11/4/09

Before You Give to the United Way

United Way of AmericaImage via Wikipedia

Should a state agency encourage its employees to make charitable donations and disseminate information about doing so through payroll deductions? What if the charitable organization being promoted funds agencies known to engage in religious discrimination and bigotry? Unfortunately, some of Mississippi's state agencies are doing just that by encouraging employees to support chapters of the United Way that fund groups such as the Boy Scouts.

Here in Mississippi, there are many deserving charities. As one of the poorest states in the nation, nobody should be surprised that we have many citizens in need. Our social service programs, whether they are public or private, often struggle to make ends meet. The needs are simply greater than the resources available.

Many employers encourage their employees to make charitable donations, and some of the larger ones facilitate this process by disseminating information and encouraging employees to set up payroll deductions. I tend to see this as a good thing as long as the groups receiving money are not known to engage in religious discrimination and bigotry.

The United Way of Southeast Mississippi supports some worthwhile organizations, such as the American Red Cross, the Center for the Prevention of Child Abuse, and many others. However, they also fund the Aldersgate Mission (a group whose mission involves enhancing "spiritual development" and "Bible study"), the Salvation Army, and the Boy Scouts (a group widely known to engage in anti-atheist and anti-gay bigotry). You can find a complete list of the agencies they fund here.

I'm not saying that the United Way overall is bad. However, I would encourage you to familiarize yourself with the agencies they fund before deciding to support them. State-sponsored agencies should know better. Encouraging state employees to support groups that engage in proselytizing or bigotry is a bad idea.

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