them join in the common goal to help people – but you cannot have a religious litmus test of your employees if you’re getting federal funding.
We’re always told that religion makes people more charitable. If that were the case, it would seem like religious organizations like the SA wouldn’t boot people for not believing in Jesus. But no, it’s Jesus first, and once you’ve got Jesus then we can move on to helping the poor. Those aren’t the right priorities. It’s just converting the needs of the impoverished into a commercial for your religion.