Ethics Politics

Critics petition Obama to abolish faith-based hiring bias

President Barack Obama and Attorney General Loretta Lynch bow their heads in prayer during the 34rd annual National Peace Officers' Memorial Service at the U.S. Capitol in Washington May 15, 2015. Photo courtesy REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
President Barack Obama and Attorney General Loretta Lynch bow their heads in prayer during the 34rd annual National Peace Officers' Memorial Service at the U.S. Capitol in Washington May 15, 2015.  Photo courtesy REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

President Barack Obama and Attorney General Loretta Lynch bow their heads in prayer during the 34rd annual National Peace Officers’ Memorial Service at the U.S. Capitol in Washington May 15, 2015. Photo courtesy REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

WASHINGTON (RNS) Concerned that faith-based groups can discriminate in hiring while receiving federal funds, a coalition of 130 organizations told President Obama the policy will tarnish his legacy of fair and equal treatment for all Americans.

The critics, including religious organizations such as the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty and the Union for Reform Judaism, asked the president to direct Attorney General Loretta Lynch to review a “flawed” 2007 Justice Department memo that said the Religious Freedom Restoration Act provides for an override of nondiscrimination laws for government-funded religious organizations.

“RFRA was not intended to create blanket exemptions to laws that protect against discrimination,” says the letter sent to Obama Thursday (Aug. 20) and announced by Americans United for Separation of Church and State.

The White House has received the letter and a spokeswoman said “it will respond in due course.”

A similar letter, supported by 90 organizations, was sent to then-Attorney General Eric Holder in June 2014.


READ: Growing coalition presses Obama to end policy on religious discrimination in hiring


In a Thursday blog post, Americans United noted that signatories of the new letter say the memo is being cited by some government-funded groups to refuse medical care to some sexual abuse victims or discriminate against LGBT employees, saying they have religious objections.

Obama originally campaigned against the hiring discrimination policy that dates to the George W. Bush administration, vowing to change it once he was in the White House.

“If you get a federal grant, you can’t use that grant money to proselytize to the people you help and you can’t discriminate against them — or against the people you hire — on the basis of their religion,” Obama said in 2008.

“It’s time for him to fulfill that promise,” said Maggie Garrett, Americans United’s legislative director.

YS/LM END BANKS

About the author

Adelle M. Banks

Adelle M. Banks, production editor and a national reporter, joined RNS in 1995. An award-winning journalist, she previously was the religion reporter at the Orlando Sentinel and a reporter at The Providence Journal and newspapers in the upstate New York communities of Syracuse and Binghamton.

17 Comments

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  • Obama is one of the strangest oddballs we’ve ever had for president. And knowing him, he will do something like what this article calls for. But we must remember that “We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.” DOI

  • Its time for that GW Bush leftover to go. It has been nothing but a roving violation of the 1st Amendment from the get-go. Churches and religious charities don’t need government money. They can’t wrap their heads around the notion of the rules required for taking government money.

    This experiment in privatizing social services has been a failure for the government.

  • Why do you dislike Obama?
    Not enough war and torture?
    Are you looking forward to a Republican president in 2016 who will immediately start a war with Iran?
    Are you a Christian?

  • “Faith based” means ‘based on pretending.’

    It has no place in our government.

    Get rid of this primitive, laughable nonsense.
    George Bush proved religious commitment makes for the most dangerous people.
    Nixon was a Calvinist. But, like Bush, his brain was polluted with this gibberish.

  • Agreed. Religious leaders, especially Catholic bishops, have been touting “their” charity as PR. When Pope Francis is in Washington DC, he will visit a Catholic Charity to which Cardinal Wuerl contributes $254,000 and U.S. taxpayers $32 million.

  • As long as the programs are non-profit, and they are doing good work that the federal government would otherwise spend five times more doing the same thing, then it should be a no-brainer for the government to continue funding, and let the charities do what the charities do best. And, I might add, they do it a hundredfold more effective and for much less cost. Only a fool like Obama would mess with a good thing, but of course he could not care any less about finances, as he is a socialist, tilting towards communist. As a country, this man’s bizarre ways has doubled our national debt in six years, and has done more social harm than any other president.

  • This is 100% Anti-Christ empowered.

    To demand that Christians, and let’s face it this is ONLY ABOUT CHRISTIANS, have to show obeisance to the colored flags and their worshippers is pure and total persecution of The Church.

  • But they aren’t. By engaging in discriminatory practices they are not living up to the mandate for government funding, that they serve all available citizens.

    ” I might add, they do it a hundredfold more effective and for much less cost. ”

    You have absolutely nothing to back up that assertion whatsoever. You made that up. How can they be as effective if they are willingly turning people away, refusing to provide all proper care and not hiring people who are effective for the job based on arbitrary criteria?

    They aren’t. These charities do not need caesar’s coin.

  • I deal with the government weekly, and know how dysfunctional every area is. We the People need our tax money spent effectively, and at present, it is not by any branch of government.

  • Unless, of course, you’re a gay person. In which case, radical Christians have been told by god that they should have the right to dominion over our lives.

  • You can’t tell me squat about how effective these faith based charities are and you pulled that “effective” argument out of thin air.

    Privatizing any kind of government services has never led to better service to the public. What always happens is some patron of a local politician is enriched and they find ways to profit by doing as little as possible in terms of service.

    This form of privatized social services is no different. They willingly avoid serving the entire public and try to use public funds for their own enrichment through proselytizing. A big waste of money and inappropriate for the government.

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