the Salvation Army
July 18, 2001
Rodney Jay C. Salinas
Every year, I've made it a habit of cleaning my closets and
finding some clothes that I no longer want or no longer fit.
I just fold them up, put them in a shopping bag and take them
to the Salvation Army a few miles away. It helps keep my closets
clean, and after all, it's for a good cause. Heck, I even
get a tax-deduction for it. I used to think this was a good
idea, but not anymore.
Last week, the Salvation Army, the nation's largest charity,
was "outed." It turns out that they have been lobbying for
months to include a special provision that would let religious
charities, like theirs, discriminate against hiring homosexuals
and still receive federal funding. This special provision
was requested in light of President George W. Bush's push
for increased federal funding of faith-based charities.
Since his inauguration in January, President Bush has been
trumpeting his faith-based initiative, giving religious-based
charities increased access to federal funds. The idea has
a great deal of support from the nonprofit sector - they stand
to benefit the most from this arrangement. But the initiative
has also picked up support from many Democrats, who are eager
to give more funding to support various social service programs.
All in all, this effort, with its perceived bipartisan support
might have a shot at passage in the coming weeks.
Charities and nonprofits provide many desperately needed
services to our communities. In many cases, these organizations
are providing these services because the government cannot
or is unable to do it. Just imagine how many people would
go hungry or homeless if it were not for your local church
or shelter. But just because these groups fulfill a service
to our fellow men and women does not make them above the law.
Discrimination, regardless of its form or circumstance, is
intolerable and inexcusable.
The Salvation Army wanted the White House to issue a regulation
that would protect government-funded religious charities from
state and local laws barring workplace discrimination, including
discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. What exactly
is going on with the Salvation Army? Are they openly discriminating
against gays and lesbians, women or other minorities? And
if they are, should they be receiving federal funds, or worse,
taxpayers' money to perpetuate their behavior? Absolutely
I wonder if the Salvation Army is as picky about who they
choose to help as much as they are picky about who they hire.
Do they not give clothes and shelter to bisexuals? Although
they are hesitant to hire gays, I'm sure they don't turn down
the money a gay person gives to the dressed-up Santa Clauses
who stand on street corners and collect donations in Salvation
Army buckets during the holidays. Oh, the hypocrisy!
As soon as the press reported news of this dilemma, the Salvation
Army released an official statement. "The Salvation Army's
hiring policies fully comply with federal laws with respect
to fair hiring on the basis of sexual orientation, gender,
race, and ethnicity. Federal law does provide protection to
religious organizations for the hiring of employees consistent
with an organization's beliefs, values and practices. The
Salvation Army does choose carefully its pastors and other
ministerial positions, as do other religious organizations."
Yes, federal law does provide protection so that these organizations
can hire employees who "share the organization's beliefs."
I don't have a problem with private institutions behaving
in this manner. Country clubs and social circles can admit
and/or hire whomever they want because they are private. But
once a group receives any type of funding that includes taxpayer
money, then it's a different story. They have gone from being
a private organization to a state-sponsored group and the
government should not support discrimination in any way.
Because it is the largest charity, the Salvation Army has
a lot of influence. This is probably why the White House was
considering their proposed provision in the first place. But
the president's staffers were smart enough to reject the Salvation
Army's proposal for fear that they would lose their bipartisan
support for the overall initiative. Good move. After all,
President Bush wouldn't want to upset the gay and lesbian
community anymore than he already has, right?
At the end of it all, this incident has reminded me that
even money-hungry nonprofits need to make some difficult choices.
And since this is a free country, I think I'll do the same.
This year, I'll choose NOT to send my donations to the Salvation
Jay C. Salinas is President of the Rainmaker Political Group
LLC, publishers of PoliticalCircus.com,
a leading online source for political news and information
for the Asian Pacific American community.