The Bush administration's heightened campaign to legalize religious discrimination with public funds is an appalling endorsement of government-approved job bias, according to Americans United for Separation of Church and State.
Today the Bush administration is escalating its crusade to persuade Congress and the public that churches should be allowed to discriminate in employment on religious grounds when hiring staff for government social service programs. As part of his "faith-based" initiative, President George W. Bush is seeking to grant churches an exemption to the civil rights laws that apply to other government-funded organizations.
"It's appalling that President Bush wants to deny government jobs to qualified Americans because they believe in the 'wrong' religion," said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, Americans United Executive Director. "At a time when unemployment is reaching alarming levels, it's especially disgraceful to deny someone a public job on religious grounds. White House staffers can try to dress this up any way they want, but it still smells like government-sponsored bigotry."
As part of its new campaign, the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives has produced a booklet supporting religious discrimination by government-funded ministries. Jim Towey, head of the White House office, is kicking off the campaign today with a speech in Ft. Worth, Texas, to Volunteers for America. The booklet will be sent to all members of Congress, and other Towey speeches and press events will follow.
"The new White House booklet feels more like a religious tract than sound policy analysis," said AU's Lynn. "The Bush administration is trying to roll back civil rights protections, and all the sermonizing in the world can't hide that fact.
"Most religious charities that provide social services don't discriminate in hiring," added Lynn, who is both an ordained minister and an attorney, "so it's perplexing that the White House is pushing ahead with this controversial policy. It's hard not to see it as a gratuitous slap at individual rights and church-state separation."
The discrimination policy is enthusiastically backed by the administration's Religious Right allies.
Bush's "faith-based" plan passed the House in 2001, but it stalled in the Senate last year, in large part because of concerns over government promotion of religious discrimination in employment. Administration officials have vowed to add religious hiring exemptions to every social service program that comes up in Congress.
According to the June 2003 edition of Christianity Today, an unnamed White House official told visiting evangelicals that the administration is seeking changes to all social service laws. "It is a revolutionary march through the institutions, " the official said.
Americans United for Separation of Church and State is a religious liberty watchdog group based in Washington, D.C. Founded in 1947, the organization educates Americans about the importance of church-state separation in safeguarding religious freedom.
Americans United is a religious liberty watchdog group based in Washington, D.C. Founded in 1947, the organization educates Americans about the importance of church-state separation in safeguarding religious freedom.