Reject Demands For ‘Faith-Based’ Hiring Bias, AU Tells Congress

Congress should reject an appeal for public funding of “faith-based” charities that discriminate in hiring on religious grounds, says Americans United.

The issue attracted attention in August, when several religious groups and individuals sent a joint letter to Congress insisting that faith-based charities remain eligible for government subsidies even if they hire only job applicants who meet certain religious criteria.

Signers of the Aug. 25 letter included the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, World Vision, the Southern Baptist Convention, the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations, Sojourners and other conservative religious organizations.

“I am appalled that these religious leaders are trying to undermine the civil rights protections that every American counts on,” said Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United. “If government pays for a social work position, every qualified applicant should be considered for the job regardless of their views on religion.

“At a time when the economy is hard-hit and a lot of people are out of work, it is disgraceful that some religious leaders want to deny government-funded job opportunities on the basis of religion,” Lynn continued. “Members of Congress must say no to this exercise in discrimination.”

Lynn said the signers of the letter represent only one part of the broad spectrum of religion in America. He noted that groups representing the Jewish, Baptist, United Methodist, Presbyterian, Episcopal, United Church of Christ, Disciples of Christ, Unitarian and Quaker communities have strongly opposed government-subsidized job bias.

Leading civil rights and civil liberties groups have also opposed this kind of hiring discrimination.

Lynn said President Barack Obama should issue an executive order ending the George W. Bush-era policy that allows faith-based groups to engage in religious discrimination with taxpayer funds.