The ACLU Targets the Salvation Army

This is a partial transcript from The O'Reilly Factor, March 11, 2004.

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BILL O'REILLY, HOST: As we told you last week, the New York Civil Liberties Union has filed a lawsuit charging the Salvation Army with religious discrimination. The ACLU here in New York wants the federal government to stop sending the Salvation Army $89 million tax dollars because Army employees must sign a form recognizing that the mission statement to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ is in play.

Now last week, the Salvation Army would not provide a spokesperson. But tonight, they are providing two.

Joining us now from Washington is Major George Hood, the community relations secretary for the Army and Paul Mourning, its legal counsel.

Counselor, we begin with you. The problem here that I see is that you -- last September, you issued new guidelines for employees and they have to sign them. And these words appeared, that an employee for the Salvation Army "has to adhere to the religious mission." Right? Are you with me so far?

PAUL MOURNING, SALVATION ARMY: Actually, Bill, that language is not correct. The language in the statement, I think, that's being referred to, has nothing to do with adherence. It says simply I acknowledge the Salvation Army as a church, and I'm not going to do anything inconsistent with its religious mission."

O'REILLY: OK. Well, I have this thing right here, and it says that you have to adhere to the mission statement.

Here's what you've got to do. You've got to identify your church affiliation. You've got to tell the Army what churches you have attended in the past and who's your minister. All of those things are on the edge, but I think you might get around them.

And then you have to basically adhere to the message -- and the message of the Army is spreading the gospel. So, if a Muslim or a Jew wants to work for The Salvation Army, they're not going to adhere to spreading the gospel, and, therefore, you knock them out of the equation.

MOURNING: Absolutely, Bill. But I don't know the language that you're referring to, unfortunately. The Salvation Army has a national policy statement on nondiscrimination in employment, and the language in that national policy statement is that -- simply that they acknowledge that The Salvation Army is a church and that they're going to do nothing to undermine the religious mission.

I'll put it this way, Bill. Let's not beat around the bush. When The Salvation Army receives government funds, it knows it can't make people adhere to its religious mission. It can't make them promote their religion. It can't make them preach the gospel.

O'REILLY: Why don't you just take that out then of the mission statement and just not have that in there? Why give the ACLU the ammo to go in and destroy what is a very fine organization?

MOURNING: Well, unfortunately, I don't know the documents that you're looking at so I can't respond. But you're absolutely right. That should not be the message that goes forth in those programs.

O'REILLY: All right. Let's go to Major Hood. Major, now why did you have to revise last September your employment qualifications? You were OK before. Now you're in trouble. Why did you have to do it, Major?

MAJOR GEORGE HOOD, SALVATION ARMY: There has been no revision of our policies. The litmus test of religious practices is unfounded, and there is no discrimination in any of our employment practices at The Salvation Army in New York City or anywhere in the United States.

O'REILLY: Are you telling me there wasn't a new form issued last September?

MOURNING: Bill, could I clarify that point?

O'REILLY: Well, wait. I'll get back to you. Major Hood, are you telling me there wasn't a new form issued for employees last September?

HOOD: There is a form that has been used nationwide for the past 10 years.

O'REILLY: But it was revised last September, was it not?

HOOD: Not to my knowledge.

O'REILLY: Well, that's on the brief on the ACLU -- on the New York Civil Liberties...

Go ahead, Counselor.

MOURNING: Yes. I'm sorry, Bill. I think they are alleging that it was a new form. But, in fact, this is part of a stringent policy that The Salvation Army adopted back in 1993 to protect children in its programs. It's not a new form.

O'REILLY: How does it protect children?

MOURNING: What they do is all employees that are going to work with children in Salvation Army programs have to sign a form that gives information about their past work with children. Then The Salvation Army goes off and does a thorough background check.

O'REILLY: Yes, that is fine. I don't think anybody has any problem - - all right. I'll have you guys back because we're running out of time. But, we've got 30 seconds, Major. Why do you think the ACLU is after you?

HOOD: Well, there's obviously a misunderstanding of policy and procedure, and it's a big platform to discuss this topic in New York City.

O'REILLY: All right. Well, I hope you guys don't lose this because you help a lot of people and I just hate to see it.

All right. Gentlemen, thank you very much. We appreciate it.

MOURNING: Thank you.

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