by Max Brantley
The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette's Claudia Lauer reports this morning (pay wall) that the city of Little Rock will operate its long-planned day center for homeless people. It had originally proposed to pay Union Rescue Mission to run the center for $300,000, but controversy broke out recently over objections from the ACLU because Union Rescue planned to hire only evangelical Christians for staff jobs, from social workers to janitors.
The city and Union Rescue naturally say the controversy over hiring practices had nothing to do with the change. The city wants expanded weekend hours and Union Rescue had decided a separate director might have to be hired by the city at a cost beyond the $300,000. Yadda yadda.
This making-nice would be more believable had not a high city official told me weeks ago, not happily, that reporting here on the discriminatory hiring policies might have prompted Union Rescue's earlier indications it was pulling away from the deal. Mayor Mark Stodola complained earlier also that the religious questions might delay the opening of the center. Union Rescue, which claims no affront over the matter in today's story, earlier quit the communications network of the coalition of agencies serving the homeless in Little Rock because of its apparent pique over the questions about hiring that came from other coalition members. Today all profess interest in nothing but working together for the benefit of the homeless.
All's well that end's well. The city shouldn't send money to organizations hat have explicitly discriminatory employment policies, be it legal to send them that money or not.