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NYCLU Questions Salvation Army’s Religious Employment Practices

In a letter to The Salvation Army, Greater New York Division, the New York Civil Liberties Union questions the organization’s new requirement that all employees and job applicants reveal their present church affiliation, minister’s name, and churches attended for the past decade. New job descriptions and job application forms raise concerns that employees may be required to “preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ” and to thereby profess their belief in Christianity.

The NYCLU letter acknowledges that a religious organization might be permitted to impose religious requirements on employees engaged in its religious activity, but it asserts that cannot impose religious tests on those employees involved in the delivery of social services on behalf of the government. The Social Services for Children division of The Salvation Army, as well as the Social Services for Families and Adults division, are active partners with New York City and New York State in the provision of child welfare and other social services. Pursuant to that partnership The Salvation Army administers over $89 million of government funds. Accordingly, The Salvation Army cannot apply religious tests with respect to secular employees who provide government-funded child welfare and other social services.

Donna Lieberman, Executive Director of the NYCLU, said “We are greatly concerned that these new practices will serve as a vehicle for religious discrimination with respect to employees involved in the delivery of government-funded social services. That the Salvation Army does good work and performs vital community services is not in question. What is in question is what The Salvation Army plans to do with information it receives from its employees and prospective employees concerning current, and past, church affiliations, and what will happen if an employee refuses, or objects, to providing such information. For 136 years, The Salvation Army’s mission has been to meet ‘human needs without discrimination.’ When The Salvation Army is engaged in the delivery of government-funded service, it must serve – and hire – without discrimination.”

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