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Philanthropy Politics

LGBTQ Concerns Cause San Francisco To Pause Program that Forwards Donations to Non-Profits, Including Christian Ministries

San Francisco has put a pause on its annual Heart of the City Combined Charities Campaign after questions about whether city employees’ donations should flow to some Christian non-profits that have been outspoken on LGBTQ issues, according to articles in The San Francisco Chronicle and The San Francisco Standard.

The city operates its own local version of the combined charity campaigns.  It is similar to those of the federal government and many private companies. The Heart of the City resource guide lists hundreds of nonprofits, and can be found here, even though the Heart of the City campaign, scheduled to run from Oct. 1 to Dec. 2, has been put on hold over concerns about four of the groups.

Employees can choose among the hundreds of individual charities or they can give to five groupings of charities. The “Creating Healthier Communities” grouping includes more than 100 charities, four of which have generated controversy:  Focus on the Family, Family Research Council, Alliance Defending Freedom, and American Family Association.

These four organizations have at various times been classified as “hate groups” by Southern Poverty Law Center.

Some in San Francisco were concerned that city employees who supported the “Creating Healthier Communities” grouping of charities would funnel to support to these groups without realizing they were doing so.

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A fifth Christian organization, Samaritan’s Purse, is led by Franklin Graham, does. Graham’s dueling statements on the Samaritan’s Purse website highlight both the ministry’s service to people with HIV/AIDS and Graham’s concern for Christians who face persecution for their faith and moral opposition to homosexuality.

One city supervisor said it was wrong for the city to promote these groups. “It seems like a real screw-up,” said District 8 Supervisor Rafael Mandelman, who is gay and represents the city’s gay-friendly Castro district.

No one has raised any objections to the many other Christian ministries that appear in the Heart of the City campaign’s resource guide, including American Bible Society, Baptist World Alliance, Blessings International, Campus Crusade for Christ’s Great Commission Foundation, Care Net, Christian Military Fellowship, Christian World Outreach, Crista Ministries, Engineering Ministries International, Food for The Hungry, Home School Legal Defense Association, International Justice Mission, JAARS, Mercy Ships, Military Community Youth Ministries, Nazarene Compassionate Ministries, Officers’ Christian Fellowship, Prison Fellowship, The Navigators, Voice of the Martyrs and YWAM Ships Kona.

San Francisco’s City Combined Charities Campaign has raised $5 million since 2018 and had already raised $50,000 for the “Creating Healthier Communities” group of charities. In comparison, Focus had income of $137 million last year.

One city employee told The Standard: “Focus on the Family is one of the most anti-LGBTQ organizations in the country. There should be no place for them in a city-sanctioned charity program.”

However, Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) pushed back on what it considers to be a mischaracterization of its work and the others that have been targeted by the SPLC as “hate groups.”

Spokesperson Greg Scott provided this statement to MinistryWatch:

“Alliance Defending Freedom is one of the nation’s most respected and successful U.S. Supreme Court advocates working to preserve the fundamental freedoms of speech and religion for all Americans. ADF has won 14 cases at the Supreme Court since 2011, including Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, the case that overturned Roe v. Wade.  In total, ADF has been involved in more than 70 Supreme Court victories in the past quarter century. The Southern Poverty Law Center is a discredited and scandal-ridden group that one of its own employees described as ‘a highly profitable scam.’ Voices from across the ideological spectrum, including Politico, which calls it a ‘partisan progressive hit operation,’ have seen SPLC for what it is for decades. No one should use SPLC as a source for a story and no one should make any decisions about supporting an organization based on SPLC’s falsehoods.”

It’s not clear when or if this year’s campaign will resume.

Steve Rabey

Steve Rabey is a veteran author and journalist who has published more than 50 books and 2,000 articles about religion, spirituality, and culture. He was an instructor at Fuller and Denver seminaries and the U.S. Air Force Academy. He and his wife Lois live in Colorado.