There are serious problems with religious non-profits receiving federal funds while maintaining discriminatory hiring practices with the use of those funds. I've written about this before. Here's reprise of my May 18, 2006 blog on Anne Lown and the Salvation Army:
I got a copy of Michelle Goldberg's Kingdom Coming and started reading this superb book last night.
One story that Michelle told stopped me in my tracks. The story disturbed me so much that I had to put the book down and walk around the block to lower my blood pressure. It was the story about the "Christianization" of the social services division of the Salvation Army.
I have a vague recollection of reading newspaper articles about the Salvation Army receiving federal money while purging itself of homosexuals and non-Christians, but Michelle's account of her interview of Anne Lown, daughter of the nobel prize winning physician and peace activist Dr. Bernard Lown, personalized the issue and clarified the values that are at stake.
Here's a quote from Kingdom Coming:
Lown, who had been an employee at the Salvation Army for twenty-four years and oversaw 800 workers, said religion had never had anything to do with her job. As long as she'd been there, the New York social services division had been independent from the evangelical side of the organization. Her office ran more public programs than any Salvation Army division in the United States, most of them for children. Almost all of the money came from the state and local government, and Lown assumed that it would be illegal to infuse taxpayer-funded services with Christianity. Her division had gay, Jewish, Muslim, and Hindu employees, reflecting the city it served. (p. 130)Before this administration took office, it was "illegal to infuse taxpayer-funded services with Christianity." When those responsible for enforcing the law and upholding the constitution refuse to do so -- and actively work to undermine it -- anything is permitted.
Apparently, the Salvation Army decided to take advantage of this administration's lax enforcement of the first amendment. Colonel Paul Kelly was brought in to "heighten the agency's evangelical aspect." Here's another quote:
According to the complaint filed by the NYCLU, Kelly asked the human resources director at the Salvation Army headquarters, Maureen Schmidt, whether one of the human resource staffers at the social services division, Margaret Geissman, was Jewish, because she had a "Jewish sounding name."Schmidt told him she was not. Geissman, who described herself to me as a conservative Catholic, told me that Schmidt then started asking her to point out gay and non-Christian employees at the division. She refused to answer, but day after day Schmidt kept pushing. "She said Kelly wanted to know and that eventually they were going to find out about everyone," Geissman told me. "She said the new vision for the Salvation Army was to have Christians and Salvationists and not to have homosexuals." (p. 131)
Anyone who has studied the holocaust knows the resonances of these conversations.