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NYCLU Calls For Investigation Of Faith-Based Discrimination In Salvation Army Social Services

In letters to New York State Comptroller Alan G. Hevesi and New York City Comptroller William G. Thompson Jr., the New York Civil Liberties Union raised concerns about possible religious discrimination against employees in state and city funded social services programs run by the Salvation Army. The NYCLU requested that the Comptrollers conduct an audit to determine whether the Salvation Army is improperly applying religious tests for employment in child welfare and other government social services programs.

The Salvation Army has recently begun to require all New York City employees, and prospective job applicants, to identify their present church affiliation and minister’s name as well as all other churches attended in the previous decade. Moreover, recently developed job descriptions and new job application forms, appear to require that employees “preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ” and to thereby profess their belief in Christianity. The Salvation Army claims an exemption from anti-discrimination laws because it is a church.

The NYCLU argues that when The Salvation Army provides child welfare and other social services with government funding in partnership with New York City and New York State, it cannot engage in religious discrimination either in the provision of such services or in the hiring of employees to provide those services. The Salvation Army receives over $89 million in government funds.

Donna Lieberman, Executive Director of the NYCLU, said “The Salvation Army does good work and performs vital community services. But when it provides services in partnership and on behalf of the government it cannot impose a religious litmus test on the employees who provide those services or on the recipients. For 136 years, The Salvation Army’s mission has been to meet ‘human needs without discrimination.’ If it seeks to carry out this important mission with government funding it must do so without discrimination.”

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