Oct. 7, 2005 – A federal court in New York took the teeth out of an anti-discrimination lawsuit earlier this week by stating that religious institutions receiving federal money may prejudice their personnel decisions based on the religious beliefs of potential and existing employees, so long as government monies are not used specifically for religion-related activities.
In finding largely for the defendants in Lown v. Salvation Army, US Circuit Court Judge Sidney Stein ruled that, so long as government monies are not used specifically for religion-related activities, they could accept government funding.
The ruling permitted the case to go forward but removed government agencies from the list of defendants.
Judge Stein said the plaintiffs "failed to allege any basis for attributing the Salvation Armyâ€™s allegedly discriminatory personnel actions to the government defendants." Additionally, Stein found, a section of the 1964 Civil Rights Act specifically protects religious institutions from bans on other organizations when it comes to faith and hiring practices.
The ruling represents a victory for advocates of increasing the ties between government and Christianity, the Roundtable on Religion and Social Welfare Policy, a non-partisan group seeking to raise awareness of religion in the public arena, noted Tuesday.
The New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU) alleges that the Salvation Army, an evangelical religious charity that receives the vast majority of its funding from government institutions, subjects employees to unlawful religious discrimination. Plaintiffs are seeking action either restricting the Salvation Army from taking religious beliefs into account in personnel matters or barring government agencies from providing the charity with funds.
In February 2004, the NYCLU filed the lawsuit in federal court on behalf of Salvation Army associate director Ann Lown and seventeen fellow employees who felt the charity created an atmosphere of hostility through repeated and pervasive religious proselytizing, according to the rights group. The plaintiffs plan to go ahead with the pared-down suit, according to Tuesdayâ€™s statement.