'faith-based' Fight Set To Resume In Congress

Americans United Opposes Federal Job Training Bill That Allows Hiring Bias By Publicly Funded Religious Groups

A House panel is ready to take up an unwise bill that would repeal long-standing civil rights safeguards designed to protect workers against religious discrimination in federally funded job training programs, says Americans United for Separation of Church and State.

Seeking to advance the Bush administration's "faith-based" initiative, the House Subcommittee on 21st Century Competitiveness is set to consider the Job Training Improvement Act on Feb. 9. A provision in that measure, H.R. 27, would allow federal funds to be used by "faith-based" agencies that discriminate in hiring based on religion.

"This bill forces taxpayers to subsidize religious discrimination in publicly funded job training programs," said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, Americans United executive director. "That's fundamentally wrong.

"This measure reignites the congressional battle over the administration's 'faith-based' initiative," Lynn continued. "Some members of Congress, with the president's backing, are seeking to roll back vitally important civil rights protections. Everyone who cares about fairness in federal hiring should be concerned."

Lynn said it is perfectly legal for churches to use their own money to hire their own adherents to serve in church positions. But such religion-based selectivity, he said, should not be permitted in programs paid for by the taxpayers.

"It's understandable for a Baptist church to take an ad that says, 'Pastor wanted: only Baptists need apply,'" Lynn observed. "It's not acceptable for that church to take an ad that says, 'Government job counselor wanted: only Baptists need apply.'"

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.