Lown v. Salvation Army

393 F. Supp. 2d 223 (2005)

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Lown v. Salvation Army

United States District Court for the Southern District of New York
393 F. Supp. 2d 223 (2005)

Facts

The Salvation Army received funding from contracts with state and local governments for a New York program operating foster-care and adoption services, group homes, and activities for children. Anne Lown and several other current and former employees (the employees) (plaintiffs) of the Salvation Army program sued the Salvation Army and government officials overseeing the program’s funding (defendants), claiming that the Salvation Army used some of the government funding to support its religious activities. The Salvation Army had adopted a “One Army Concept” plan, pursuant to which the social services it provided would explicitly reflect the Salvation Army’s religious beliefs. As part of the plan, job descriptions were revised to include the Salvation Army’s mission of preaching about, and providing aid in the name of, Jesus Christ. Salvation Army officials expressed concern about the number of non-Christian and homosexual employees. Consequently, the Salvation Army revised its employment manual to delete references to nondiscrimination and to include a statement that employment actions could be taken against employees who were not in compliance with the Salvation Army’s principles. Employees were also required to disclose their church affiliations. The employees claimed that abiding by the Salvation Army’s religious principles interfered with their obligations to counsel sexually active teens and not to discriminate against homosexual teens. The employees sued the government officials for violating the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment and sued the Salvation Army for employment discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The Salvation Army argued that it was a religious organization under § 702 of Title VII and was exempt from employment-discrimination claims. The employees countered that, as applied to the Salvation Army, the Title VII exemption violated the Establishment Clause. The government officials and the Salvation Army filed a motion to dismiss.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Stein, J.)

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