Salvation Army Settles Decade-Long Lawsuit; Won't Ask Workers About Religious Beliefs

The Salvation Army settled on Tuesday a decade-old religious discrimination lawsuit, agreeing to notify employees who work in its government-funded programs in the New York region in writing that it will not ask them about their religious beliefs.

The Salvation Army admitted no wrongdoing when it agreed to a settlement this week. The Christian organization will pay $450,000 to the plaintiffs who brought a religious discrimination lawsuit against it in 2004. The plaintiffs alleged that the charity, known for its red kettle donation drives over the holidays, required job applicants and employees in the greater New York area to acknowledge their work was done with "the Gospel of Jesus Christ" in mind.

According to a statement by the New York Civil Liberties Union, the "discrimination" occurred in 2003 due to a "reorganization plan" implemented by the charity to narrow the gap between social work and church services.

NYCLU, which represented 19 now former employees in the case, accused the charity of religiously discriminatory and retaliatory employment practices for New York-based employees working in the organization's government-funded social services programs in 2003. Along with being required to reveal their religious faith, plaintiffs were also reportedly questioned on which church they attended and how often. Some former employees also said that they either lost their jobs or were threatened with firing if they refused to disclose their religious practices to the charity.

The settlement now requires The Salvation Army to provide employees of its government-funded services in the greater New York area with a written document clarifying that the worker will not be required to disclose their religious beliefs to their employer. The document also states that employees are to follow a professional behavior code in the workplace and will not be required to participate in religious activities while at work.

The charity released a statement saying it was pleased with the settlement, as it is in the "best interest" of all involved parties and "permits The Salvation Army to avoid any further diversion of resources away from its core mission of assisting those in need."

"The Salvation Army is pleased that this longstanding litigation has now been settled on terms first suggested by The Salvation Army many years ago, that is, confirmation in writing of policies long followed by its Greater New York Division with respect to its employees in government-funded programs," the organization said.

Donna Lieberman, executive director of the NYCLU, said that the settlement makes certain that The Salvation Army retains the right to practice and promote its religion while ensuring that it will not use government money to discriminate or indoctrinate."

"We pursued this case for a decade so that no New Yorker faces discrimination or evangelism when they seek vital social services paid for by taxpayers, and so that employees in government-funded social services programs are protected from discrimination in the workplace. Taxpayers cannot foot the bill for discrimination or evangelism," NYCLU asserted.