This week, the Evelyn and Walter A. Haas, Jr. Foundation made an attempt to even the spending ratio by awarding $1.2 million to a coalition of 30 Christian denominational organizations, including Episcopalians, working for the full inclusion of gay people in churches. The award may help level the playing field and bring mainstream recognition that James Dobson and his allies do not speak for all Christians.
And for those unfamiliar with the Haas family of San Francisco, the gift is symbolically important. Walter Haas, a 1910 graduate of the University of California, took a small work-clothes company and built it into a cultural icon: Levi-Strauss & Co. In recent times, the Haas family endowed the Haas School of Business at UC, one of the leading business graduate programs in the nation, and Haas family foundations have granted more than $300 million to philanthropic causes. This grant is a major milestone for the Haas family, bringing what has been primarily a secular foundation into the religious world. Could this mean that the Haas family will become as important as the Lilly Foundation in funding church initiatives?