House Approves Contentious Religious Discrimination Provision In Job-training Bill

Americans United Urges Senate To Reject House Action That Would Allow For Federal Funding of Religious Discrimination

Ignoring calls to respect civil liberties, the U.S. House of Representatives today passed a major job-training bill with a provision that would permit employment discrimination based on religious beliefs in federally funded programs.

"The House has just approved legislation that undermines our nation's commitment to civil rights and attacks the church-state wall," said Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United. "It's shameful."

Last month, the Senate passed a major faith-based bill that did not include provisions guaranteeing religious groups the right to take tax money yet discriminate on religious grounds when hiring staff. At the time, however, some lawmakers vowed to put the provisions into future "faith-based" bills.

Voting largely along party lines, the House today voted 220-204 to approve the Workforce Reinvestment and Adult Education Act (H.R. 1261), which includes a provision that would permit religious groups to engage in discriminatory practices when hiring staff even in taxpayer-funded programs.

Americans United, along with other civil rights groups as well as labor and education organizations, urged the House today to pass the Act without the discriminatory provision.

In a letter to House members, the watchdog groups noted that previous versions of the Act have specifically barred job-training programs from allowing religious discrimination.

Lynn said the House is on the wrong track.

"Federal job-training bills have traditionally respected our civil rights laws," said Lynn. "Today's action by the House is a sorry step backward. The Senate should correct this mistake."

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.