Editorial: Unjust bylaws should be eliminated

While Metropolitan Ministries does help the community in several ways, its precedence of not allowing non-Christians on its ministries board is unfair.

Last week, the ministries’ executive committee voted to eliminate its religious bylaw. Hopefully, the full board will support that change Thursday when it votes.

Metropolitan Ministries is a well-known, non-profit organization in Tampa that helps feed the poor. It is a group that does much to help the Tampa Bay area and is supported by major companies, such as Outback Steakhouse and Raymond James Financial Inc. However, some of these companies will not make donations to political or religious organizations, and that is why many were surprised to read in Saturday’s St. Petersburg Times that Metropolitan Ministries would not allow a Jewish woman on its board of directors.

While there is no problem with an organization wanting to promote religious values, such as helping the poor and needy, these same groups should understand that helping others is shared by several religious traditions.

Creating bylaws that state a board member must be a “professed Christian” may dissuade people of different religious groups from contributing to a good cause and may also prevent companies, such as Raymond James, from making donations due to policies against donations to religious or political groups.

While several volunteers have been Jewish and probably of other religious affiliations, the bylaw allowing only Christians to be board members is unfair and even un-Christian. While the organization does not discriminate in its distribution of aid, it should follow this practice in all of its areas, including the board of directors. Hopefully, the full board will agree with the executive committee Thursday as they vote on whether to eliminate the bylaw and allow people of other faiths who want to help others into positions of decision-making and influence.