Ruth Speaks Out

This blog is maintained by the Ruth Institute. It provides a place for our Circle of Experts to express themselves. This is where the scholars, experts, students and followers of the Ruth Institute engage in constructive dialogue about the issues surrounding the Sexual Revolution. We discuss public policy, social practices, legal doctrines and much more.


I signed under duress. We don't discriminate.

A friend of Ruth wanted to ask his employer to make a matching donation to the Ruth Institute. He asked us to sign up with Benevity, a company which, according to their website,

We make it easier for nonprofit organizations to establish their eligibility for our client’s corporate giving programs, reducing the burden on charities while enabling companies to adhere to their own program guidelines. We’ll determine if an organization is a registered charity in good standing, assess whether the charity meets eligibility guidelines, ensure they are not on relevant watch lists and that they comply with non-discrimination, anti-bribery and secular fund uses.

 We filled out the application, and thought no more about it. 

 

Then, on Tuesday, November 28, we received the following:

Thanks for completing the self-certification for the Ruth Institute Benevity profile (https://causes.benevity.org/causes/840-463647313) on 4th October, 2017.

I noticed that you answered 'No' to question 2, which reads:

'Does Your Organization Discriminate against any person or group of people in its hiring and employment practices, codes of conduct, programs, services or in any other aspect of its operations or activities on the basis of that person or group of people's personal characteristics or attributes?'

For clarity, Discrimination in this Question includes (but is not limited to), hiring and employment policies or practices that discriminate against a person or group of people on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity, even if such policies and practices are permitted under applicable law.

Upon checking your website and related blog posts, we thought it would be pertinent to reach out to you to check that you meant to answer this question in this way. Answering 'No' to question 2 would mean, for example, that your organization would be fine with hiring or running programs for homosexual people, people who did not agree that abortion is wrong, or those who advocate the use of contraception etc.

Is this correct? It would seem from reading your website and associated links that your organization does not support such views and presumably wouldn't hire or run programs supporting those who do.

If you would like to amend your answer, you can do so by submitting a new Self-Certification, which is a legal online document that our clients use to determine your eligibility for their matching and giving programs, you can do so by [following the instructions below]:

If you do not intend to amend your answer, please let me know by responding to this email.

Kind Regards,


Richard Paxton | Charity Relations Specialist

 


Dr. Morse replied the same day:

This is Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse, President of the Ruth Institute. Thank you for reaching out to us. My colleague Rachel forwarded your letter to me.

You are correct in your surmise that we interpreted the questions differently than you appear to do. We interpreted question 2 to be asking whether people could attend our programs or work for us or with us, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. The answer to that question is yes.

Your letter suggests however, that you mean something different. We would certainly not provide programs that affirmed procuring an abortion, using artificial contraceptives, engaging in non-marital sexual activity or engaging in homosexual sexual activity.

Given that this is the case, how would you suggest that we proceed? Is amending our profile the thing to do? Is there a place for offering this kind of clarification? Or is the non-discrimination question is simple "yes/no" without any qualification?

Once again, thank you for reaching out to us.

Sincerely,
Dr. Morse


On November 30, we were again contacted by Mr. Paxton:

Thanks for getting back to me.

As you would intentionally restrict the direction of funds towards any activities which would assist such programs, the answer to question 2 that you have submitted would be incorrect. Some of our clients will prohibit their employees from donating to and/or receiving matches for organizations which limit the people they help on the basis of their sexuality, beliefs around sex before marriage, contraception etc.

Please don't hesitate to contact me if you have any questions.

Kind Regards,


Richard Paxton | Charity Relations Specialist

 


Dr. Morse responded the next day, December 1:

Thank you for your reply. However, I still need a bit of clarification.

You said, that some of your clients would "prohibit their employees from donating to and/or receiving matches for organizations which limit the people they help on the basis of their sexuality, beliefs around sex before marriage, contraception etc."

We specifically said that we would be happy to help anyone who chooses to participate in our programs. We are fully aware that not everyone agrees with our analysis of the social problems which we study. We do not "limit" anyone. Many people choose not to attend, subscribe or participate. We do not "exclude" them. They "exclude" themselves. Anyone who participates or attends will hear what we have to say. They might not agree with it, but we would certainly not prohibit them from participating in our activities.

In that sense, we do not "limit the people we help" on any basis, including the bases you mention.

Also, we reviewed the form. I attach a screen shot of the window that pops up, if we were to answer "yes" to question 2. It asks, "Is your organization a religious or faith-based organization exempt from applicable laws that otherwise prohibit such Discrimination?"

This suggests that you are using a definition of discrimination that is based upon law. I am unaware of any statute or case law that prohibits "discrimination" based on "beliefs around sex before marriage, contraception, etc." Holding certain beliefs is not an immutable characteristic. Holding certain beliefs does not make one a member of a protected class, as far as I am aware. On what basis then do you include "beliefs around sex before marriage, contraception" and especially the open-ended category, "etc." in your anti-discrimination question?

To be clear: I am willing to revise our certification in accordance with your policies (or withdraw our application altogether, if need be.) But we would like to be clear on exactly what we would be and would not be saying, if we answer "yes" or "no" to question 2.

Cordially,
Dr. Morse


A week went by without anything; Dr. Morse re-forwarded the message on December 7 and, after a brief

explanation involving some out-of-office time,

 

Please accept my apologies for the delay in responding to you. I have been off with a sports injury and haven't had a chance to look at everything yet.

I am in conversation with a couple of my colleagues regarding the status of your cause and will be in contact with you later today.

Kind Regards,


Richard Paxton | Charity Relations Specialist

we received this on December 8:

I left a voicemail with you yesterday, I'm not sure if you received it or not?

We did find some content on your website and subsequent posts which suggest clearly that certain groups are excluded from attending some of your programs on the basis of their religion. For example, the statement at the end of this post:

This kind of rule being in place would directly contradict your answer to statement 2 of the Self-Certification, so we would request that this be amended.

Please don't hesitate to contact me if you have any questions.

Kind Regards,


Richard Paxton | Charity Relations Specialist

 


Hmm. We responded:

Thank you for the clarification.
We will proceed.

Dr. Morse

We went back to our application and changed the answers. We said, "yes" we do discriminate. We said "no" we are not a religious organization exempt from applicable laws that otherwise prohibit such discrimination. 

We could have withdrawn our application altogether. I chose instead, to fill it out, under duress, as it were. I wish to state in no uncertain terms: I do not agree with the definition of "discrimination" presented to me in this correspondence. In my mind, we do not "discriminate" against anyone. Please notice that my request for clarification about whether holding views on "contraception," "abortion" or especially "etc." constitutes discrimination did not receive any response whatsoever. 

Ask yourself this: could your church-based ministry meet the criterion implied by Benevity's December 8 email? 

Donate now!