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Before you choose where and how to contribute to the Katrina relief efforts, here's one you might want to cross OFF your list:

Salvation Army: How Deep Does Thou Discriminate?

Will the Salvation Army one day soon discriminate against homeless people who are gay and married? Will the Sally Ann attempt to justify it under "it's just our policy" or "if the situation warrants it"?

If you're gay, homeless and/or married, don't expect help from the Salvation Army. There's a good possibility that you will have to be straight to get a bowl of soup, or a place to hang your hat, or just a helping hand. Just ask Peggy Neff.

Neff's lifelong partner, Sheila Hein was tragically killed in the September 11, 2001 attack on the Pentagon. Following Hein's death, Neff was afraid of losing her home she shared with her partner of 18 years and pleaded for help to keep it.

356gay.com reported that Heff applied at Virginia's Criminal Injuries Compensation Fund for assistance, but the administrators refused to accept that the couple were anything but "friends".

In desperation, with money running out, Neff contacted several charities and government agencies seeking help with the mortgage. The National Association of Realtors paid her mortgage for three months, the Red Cross gave $7,900 and the HRC donated $2,000.

However other groups, including the United Way and the Salvation Army, turned Neff down for help.

Under Virginia laws, Neff was not eligible for state aid, but the head of a Department of Justice government fund established after the attacks concluded that Neff was entitled to compensation.

CBCNews.com reported that Kenneth Feinberg, special master of the Sept. 11th Victim Compensation Fund, wrote on Nov. 26, 2003 that Neff had received $557,390 in compensation.

No thanks to the Salvation Army, Heff got relief and was able to keep the roof over her head. If she had lost her house would the Salvation Army have barred Heff from seeking shelter at the Salvation Army just because she was gay and had a gay partner? Does the Salvation Army discriminate, you decide?

A March 16, 2004 article heading of the dissidentvoice.org, reads: Salvation Army Discriminates - One of Nation's Largest Charities Sued by Employees for Religious Discrimination. The following two paragraphs describe discrimination at the Sally Ann despite the fact that it receives government money.

Eighteen current and former employees of the Salvation Army's social services arm have filed suit against the organization, accusing it of "imposing a religious veil over secular, publicly financed activities like caring for foster children and counseling young people with AIDS," the New York Times reported in late February. "I was harassed to the point where eventually I resigned," said Margaret Geissman, a former human resources manager who told the Times that her superior asked for the religions and sexual orientations of her staff. "As a Christian, I deeply resent the use of discriminatory employment practices in the name of Christianity."

The employees, "including senior administrators and caseworkers that are Jewish, Catholic, Protestant and nonreligious," filed their lawsuit in United States District Court in Manhattan. They're being represented by the New York Civil Liberties Union and by Martin Garbus, a well-known First Amendment lawyer. At a press conference announcing the suit, Garbus pointed out that it strikes at the heart of the president's faith-based initiative and the separation of church and state. Donna Lieberman, executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union, added that "It's critical at this stage of the game to put a stop to proselytizing with government money."

The Salvation Army is now threatening to close soup kitchens for tens of thousands of New York's homeless and walk away from other projects if the city of New York enacts legislation requiring firms that do business with New York to offer health benefits to the partners of gay staffers.

The faith-full Sally Ann leaders seem prepared to give up $70 million a year in city funding and pull out of New York entirely the New York Post reported.

With its soup kitchens, shelters, foster care programs and HIV services the Salvation Army is one of the largest private aid groups in New York serving some 5 million people annually.

The Salvation Army has several multiyear contracts with the city totaling $250 million. Six city contracts worth $12.8 million are to expire June 30, 2004.

Is the Sally Ann really prepared to give up $70 million a year and several multi-contracts totaling $250 million and six city contracts worth $12.8 million? NOT Likely.

Quoting "Salvation Army insiders" the NyPost.com said the organization will refuse to comply with any proposed law requiring firms that do business with New York to offer health benefits to the partners of gay staffers, because it goes against one of the Salvation Army's core beliefs - that same-sex marriage is immoral.

"The Army will not change its policy," said one official, who declined to be named. "You cannot change theological views. Those are so deeply embedded, they form the root of the faith itself."

However an email that seemed to have made its way to workers coast to coast, presents a very contradictory position by the Salvation Army. Even this writer was appalled by this excerpt: "When the workers asked about the Salvation Army's mission statement that included 'value of employees, dignity, respect', the shocking reply from Lt. Col. Copple was 'our mission statement is only applied if the situation warrants it'".

If the Salvation Army is so wedded to its theological views they could simply decline to take the government funding and use their own funds and fund raising abilities to finance their worthy Christian projects.

The milk of human kindness is running a bit thin in the leaders' veins it would seem. In BC, the Salvation Army was willing to fire unionized staff over the issue of, well nothing. They could have saved over $250,000 in concessions and now with the 15% cut the Sally Ann could recall their staff and save even more money. But they continue to contract out the work of the union members to Compass Group though this is not saving money nor is it providing quality services to the community.

Freelance journalist Russ Francis's article Contracting out Health Support: Documents Raise Doubts sheds some light on the realities of privatization which the Sally Ann's "theological views" don't seem to prohibit. Francis writes:

Leaked documents from one private company that contracts workers to B.C. health facilities indicate that while wages are much lower for privately contracted workers, the province may end up paying nearly as much or even more for their services.

And inspection reports detailing problems at a Vancouver Island seniors home portray patient care suffering after contract workers replaced more experienced unionized staff.

MFD published I don't know what you heard about me, I'm just a Poverty P.I.M.P. in which we included a link to a commentary by a worker about the decision by the management of the Sally Ann's Sunset Lodge in Esquimalt BC, to lay off dozens of experienced health care workers as a means of dealing with a budget deficit. Workers at the Lodge had presented Sally Ann management with a viable program that would resolve the deficit and save jobs but the Sally Ann chose to lay them off anyway and contract out the work to Compass group - a multinational that's making out like a bandit in the wake of new laws that make it easier than ever to privatize health services and contract out work to the lowest bidder.

It certainly appears that the Sally Ann will not change its policy, but how does all this fit with the private aid group's theological views?

And how much of a private aid group is the Sally Ann when it will only come to the aid of some (those who it deems worthy of its aid) and many of its services are government funded? It's somewhat hypocritical of the Sally Ann to decline to provide services to the gay community when it is quite willing to take government funding - some of which comes from taxes paid by members of the gay community.

Maybe the Sally Ann should take some of the billions that Ray Krock of McDonald's fame left them, and see what they can do with that handout-from-Croesus. Would any of the working poor off of whose backs all those billions were made qualify for the Sally Ann's private aid? What if they were gay?

There are many non-profit organizations, without theological strings attached, that can provide services to our communities, especially with "government funding". The Sally Ann should take the moral high ground and stick with their "beliefs" and get out of receiving money from the devil.

Gay partners everywhere deserve the same treatment whether they're looking for a bowl of soup or a roof over their head or a merely a helping hand.

So let's ask the Salvation Army: How Deep Does Thou Discriminate "if the situation warrants it"?

In Pride,

Note: Unless otherwise specified, you may redistribute this article freely if you include the following notice:

Originally published at http://www.ufcw.net


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