President Obama Should Take Immediate Steps To End Religious Discrimination in Taxpayer-Supported Social Services, Says AU’s Lynn
Attorney General Eric Holder told the House Judiciary Committee yesterday that the Obama administration does not support religiously based hiring discrimination in taxpayer-funded “faith-based” programs.
Americans United for Separation of Church and State said the statement is welcome and urged the Obama administration to back it up by revoking Bush-era executive orders that permit hiring bias by religiously affiliated social services that take public funds.
“We are encouraged that Attorney General Holder has reiterated the administration’s commitment to non-discrimination,” said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United. “Now is the time to act decisively.”
Holder’s statement came during an exchange with U.S. Rep. Robert Scott (D-Va.). Scott noted that Obama, as a candidate for president, vowed to end religious discrimination in publicly funded faith-based programs but as president has left in place Bush-era policies that permit it.
Asked Scott, “Is it the policy of this administration now to allow the discrimination on a case-by-case basis, that one group can say, ‘Well, we don’t hire people based on race and religion’ and another group where we’re not going to allow you to discriminate on the base of race and religion? Is it the policy of this administration to allow discrimination?”
Holder replied, “No, it’s not the policy. That is not the policy. The policy of the administration is to interact with faith-based organizations or any organization in a way....”
Scott interrupted to ask, “Which you can do without discriminating and without proselytizing?”
Replied Holder, “Well, operate with them, interact with them in a way that’s consistent with, with the law, consistent with our values and consistent with the way in which this administration, I think, has postured itself on a whole range of, of issues.”
Scott continued, “Let’s be clear. Is the policy of this administration to allow discrimination? Is the policy of the administration going to be that discrimination will not be allowed?”
Holder replied, “We are -- yes, that is not the view that we share. We do not have a view that discrimination is, is appropriate. And we want to, as I said, interact with these organizations where these issues are presented in such a way that we are acting consistent with the law and acting, again, consistent with what our values are, both as a nation and as an administration.”
AU’s Lynn thanked Scott for raising the issue and encouraged Congress to continue to monitor developments closely.
“Religious bias in taxpayer-funded programs is simply unacceptable,” Lynn said. “With the attorney general now on record as opposing this type of discrimination, we can hope that the White House will move swiftly to end it.”
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.