Google Inc. pulled the welcome mat out from under churches and other faith-based groups that previously were able to use its office software and popular Gmail for free when it, in effect, banned God from a program..
The Internet search and software giant’s new rules fly in the face of the program title of “Google for Nonprofits,” because it now excludes churches, schools, political think tanks, proselytizing groups and any organization that considers religion or sexual orientation in hiring decisions.
The move has been a blow to cash-strapped churches trying to use social media to keep faith in the Internet mix, according to a report in Christianity Today
For example, Brian Young, IT director for the Living Hope Baptist Church in Bowling Green, Ky., had planned to unify 50 paid staff members and 270 volunteers with customized Gmail and office software; distribute video of Sunday services through a premium YouTube channel; beam live feeds of faraway missionaries using Google Video; and map locations of service projects and missionaries with Google Earth, according to Christianity Today.
He expected that the 3,000-member church also could use up to $10,000 worth of Google AdWords included in the program.
"There were so many things for nonprofits that were going to benefit us," Young told Christianity Today. "We just wanted to use them."
Google’s move forced Living Hope to slash its plans and pay $2,500 ($50 per user) to use Google's office software and Gmail for a year.
Lloyd Mayer, a professor at Notre Dame Law School, told Christianity Today that Google is "trying to avoid anything that would reflect negatively on them" by avoiding potentially polarizing causes that might alienate customers.
“Such exclusions are generally legal, even if ill-advised, said Stuart Lark, an attorney specializing in nonprofits and religious organizations with Holme, Roberts & Owen in Colorado Springs. But he noted that similar exclusions from public facilities or benefits may be unlawful religious discrimination,” Christianity Today reported.
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