As the Salvation Army attempts to reassert its religious roots, the organization is becoming increasingly torn between its religious and charitable functions, reports the New York Times (Feb. 2).
The Salvation Army branch in New York has served as the flashpoint in the conflict. Long regarded as the least religious in its programs, the New York division recently reasserted its evangelical identity, requiring all workers to sign a form promising to carry out the Salvation Army’s religious mission. Many were not even aware that there was a religious mission component to their work.
The action prompted a “mini-rebellion among some long-time employees who resent what they see as an intrusion into their personal lives and the potential for religious discrimination,” writes Daniel J. Wakin. Similar conflicts have occurred in the Salvation Army elsewhere in the U.S. during a new reorganization plan, according to church officials. Part of the plan includes the provision that more Salvation Army members be recruited for jobs in the organization.
Dissenting employees plan to file suit against the Salvation Army, claiming that because the group is receiving public funds it cannot discriminate religiously. Under the Bush administration’s welfare policy, it is easier for churches and other religious organizations to use public funds for distinctly faith-based social services.
Likely to intensify the conflict is the decision by the Salvation Army to use most of the recently donated $1.5 billion (by the Joan Kroc, wife of the founder of the McDonald’s chain) for educational and spiritual rather than social service purposes.