Obama Administration Urged to End Policy on Religious Discrimination In Hiring

More and more citizens are petitioning President Obama and his administration to prevent federally funded religious groups from considering applicants’ faith when making hiring decisions. Public domain image by Pete Souza
More and more citizens are petitioning President Obama and his administration to prevent federally funded religious groups from considering applicants’ faith when making hiring decisions. Public domain image by Pete Souza

A widening coalition of critics is urging the Obama administration to drop the practice of permitting religious groups to hire and fire based on a person’s faith when they receive federal money, saying Obama is reneging on a promise he made in 2008 to change that policy.

Ninety organizations wrote to Attorney General Eric Holder after discovering a new Department of Justice document that details rules on prohibiting discrimination by grant recipients as part of the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act.

The 11-page FAQ document, issued in April and citing a 2007 DOJ memo issued by the Bush administration, says faith-based organizations “may prefer co-religionists for employees in programs funded by covered grants” if they meet certain criteria.

Signatories to the June 10 letter said the Bush-era memo from the Office of Legal Counsel should be withdrawn because it “threatens core civil rights and religious freedom protections” in the Justice Department and other federal agencies. They say the memo undermines new nondiscrimination language in the Violence Against Women Act.

The department’s latest wording “means the government is endorsing discrimination by federally funded faith-based organizations,” said Madihha Ahussain, an attorney with Muslim Advocates, a signatory to the letter.

Obama originally campaigned against the Bush-era discrimination policy, vowing to change it once he was in the White House.

“If you get a federal grant, you can’t use that grant money to proselytize to the people you help and you can’t discriminate against them — or against the people you hire — on the basis of their religion,” Obama said in 2008.

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SOURCE: Religion News Service
Adelle M. Banks

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