Salvation Army Cites Bush Help in Fight Against Hiring Gays

The Bush administration is working with the nation’s largest charity, the Salvation Army, to make it easier for government-funded religious groups to practice hiring discrimination against gay people, according to an internal Salvation Army document.

The Bush administration is working with the nation’s largest charity, the Salvation Army, to make it easier for government-funded religious groups to practice hiring discrimination against gay people, according to an internal Salvation Army document.

The White House has made a "firm commitment" to the Salvation Army to
issue a regulation protecting such charities from state and city efforts to prevent discrimination against gays in hiring and domestic-partner benefits, according to the Salvation Army report.

The Salvation Army, in turn, has agreed to use its clout to promote the administration’s "faith-based" social services initiative, which seeks to direct more government funds to religious charities.

The document offers a rare glimpse into the private dealings of the Bush White House, and it suggests President Bush is willing to achieve through regulation ends too controversial to survive the legislative process. It also underscores the close allegiance between the administration and conservative groups.

The matter stems from a national debate spurred by an increasing number of local jurisdictions that have adopted laws requiring religious groups such
as the Salvation Army to adhere to laws barring discrimination against gays in hiring, job pomotion and benefits.

What the administration is suggesting, according to the document, is a federal regulation that would
forbid states and localities from barring such discrimination when administering programs with federal funds.

The Salvation Army, a Christian social services organization with an extensive network of facilities to feed, clothe and shelter the poor, would not be affected much in the short term by the president’s proposal on faith-based services. It already receives nearly $300 million a year in government money.

But the report indicates the administration is eager to use the Salvation Army’s clout to pass the legislation, offering the charity something it wants in return.

"It is important that The Army’s support for the White House’s activities occur simultaneously with efforts to achieve The Army’s ojectives," said the document, which was obtained by The Washington Post. "

White House press secretary Ari Fleischer [said]
faith-based groups already have the power under federal law to discriminate against gays in hiring. It is state and local laws that try to impose on
groups to include gays in their employment protections.

The report, dated May 1, defines the charity’s "objectives" as making sure states and localities can’t "impose the category of sexual orientation to the list of anti-discrimination protections" or mandate "equal benefits to domestic partnership" unless religious nonprofits are exempt from such
provisions.

Under the 1964 Civil Rights Act, religious organizations have an exemption that allows them to discriminate in hiring on the basis of religion. Bush’s proposal, as passed recently by the House Judiciary Committee, says religious charities cannot discriminate on the basis of race, color,
national origin, sex, age or disability-but it says nothing about sexual orientation.

The Salvation Army projects spending $88,000 to $110,000 a month in its endeavor to boost Bush’s charitable choice effort. It has hired lobbying and
strategy concerns to help. "The Army will step forward during visits by more than 100 divisional command members to Congressional offices, encouraging support for the charitable choice provisions in a prearranged agreement with
the White House," the report says.

Author: Dana Milbank

News Service: vlerner@interpac.net