Observations and inanities by a second-shift assistant supervisor in the Puppy-Grinding division of the Evil Atheist Conspiracy® (our motto: "Sure it's cruel, but think of the jobs!"), your host, Brent Rasmussen.
Excuse the unbloglike citing of a 5-year-old article, but I think nobody should forget that the Salvation Army worked in tandem with the Bush administration to discriminate against gays. It appears that to Salvation Army, just like to many other religious charities, it's not first of all about helping the poor, but about turning society into a theocratic one in which the poor have no options but religious charity.
The Salvation Army, a Christian social services organization with an extensive network of facilities to feed, clothe and shelter the poor, would not be affected much in the short term by the president's proposal on faith-based services. It already receives nearly $300 million a year in government money. But the report indicates the administration is eager to use the Salvation Army's clout to pass the legislation, offering the charity something it wants in return.
The Salvation Army projects spending $88,000 to $110,000 a month in its endeavor to boost Bush's charitable choice effort. It has hired lobbying and strategy concerns to help.
Of course, despite spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on lobbying, the Salvation Army kept its tax-exempt status. Liberal organizations need to keep their funds in two separate, nonfungible accounts - one for outreach and education purposes, and one for lobbying; religious ones that use charity as a hammer to hit gays with have no such restriction.
In the grand conservative scheme of things, it makes a lot of sense. Despite popular liberal belief, conservatives have no interest in keeping poor people in wretched poverty and despair. People in wretched poverty and despair tend to rebel, or spontaneously unionize, or demand bread. Charity is a good way to deflect that: it keeps the poor content, doesn't require the upper classes to pay taxes, and, in its religious form, helps shove religion down the lower classes' throats.
Ultimately, religious charities are like drugs. First the dealers dispense free samples, like food and clothes. Then they ensure the users are addicted to something that they can't get without paying the dealers; in this case, they tend to require that homeless people say a prayer before being allowed to stay at the shelters, or run charity schools that teach nothing but religion and obedience. Now the government lets religious groups turn charity from an act of helping the poor into an act of spiritually drugging them.
Economic conservatives love to hammer about how welfare is tyrannical because it makes the poor dependent on the state. In fact, the opposite is true: charity makes the poor dependent on the organization's goodwill, whereas government help frees them from such control, and often helps them help themselves by finding them jobs.
Religious charity comes off as being an instrument of control masquerading as goodwill; if the Salvation Army had helping the poor as its first priority, it certainly wouldn't threaten to stop operating soup kitchens and shelters activities in New York state if it required it to stop discriminating against gays (see link).
Religion has no monopoly on morality, on helping the poor, or on charity. Religious charities are more ubiquitous than nonreligious ones largely because religious people like to flaunt their compassion rather than because they're inherently more compassionate. The thing religion does have a monopoly on is using charity as a cultural hatchet and the poor as hostages to favorable social policy.