A Taxpayer-Financed Agency Out of Control
Just when you think you have heard it all, along comes a story that is almost too ridiculous to be true. But it is. The idiocy of federal bureaucracies apparently is never-ending. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), which might easily be called the Department of Political Correctness, has decided to take on the Salvation Army. Yes, the Salvation Army, that phenomenally successful assistance organization which began in Great Britain over one hundred and forty-years ago. The Salvation Army, which has helped thousands of people in countries all over the world, is being sued by the EEOC. As most people are aware, the Salvation Army is a Christian evangelical organization the mission of which is to help the downtrodden, blind, sick, addicted and anyone else in need. â€œArmyâ€ personnel stand on street corners during Christmastime, ringing a bell on behalf of the poor. One of their most important ways to raise money is through donations of old clothes and household goods, which they sell in their thrift stores. They also operate soup kitchens and hire people no one else would hire. Since 1865 the Salvation Army has lived by Christâ€™s admonition that as we do unto the least of our people we do unto the Lord.Â Now the organization is in trouble for insisting its employees learn to speak English. It all started in a thrift store in Framingham, Massachusetts. Two Hispanic employees were given one year to learn English in order to speak the language of the country in which they live and the language spoken by other employees. They failed to do so; in turn the employees were fired. The EEOC filed a lawsuit against the Salvation Army claiming the employees had suffered â€œemotional pain, humiliation and embarrassmentâ€ as a result of the English-only policy.Â First, the Salvation Army is a faith-based organization and is able to set rules for its employees that many public organization cannot. I am not a lawyer; however, I know that government should not be telling religious groups whom they can and cannot hire or fire.Â Specifically, when it comes to requiring English the courts have already ruled in the State of Massachusetts.Â In 2003 a federal judge in Boston upheld the Salvation Army policy requiring workers to â€œspeak English to the best of their ability.â€ The EEOC didnâ€™t like that ruling, so it is trying for one more favorable. These are our tax dollars at work, yours and mine, paying the salaries of the EEOC lawyers who filed the lawsuit while the Salvation Army must use its own funds â€“ funds that might be better used helping the poor â€“ to hire attorneys to fight this case in court. What a waste of money on both accounts. Then there is the EEOC itself, an organization which has spent the last 25 years or so filing lawsuits on behalf of real (and imagined) victims of every possible type of discrimination: sex, age, disability, race, etc. Often these lawsuits are against individuals and other times against large corporations or public agencies. A result has been thousands of hours spent by employers attempting to avoid litigation. I shudder to think of the amount of effort and money spent on lengthy seminars and briefings for human resource departments while American jobs have been disappearing overseas on almost a daily basis. One of the latest EEOC â€œcampaignsâ€ is to end background checks by many employers because they might discriminate against people who have served prison terms. Now sometimes people do deserve a second chance when they have paid their debt to society but shouldnâ€™t the employer get to decide whether to hire someone with a criminal record? Imagine a future time when an employer could be fined for not hiring someone with a criminal record. I have no trouble believing that this is what the EEOC would like to see happen. In the Boston case I wanted to know if the Hispanic employees were American citizens. Nobody could tell me. They most likely are not, but that does not matter to the EEOC, which probably did not bother to enquire. You need not be an American citizen to use a federal agency to file a lawsuit on your behalf. In what other country is there an agency that would help you sue yet another government agency or a private company if you werenâ€™t a citizen? And provide you with an interpreter to do so? Not one that I can think of. This case would be entirely moot if we had an â€œEnglish Firstâ€ rule in our schools and required everyone to learn English for employment. I have given up on the idea that such common sense will again prevail in our society. Must our government work against us? Must it take American taxpayersâ€™ money to hire lawyers who sue on behalf of non-citizens who cannot be bothered to learn the language even â€œto the best of their ability?â€ And to sue one of our preeminent charitable organizations in the process? Apparently it can â€“ and it does. $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$ Paul M. Weyrich is Chairman and CEO of the Free Congress Foundation.