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February 17, 2010; New York Nonprofit Press | Six years ago, the New York Civil Liberties Union filed suit against several government agencies in New York City, Nassau County, and Suffolk County—and against the Salvation Army—concerning government policies about hiring faith-based nonprofit service providers. The NYCLU suit was in response to a Salvation Army policy that required “social workers and other employees in its government-funded social services programs to identify their church affiliation, the frequency of their church attendance, and to sign an endorsement of The Salvation Army’s mission to ‘preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ.'” The NYCLU contended that the Salvation Army’s 2003 reorganization plan led the Sallies to insert greater religious content and control over its government-funded service programs. According to one Long Island social worker, “when the Salvation Army’s religious mission was made mandatory in our work place, it changed the climate in a way that caused us fear and concern about our ability to ethically deliver services.”  This week, the Salvation Army, the government agency defendants, and the NYCLU reached a partial settlement of the litigation in which the agencies agreed to monitor nonprofit service providers receiving government funds to make sure that the recipient agencies do not force clients to engage in religious activities or discriminate against clients because of their religious beliefs. The plaintiffs’ contention that the agencies and the Salvation Army had discriminated against staff on the basis of religion was rejected by the courts in 2005, but the claims of two former Salvation Army employees that they had been fired for protesting the introduction of religion into the workplace are still pending. Because the NYCLU can appeal the 2005 decision and the former employees’ case is still alive, there is more to come on what is and is not permissible regarding government contracting of faith-based nonprofit service providers.—Rick Cohen

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