CHRISTIANS ONLY: Site of new city-financed homeless center. Little Rock proposes to pay a religious organization to run it with employees who must be evangelical Christians.

  • CHRISTIANS ONLY: Site of new city-financed homeless center. Little Rock proposes to pay a religious organization to run it with employees who must be evangelical Christians.



Robert Johnston, the former state legislator whose civic endeavors include work with homeless people, continues to keep me informed on the glacial progress (six years in the mill) of the city of Little Rock in opening a day center for homeless out on Confederate Boulevard in a shelter in such rough shape the Union Rescue Mission abandoned it for a new facility across the street. The city, in addition to buying the building from Union Rescue, which has struggled financially, has come up with a scheme to direct more money to Union Rescue by contracting with the nonprofit to run the city’s homeless center rather than the city run it on its own,

Problem: Union Rescue is, essentially, a religious mission, noble though it’s work is at helping people off the street. The city reassures criticis that the organization’s normal evangelical outreach will be prohibited in its taxapayer-paid work of running a publicly financed public facility.


But ….. Union Rescue has advertised for workers for the city-paid program and emphasized that only members of “evangelical Christian” churches should apply. The advertised criteria for nine jobs, which will amount to hundreds of thousands of tax-paid work each year:

– Personal commitment to Jesus Christ and lives under the authority of Scripture.
– Professional and personal life reflects integrity, personal responsibility and Christian character.
– A servant’s heart and compassion for those who are lost, and are hurting yet not an enabler.
– Willing to sign the Union Rescue Mission’s Statement of Faith
– A current member or regular attendee of a local evangelical Christian church.

So far, city legal minds say it is legal for a city contractor to discriminate on the basis of religion.


Even if that’s correct, let’s think on it a bit further.

Would the city board of directors contract a city service in a city facility with an organization that said:

* No Negroes will be hired. Whites only should apply. What if the KKK wanted to contract for garbage pickup and employ only people committed to its beliefs?

* No Irish will be hired. Real Americans only.


* Nobody older than 50 will be applied. Young people only.

* No women will be hired. Men only.

* Devout Muslims will be employed. No Christians.

There isn’t a dime’s worth of difference. Certainly not a penny’s worth of moral difference in expenditure of public money on a organization that discriminates in hiring.

Is Little Rock really as bad as Lepanto? (Make that worse. On advice of counsel, they’ve dropped official Christian prayer at Lepanto football games after complaints.) Is religious discrimination OK with Little Rock tax dollars if it’s spent on evangelizing Christians?

Johnston wrote to say additionally that he has been stonewalled in his efforts to get a copy of the organization’s “statement of faith.” Maybe the city could get something from its contractor for Johnston. Perhaps best not to send a Jew to ask for it.

I hope we’ll find it if this really is legal, should the city insist on moving forward. But we don’t need a lawsuit to know it’s wrong.

PS: The Union Rescue’s chief asked Friday that it be removed — and all its affiliates — from the Arkansas Homeless Coalition mailing list. And the city of Little Rock proposes that it run its homeless center?

PPS: These are the city-funded jobs to be awarded on a a religiously discriminatory basis. (Gandhi couldn’t work there under URM rules.)


1. Director of Social Services – Master’s Degree in Social Work – LSCW – Full-time

2. Case Manager – Bachelor’s in Social Work – LSW – Full time

3. Case Manager – Bachelor’s in Social Science – Full time

4. Receptionist – Experienced only need apply – Full time

5. Janitor – Experienced only need apply – Part time (25-30 hrs per week)

6. Kitchen Coordinator/Chef – Experienced only need apply – Full time

7. Laundry Attendant – Part – time

8. Security – Experience only – Part time (weekends and holidays during the yr) 12-18 hrs per week

9. Facility Supervisor – Part time (weekend and holidays during the yr) 12-18 hours per week