Culture, Politics, Sex & Gender

Obama Does the Faith-Based Tango on Hiring Discrimination

CNN reports,

President Obama’s newly revamped Office of Faith Based Initiatives is reigniting a contentious debate across the ideological spectrum over whether religious organizations that accept funds from the government should be allowed to discriminate when hiring.
n one corner is a string of religion-backed organizations that have accepted federal funds from the 8-year-old program to advance their secular charity work. President Bush issued an executive order in 2002 that allowed these groups to continue their practice of discrimination with respect to hiring. Specifically, many of the organizations carry policies against hiring outside their religion or hiring homosexuals whose lifestyles conflict with church doctorines.
In the other corner are separation-of-church-and-state advocates and human-rights organizations that say the government must constitutionally compel these organizations to follow nondiscrimination laws if they accept federal funding. Anything less, they say, would at best be a violation of church-state separation and at worst an implicit endorsement of discrimination.
In an executive order to be announced on Thursday, Obama does not rescind Bush’s provision to allow faith-based groups to discriminate in their hiring practices, but does provide a legal process for organizations to go through in order to that ensure hiring is legal and non-discriminatory.
Administration sources say the new legal safeguard is a “key step forward” in addressing the thorny issue of faith-based hiring.
But Dr. Joel Hunter, a senior pastor at Northland Church in Longwood, Florida, who will be part of a 25-member council of religious leaders in the faith-based office, said the issue is a particularly tricky one for religious leaders.
“We’re going to have to work that out, because on the one hand, you don’t want to use federal funds to discriminate. But on the other hand, we can’t have religious organizations taking money on the condition that they will hire people who live a lifestyle contrary to what they teach,” he said.

Full story here.

4 thoughts on “Obama Does the Faith-Based Tango on Hiring Discrimination

  1. “we can’t have religious organizations taking money on the condition that they will hire people who live a lifestyle contrary to what they teach,”
    no one is saying that religious organizations should hire people for religious functions that don’t match up to the institute’s religious character. The government money is explicitly going to the non religious arms of these organizations- such as soup kitchens and homeless shelters run out of churches. The question is if a soup kitchen can restrict its choice of chef or coordinator- paid partially with federal funds- by religious denomination, belief or practice.
    For the larger organizations- this is a no brainer. Federal money should go to the person who will do the job best. Obama should reject the parts of the Bush bill which say otherwise. The only real question to consider is the burden on smaller organizations. What about a small church that wants to hire someone as food pantry coordinator/youth programs coordinator? Lets assume federal funds only cover her salary for the pantry coordinating part of the job. But the church should be able to hire a youth coordinator in sync with its religious mission. Can such a church accept federal funds?
    this question goes to the heart of the intent of the original bill, which acknowledges that religious institutes can be core forms of poverty relief in many areas- and that it can be efficient for government to fund their work instead of setting up their own parallel institutions. Its a tough question.

  2. Sexual orientation is not a protected class for any federal anti-discrimination law. It sucks, but you don’t have to be a faith based employer to get around that one.

  3. KRG- we actually exempt religious groups from lots of discrimination torts, especially discrimination based on religion and on sex. Thats why a woman cant sue her religious organization for not giving her a leadership role because she is female. Not OK in the office. Ok in the church.
    This obviously has some serious problems- but thats not the focus of this bill. Part of the question is which law dominates? the law about giving religious institutions exemptions from discrimination or the law about not allowing discrimination in the federal sector?

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