(CN) – In a settlement with the New York Civil Liberties Union, The Salvation Army has agreed not to proselytize while providing government-funded social services such as foster or day care.
Under the settlement, New York City, Long Island and state agencies will monitor The Salvation Army for two years to ensure that it doesn’t try to impose religious beliefs on New York recipients of publicly funded social services.
The NYCLU had sued The Salvation Army in 2004, challenging the legality of the organization’s policy of requiring its social workers to disclose their church affiliation and church attendance, and sign an endorsement of The Salvation Army’s mission to “preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ.”
The lawsuit was filed on behalf of 18 former and current Salvation Army workers.
They said The Salvation Army injected religion into its social services in violation of the First Amendment.
“One of the underpinnings of social work is that you start where the client is,” said Anne Lown, the former associate executive director of The Salvation Army. “If you’re preaching an agency’s religion to the client, you’re not starting where the client is and you’re not respecting the client.”
NYCLU Executive Director Donna Lieberman said the settlement “protects the religious freedom of all New Yorkers who rely on faith-based organizations for crucial government-funded social services.”
“Our taxpayer money shouldn’t support religious indoctrination of anyone – particularly children,” Lieberman said. “And no one should be subject to proselytizing because they need foster care, adoption, child care or HIV services. This settlement ensures that religious organizations may not preach to people who receive government-funded social services or discriminate against them based on their religious beliefs.”
Under the settlement, state and local agencies can enforce the ban on proselytizing and will report to the NYCLU about The Salvation Army’s compliance, which will be subject to review by a federal court.
“The auditing model that we have developed here should serve as a check against the misuse of government funding to promote religion,” said NYCLU legal director Arthur Eisenberg.
The agencies that have adopted anti-discrimination procedures include the New York State Department of Health, the Nassau and Suffolk County Departments of Social Services and the New York City Administration for Children Services.