Friday, December 02, 2005

Don't Give to The Salvation Army

Do you know the difference between a faith-based charity and a secular one? Secular charities (which may be entirely composed of religious people) are devoted only to their stated cause. "Faith-based" ones can discriminate and take positions completely unrelated to their stated cause.

DovBear points out an article from the Jewish Week:

Anne Lown, a Jewish woman from Boston, had worked nearly 25 years for the Salvation Army’s children’s services arm in New York when she was thrust into the world of faith-based initiatives.

Lown, associate director of the local Salvation Army’s government-funded Social Services for Children, was one of 18 employees to leave or be dismissed in 2003-04 for allegedly refusing to sign forms swearing loyalty to the group’s Christian principles.

...

The White House’s director for faith-based initiatives exulted publicly over the ruling.

“I think this is going to send a resounding signal out there in America,” Jim Towey told National Public Radio soon afterward, “because here you have an organization ... that got 95 percent of its money from government to do its social service work and the court held that they were allowed to hire on a religious basis.”


They also discriminate against gay people.


Religious organizations have enough of your money:
Religious organizations received the most support [in America]--$88.3 billion. Much of these contributions can be attributed to people giving to their local place of worship. The next largest sector was education ($33.8 billion.) [source]


The Catholic Church, for example, "owns more land globally than any other organization on the planet," received $8 billion in parish-level contributions in 2003, and has opulent basilicas, a museum-quality art collection and jewelry. (From an article bemoaning the fact that these assets aren't liquid.)

Please make sure that you donate to charities who will spend your money responsibly and not discriminate based on religion or sexual orientation. The online Charity Navigator, although it won't tell you who's spending your money to discriminate, will at least help you by rating charities based on how efficiently they spend your money.

And GOP-Jews, please wake up and realize that tearing down the wall between church and state is not good for the Jews or anyone else who doesn't belong to the majority religion in America.

26 comments:

Laura said...

Actually, a large part of the Freethinkers/secularist movements of America's past were comprised of Jewish people for the very reasons you state.

I don't give to the Salvation army because I don't agree with the way they discriminate against gay people. Sure, it's their right to only give help to needy people that fit their narrow view of "people" - but it's my right to not give them a dime.

People in need are first, and foremost, people. They're not christian, or jewish, or athiest, or gay or straight or black or white - they're needy people.

Make sure you know where your money is going to be spent.

asher said...

That's right.

And after the debacle the Red Cross did with handling the money with all those donations for the victims of 9/11, no one should give to them either.

JDHURF said...

This is a great topic to bring up in the holiday season. I have never liked the Salvation Army even as a child, that terrible and intrusive bell that they ring ever so loud and diligently has always bothered me. Not to mention the trumpets players they get to blast Christmas tunes in the frigid weather of winter. It was only somewhat fun as a child to slide change into their red bowl of “charity”, much more fun to do at a mall fountain or in a homeless persons Styrofoam cup (apparently much more efficient too).
These uniformed proselytizers seem to always receive warm thanks and genuine acceptance for what they do, know one really cares to inquire where the money goes, how exactly it is used, or to whom it would go to. The fact that they refuse to help homosexuals because they’re “gay” is beyond unethical it is perverse. I dream for the day when people are treated as people despite their religious views, sexuality, race, or any other distinction.
Laura, you nailed it when you said that people are people first, I always say that. Yes this person is gay, yes this person is an atheist, yes this person is a different color, but they are all people and should all be treated with equal dignity and respect.
Don’t support the Salvation Army and if you are going to support a group do some homework and understand what the group really does and is all about.
Another great topic Jewish Atheist!

JDHURF said...

By the way I read a good article on the Salvation Army by Christopher Hitchens in Free Inquiry magazine. It can be read for free here: http://www.secularhumanism.org/index.php?section=library&page=hitchens_21_1&back=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.secularhumanism.org%2Flib%2Flist.php%3Fpublication%3Dfi%26vol%3D21 – looks crazy but goes directly to the article, I promise.

Stacey said...

Very telling. I could never stand the Salvation Army and that damn bell ringing anyway. Now I really can't stand them. They will get nada from me. Zero. Zip. The big goose egg.

Stephen (aka Q) said...

The Salvation Army is a Christian charitable organization. Their Christian faith is what motivates them to be involved in charitable service. If they want to hire Christians only, that's their business.

I seriously doubt that they refuse to provide aid to homosexuals. You'd have to provide me with evidence of it; and evidence that suggests it isn't an isolated occurrence but a policy of the organization. But I think it's a false accusation.

As for the cozy relationship between the Bush administration and Christian charities, I agree it's offensive.

But (here in Canada, at least) governments often recognize that there's a need for a certain social service, and they provide funding to groups who will provide the service. I used to work for a parachurch organization that operated group homes for mentally handicapped individuals; like the Sally Ann, they hired only Christians. The Canadian government doesn't prefer Christian organizations to non-Christian organizations; but neither does it reject an organization with the requisite expertise in a given area just because it is a Christian body.

The point of all this is to say, I am appalled by the level of hostility several of you are expressing toward the Salvation Army. The bottom line is, the organization donates a lot of volunteer hours and provides material support to a lot of needy people. Their service is not merely a pretext for evangelism (certainly it isn't here in Canada), unlike a lot of Christian soup kitchens.

They are a Christian charitable organization. And why not?
Q

Jewish Atheist said...

Q:

The discrimination against gays is against gay employees. "The State of New York has proposed legislation that requires businesses to offer health benefits to partners of homosexual staffers. The Salvation Army has opposed this and threatened to close its soup kitchens and shelters across New York." (wikipedia)

Their service is not merely a pretext for evangelism (certainly it isn't here in Canada), unlike a lot of Christian soup kitchens.

I'm not sure it's "merely a pretext," but don't kid yourself about their evangelical goals:

"As part of the universal Christian church, The Salvation Army believes it has a Scriptural mandate to not only preach the message of Salvation through Jesus Christ, but also to disciple those who become Christians." --from their New York website.

The bottom line is, the organization donates a lot of volunteer hours and provides material support to a lot of needy people.

If they were the only charity around, I would hold my nose and donate, but there are thousands of others available that don't have such offensive policies.

Sadie Lou said...

I think since this is Jewish Atheist's blog and since this blog attracts people that hold to similar beliefs as JA, it is totally predictable and acceptable that he is going to promote giving money to charities that are not Christian based. I do not fault him for that.
I do find some of the comments rather ridiculous.
I could never stand the Salvation Army and that damn bell ringing anyway.

How petty is that?

So you don't like the bell? Get over it. The Salvation Army, while you might not like their politics and beliefs, helps a lot of people, just like q said.
The bell ringing it's self provides jobs for many people during this time of year. The people who stand there and ring the bell are getting paid--maybe even putting Christmas presents under the tree or dinner on their holiday table and to scoff at that in such a way is not only cruel but ignorant and selfish as well.
Okay, so they don't hire homosexuals. That's wrong and discriminatory and a poor witness, if I do say so myself but in keeping with the underlying theme of the original post: There are plenty of other charities out there (without a Christian based agenda) that do minister to everyone--homosexuals included. I'm seriously shocked at the intolerance and double standard some of dish out. It's pretty immature. There are other ways to protest--JA suggests donating to other charities if you don't like it.

Stephen (aka Q) said...

Thanks for clarifying what you meant about discriminating against gays. A couple of earlier commenters misunderstood your remark, so the point needed clarification.

And I should clarify my comments on evangelism —
I'm thinking of soup kitchens where someone stands and preaches while people are eating their lunch. The meal is a way to get people into the building so you can preach at them. That offends me.

To my knowledge, the Salvation Army doesn't do that. They feed people without taking advantage of their hunger to dump a message on them. Yes, they think everyone should embrace the Christian faith. But instead of ramming a sermon down people's throats, they are content to let the message be implicit: just as Jesus healed the sick and fed the hungry, we care about your welfare and we're doing our part to supply your physical needs. I think that's an acceptable way to witness to one's faith.

Sadie Lou is right: I can understand why a Jew wouldn't want to give to a Christian charity that discriminates against Jews. And I guess that's all you were saying, JA.
Q

Esther said...

The problem with the Salvation Army is that that a large bulk of their funding comes from government sources (i.e. our tax dollars), AND they explicitly discriminate against non-christians and gay people in their hiring practices.

There are plenty of religiously-based charitable organizations in the U.S such as Catholic Charities and the UJA Federation, that accept government money and in exchange agree to abide by Federal and local anti-discrimatation statutes.

The Salvation Army can do what ever it wants, just not with my money.

Jack's Shack said...

I have to agree that damn bell ringing is annoying. I get tired of them waving it in my faith, those silly heathens. There are plenty of other places to give money to.

Jewish Atheist said...

Sadie Lou is right: I can understand why a Jew wouldn't want to give to a Christian charity that discriminates against Jews. And I guess that's all you were saying, JA.

I refuse to give to charities which unfairly discriminate against anyone, not just those who discriminate against a group I happen to be a member of. Just because you're Christian doesn't mean you should support groups that discriminate against non-Christians. I wouldn't support a Jewish charity that fired non-Jews or an atheist one that refused theists.

Stacey said...

Even if they ceased the completely annoying bell ringing, their discrimination of homosexuals is plain intolerable in my eyes.

Random said...

First of all, the Salvation Army is a church, and an evangelical one at that, and makes no secret of the fact. Why are you so shocked and surprised that an organisation like that insists on abiding by fundamental religious principles, and refuses to endorse behaviour that it regards as sinful?

"I wouldn't support a Jewish charity that fired non-Jews or an atheist one that refused theists." Can you name one - even one - atheist organisation that gives even a fraction of the support to the sick and downtrodden that the Salvation Army does? For all their alleged faults, at least the Sally Ann is out there on the streets getting involved.

BaconEating AtheistJew said...

Let us look at the name Salvation Army.
Sounds like it might have an agenda. Lets face it, their number one goal isn't to feed and clothes the poor but to turn the poor into bible thumping, God fearing, YEC Christians.
As far as Atheist charities goes, it would have to say that anything secular would fall under the Atheist charity category. The United Way for example. Charities for diseases, animal charities, etc. are examples of secular charities.

Random said...

Bacon,

No. Their "number one goal" as you put is to bear witness to their own faith by serving the poor and needy as Christ commanded his followers to do. If this helps them come to Christ, all well and good - but nobody is ever turned away from an Army mission for refusing to sign up to the Christian methods.

As for atheist charities - no again. Secular is not a synonym for atheist. As JA perfectly correctly said, secular charities can be, and often are, staffed with religious people who are simply working to achieve a secular goal. An atheist charity would be a charity that was specifically founded by atheists who were driven by their atheist principles to help the poor. I can see how such an organisation would work in theory ("this is the only world we have, therefore we must work to make it the best possible" or somesuch) but have difficulty identifying one in practice.

So I'll give you a challenge - can you name a single reasonably well known charity whose motivating principles and commitment of its members to good works are driven by atheist principles in the same way that the Salvation Army's work is driven by its Christian principles?

Jewish Atheist said...

Can you name one - even one - atheist organisation that gives even a fraction of the support to the sick and downtrodden that the Salvation Army does?

You sound like you're misunderstanding the concept of atheism. Atheism is simply a lack of a belief in God. An "atheist organization" could only be an organization devoted to the cause of atheism. Secular charities, which can be made up of believers or non-believers, have undivided loyalties.

Yes, Christianity at its best inspires its followers to do charitable works. So does basic human empathy. As BEAJ pointed out, secular charities like the United Way or those devoted to specific, secular causes, will direct your money towards the actual cause without discriminating against employees of different (or no) religious beliefs or sexual orientation.

I would similarly oppose an Atheist Army that purported to help the homeless but discriminated against Christian employees and tried to "deconvert" the poor.

Don't get the wrong idea, I do have a lot of respect for the Salvation Army. Nobody's perfect, and they do a lot of good. However, just because a group does a lot of good doesn't exempt them from basic fairness. Would you support a charitable organization that didn't provide benefits to black spouses of white people? How is that different, ethically, from not providing benefits to gay life-partners?

CyberKitten said...

I'm rather surprised by some of the comments expressed during this discussion. Q summed them up when he said: Their Christian faith is what motivates them to be involved in charitable service. If they want to hire Christians only, that's their business.

That may be the case in the USA (or even Canada) but it certainly wouldn't fly in the UK. We have anti-discriminatory laws that prevent such hiring 'policies'. If it could be shown (always the difficult part I know) that they had refused to hire someone because of their sexual orientation or religious affiliation they'd be in serious trouble.

I also thought that the US had signed up to the Convention on Human Rights which is supposed to prevent this sort of thing. Or is that another piece of International Law that the US doesn't think should apply to them?

Jack's Shack said...

We have antidiscrminatory lies regarding hiring/housing and virtually anything that you can think of.

Or is that another piece of International Law that the US doesn't think should apply to them?

Oy, such comments are so silly. Not every law international or otherwise is smart, moral or ethical.

Stephen (aka Q) said...

If the Salvation Army refused to provide help to Jews or gays, I would not support them. But I wouldn't presume to dictate who they have to hire. Aren't you a libertarian, JA? Do you really want the state to tell religious organizations who they must hire?

Cyberkitten, I bet you're wrong about the situation in the UK. In Canada, religious organizations are given special exemption from anti-discrimination law, to allow them to employ only individuals who share their faith. I would be very surprised if the law is any different in the UK.

Governments want to encourage charitable work to go forward. And Random is right — historically, at least, the impulse to carry out charitable deeds derives its motive power from religion.

The Church has done a lot of bad things down through the centuries, but a great many good things, too.
Q

Jewish Atheist said...

Aren't you a libertarian, JA? Do you really want the state to tell religious organizations who they must hire?

No, I'm not a libertarian. However, I do think religious organizations should be free to hire more or less whom they want UNLESS they get government funds. If they're getting federal money, they should have to follow federal anti-discrimination rules. The SA gets tax money from gays and Jews but discriminates against both.

CyberKitten said...

Q said: Cyberkitten, I bet you're wrong about the situation in the UK. In Canada, religious organizations are given special exemption from anti-discrimination law, to allow them to employ only individuals who share their faith. I would be very surprised if the law is any different in the UK.

I'd actually be very surprised (and dismayed) if it was diffrent rules for different organisations. I shall attempt to find out later in the week.

CyberKitten said...

Interesting. Just from this out from the Unison Organisation over here...

There are exemptions from the regulations for ‘genuine occupational
requirements’ (GOR) in very limited circumstances where it is necessary to be
from a particular religion to do a certain job. Unlike other anti-discrimination
legislation, there is also an exemption for “employers with an ethos based on a
religion or belief “, which means that they can specify a religion as a job
requirement even if it isn’t a ‘determining’ (decisive) occupational requirement.
For example, an employer who specifically requires a Jewish chaplain will be
able to appoint a Jewish person to that role, as that would be a genuine
occupational requirement. It is also possible that a Catholic school could
require a headteacher to be a Catholic, but it is unlikely that they could
argue that a gardener should have to be Catholic.

Random said...

Apologies for the slightly late response, but been laid up with a dose of flu:-(

Anyway -

"You sound like you're misunderstanding the concept of atheism. Atheism is simply a lack of a belief in God. An "atheist organization" could only be an organization devoted to the cause of atheism. Secular charities, which can be made up of believers or non-believers, have undivided loyalties." Erm, JA, *you* were the one who first raised the subject of atheist charities. I was merely trying to picture how such an organisation would come into being and describe itself.

"However, just because a group does a lot of good doesn't exempt them from basic fairness." It's a Christian Church. why is it "unfair" for them to expect employees to be Christians? Most organisations - secular as well as religious - prefer employees who share the basic values of the organisation. Why should a church be any different?

"Would you support a charitable organization that didn't provide benefits to black spouses of white people? How is that different, ethically, from not providing benefits to gay life-partners?"

I'm having real difficulty understanding what you are saying here. A few days ago, in your Q&A post, you said "I agree that many of the problems today stem from people's confusing of and conflating the two[civil and religious marriage], but I think the solution is to allow gay marriage without forcing any religious institution to recognize or perform same-sex marriage." Now you seem to be saying the Salvation Army - a religious institution - *should* be forced to recognise same sex marriage (which is what granting partnership benefits essentially means). Seriously, what is your position?

But as to the more substantive issue - that is a false equivalence. Ignoring for the moment the whole issue of what marriage is for (hint: historically, in both religious and secular teaching it has very little to do with recognising the love of two people and a great deal to do with providing stable environments for the bringing up of children) which is a rather lengthy subject for a blog post, but the simple answer is that there is little or no biblical justification for forbidding mixed race marriage (mixed faith is a different matter) but there is a great deal of biblical condemnation of homosexual activity. By all means feel free to denounce the bible as promoting hate speech, but the simple fact of the matter is that any organisation that has any regard at all for biblical teaching has essentially no choice in the matter. They cannot recognise a homosexual relationship as being fundamentally equal to the biblical ideal of marriage without violating holy teaching.

Incidentally, it could be argued that this whole "SA hates gays" thing is overblown anyway - as the wikipedia article you quoted from earlier makes clear, the SA doesn't discriminate in it's recruitment practices on grounds of sexuality and doesn't discriminate in partnership benefits either. *Nobody*, gay or straight, who is living in a unmarried relationship with someone gets partnership benefits from the Army. It's not just gays. (And yes, I know there is theoretically an obvious solution available to straights living together that is not available to gays. But how many people do you know who got married for the partnership benefits?)

That said, and for the record, I would like to put it on the record that I believe that civil marriage should be available to all, regardless of the gender of the people involved. I just don't believe that religious organisations should be required to recognise such unions, and I can understand why some don't.

Random said...

CK,

It's not just religion. All sorts of organisations can claim exemption from discrimination legislation if it's necessary to maintain the ethos of the organisation. Indian restaurants are allowed to ignore anti-racist legislation by preferentially recruiting ethnically Indian staff, for example.

Jewish Atheist said...

cyberkitten,

but it is unlikely that they could
argue that a gardener should have to be Catholic.


The Jew in the SA case was indeed more analogous to this gardener than to the chaplain: she was "associate director of the local Salvation Army’s government-funded Social Services for Children."


Random

Apologies for the slightly late response, but been laid up with a dose of flu:-(

Sorry to hear it. :( It seems to be circulating the blogosphere. ;)

Erm, JA, *you* were the one who first raised the subject of atheist charities. I was merely trying to picture how such an organisation would come into being and describe itself.

I was being hypothetical earlier, but here I was pointing out that the reason I couldn't point to an "atheist" charity is that, unless you're talking about an organization devoted to the cause of atheism, an "atheist" charity doesn't make any sense. It would just be a secular charity.

It's a Christian Church. why is it "unfair" for them to expect employees to be Christians? Most organisations - secular as well as religious - prefer employees who share the basic values of the organisation. Why should a church be any different?

If it's a church it shouldn't get tax money. Also, the employee who was fired was not doing a religious task, she was the "associate director of the local Salvation Army’s government-funded Social Services for Children" for 23 years. There's no reason she had to be Christian.

A few days ago, in your Q&A post, you said "I agree that many of the problems today stem from people's confusing of and conflating the two[civil and religious marriage], but I think the solution is to allow gay marriage without forcing any religious institution to recognize or perform same-sex marriage. "Now you seem to be saying the Salvation Army - a religious institution - *should* be forced to recognise same sex marriage (which is what granting partnership benefits essentially means). Seriously, what is your position?

By "religious institution," I meant a religious body like "The Catholic Church" or "The Union of Orthodox Rabbis," not an employer which happens to be religious like the Salvation army. Especially not an employer who gets 95% of its money from the federal government. I also disagree that granting benefits to partners is the same thing as "recognizing same-sex marriage."

They cannot recognise a homosexual relationship as being fundamentally equal to the biblical ideal of marriage without violating holy teaching.

As I alluded to above, I don't expect them to recognize it as being equal to the "biblical ideal of marriage," just that they recognize it as being equal to the legal concept of marriage.

Incidentally, it could be argued that this whole "SA hates gays" thing is overblown anyway

They threatened to close their charitable organizations across New York State if NY passed a law requiring them to offer benefits to same-sex partners. I'm not saying they go out and beat up gays or anything, but they aren't exactly innocent.

(And yes, I know there is theoretically an obvious solution available to straights living together that is not available to gays. But how many people do you know who got married for the partnership benefits?)

Many of these gay couples would be married if they were allowed to be.

That said, and for the record, I would like to put it on the record that I believe that civil marriage should be available to all, regardless of the gender of the people involved. I just don't believe that religious organisations should be required to recognise such unions, and I can understand why some don't.

We agree except that we seem to differ on what we mean by "recognize." I think that religious employers need to grant civil benefits to people who are married civilly. What I don't believe is that the government has the right to force a Rabbi or a priest to perform a gay marriage.