Employees of the bookseller’s chain Borders are expressing concern that they were required to promote a Christian charity which is allegedly anti-gay and pro-life.

Gloria Jean’s coffee shops are located inside several Borders’ stores. Last month, Borders’ employees were asked to page customers, every hour, about the coffee emporium’s ‘Cappuccino for a Cause’ day in which 10 cents from every Gloria Jean’s cappuccino was donated to the charity Mercy Ministries.

Mercy Ministries helps young girls and women with eating disorders, unplanned pregnancies and mental health issues. It was launched in Australia by Darlene Zschech, who is a worship leader at Sydney’s Hillsong Church. The managing director of Gloria Jean’s, Peter Irvine, is also also the executive director of Mercy Ministries. He is also a member of the Hillsong Church. Mr Irvine’s co-founder and partner in Gloria Jean’s, Nabi Saleh, sits on the church’s board of directors.

So the part-owner of Gloria Jean’s was using his businesses to raise money for a charity he is affiliated with – as long as Mercy Ministries does good work, is there really a problem?

Perhaps Borders might be interested in digging into Mercy Ministries’ background before they plug it over the PA.

Mercy Ministries’ website says:

A young woman who is pregnant will attend a basic decision making course which equips her to make an informed decision about the future of her and her baby… our staff will assist a pregnant resident who chooses to parent her baby in making an individualised plan that will prepare her to effectively parent in a safe environment. Young women who choose to place their child for adoption or alternative care return to Mercy Ministries to complete the program.

In other words, although it isn’t spelled out, abortion doesn’t seem to be offered to the girls as an option.

On the anti-gay front, the founder of the charity, American Nancy Alcorn said in 2005, that the church counsels girls to help overcome homosexuality:

We do have girls who have a history of lesbianism, and that’s definitely an issue that we deal with… We are cautious to make sure that we’re not putting them in an area where there’s going be more struggle or temptation because this is a girls’ home. In dealing with it in counselling, they have been able to walk in freedom from that.

Although there is no suggestion the Australian Mercy Ministries’ groups run this kind of diversion program, a social worker who grew up in Hillsong Church and wrote a book about her experiences, Tanya Levin, says Mercy Ministries is, “… completely anti-gay and completely pro-life. That’s why it was established.”

Ms Levin says she has seen an application form the charity sends to girls who wish to be admitted to its treatment program. She says the application asks if the girls have “ever been involved in witchcraft or lesbianism”.

She says the girls who receive treatment Mercy Ministries’ in-patient program have to attend three Hillsong masses a week and sit in a “special section, where everyone points to them and says, ‘Look at the Ministry girls, aren’t they special and blossoming into a life like Jesus’,” Ms Levin said.

While growing up in Hillsong, she said the Church wasn’t overtly homophobic, but referred to same-sex attraction as “a lifestyle we wouldn’t agree with”.

Borders was approached for a comment but did not respond before Crikey’s deadline.

UPDATE: Following publication of this story, a tipster told Crikey that many people were donating to the Gloria Jean’s appeal for Mercy Ministries because they were confusing it with another charity — the Sisters of Mercy, which helps people in poverty, sickness or with a lack of education. We also hear that The Sisters have not trademarked their name but wanted the confusion cleared up. Apparently, they approached Gloria Jean’s but got nowhere. We left a message with the Sisters to confirm this but have not yet heard back.