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Out in the Cold?

Salvation Army sued for asking employees to support its mission
2004This article is part of CT's digital archives. Subscribers have access to all current and past issues, dating back to 1956.

The New York Civil Liberties Union is suing the Salvation Army, city, county, and state officials in federal court over the Army's new employment policies. Army policies and forms require employees to divulge religious affiliation and affirm support for the Army's mission.

Regarding the Army's social service programs, the ACLU affiliate claims, "The Salvation Army has improperly infused religion into the workplace."

The Army, an evangelical church that came to New York City 124 years ago, says it may have to revise some of the forms. But it won't back down.

According to Gary McCaleb, senior counsel for the Alliance Defense Fund, the suit could spell trouble for other faith-based groups. "If the NYCLU prevails in this case," McCaleb said, "some of the most effective groups—faith-based groups—[will] either have to surrender their faith-based distinctive, … or they will have to decline government funds."

The Army says it began reemphasizing its Christian character in September 2003 after new leaders came to the New York City unit.

The complaint, filed February 24, involves the 1,000 employees of the Army's Social Services for Children. One of the city's largest private child services groups, the SSC receives more than $80 million annually in city and state funds.

The NYCLU alleges that the Army recently began to compel SSC employees to identify their church affiliation and all other churches attended for the past decade. It also charges that employees must authorize their religious leaders to disclose "private communications" to the Army. The Army says it needs the information to evaluate a person's "character and fitness to work with children."

Donna Lieberman, executive director of the NYCLU, said in a statement, "The Salvation ...

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