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    A Times Editorial

    Charity makes things worse

    © St. Petersburg Times
    published February 3, 2002

    Metropolitan Ministries blew a wonderful opportunity to live up to its public image. Last week's disclosure that non-Christians were barred from its governing board should have embarrassed Tampa's best-known charity enough to do the right thing. But Metropolitan now is trying to have it both ways. On Thursday, it opened its board to people of different faiths but capped the number of non-Christians. The move is a moral equivocation. Using tokenism to mollify any charitable backlash is an affront to the community.

    This is not an ecumenical question. The mission of serving the poor is not advanced by embracing even a watered-down discriminatory policy. Nor does having the board reflect a larger community necessarily secularize the group or dilute its distinct mission. The majority of board members, like the majority of people in the community, are likely to be Christians, with or without a written quota. Donors now have a reason to question why a charity that won't fully embrace other faiths is content nonetheless to take their money. Metropolitan took a public relations problem and made it worse.

    The time to correct a major mistake is when it is first called to one's attention. Now whatever step Metropolitan takes will be viewed as a recalculation of its own self-interest. The sad part is that Metropolitan has undermined its own argument that we're all in it together.

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