Interfaith Alliance today called upon Congress to reject an appeal from a group of religious leaders to lift restrictions in a bill that would prevent public funding of faith-based organizations that discriminate in hiring on religious grounds. Today Rev. Dr. C. Welton Gaddy, president of the Interfaith Alliance, released the following statement:
"Religion and civil rights guarantees belong together. Nothing should pull them asunder – especially not a desire for federal money. Religious organizations that receive taxpayer funds should be required to comply with civil rights laws, just as do all other federally funded organizations and initiatives. The battle to protect religious freedom is difficult enough without the government – which should be defending the Constitution – making it even more difficult.
"Religious organizations cannot have it both ways. Historically, religious entities have been protected from government regulations related to employment and other matters, but those religious organizations were not accepting federal money.
"The religious leaders who recently requested that Congress permit them to discriminate with federal tax dollars fail to recognize that the boundaries between institutions of religion and government have given them freedom, respect and vitality. If religious organizations want to discriminate in hiring on religious grounds, they have that right – but they should not expect a government committed to non-discrimination to fund such discrimination. Religious organizations desiring such a counter-Constitutional exception display frightening insensitivity to the religious freedom clauses in the Constitution that have contributed to the vitality of religion in this nation.
"I was pleased to see that a recent New York Times article about this issue noted the Coalition Against Religious Discrimination’s support for these restrictions that prevent federal funds from going toward religious discrimination. It is a shame, however, that the Times neglected to mention that there are numerous religious groups in our coalition who not only support but actively work to secure these restrictions.
"Though it is my hope to one day see all 'charitable choice' programs stricken from federal law, I was encouraged by the affirmative civil rights provision included in the latest version of the legislation in question, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Act. This provision will help ensure that all Americans can apply for the jobs their taxes pay for, regardless of their religious beliefs, or lack thereof. My support for the provisions of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 that gives houses of worship the freedom to hire co-religionists if they choose is unwavering – but when government money is involved, the rules change.
"Quite simply, if religious organizations want to determine who to help or hire based upon religion, they should refrain from taking federal tax dollars. Doing so is best for the integrity of religion, the mission of these organizations, and the American people, whose tax dollars should only fund jobs for which all Americans are eligible."
Interfaith Alliance celebrates religious freedom by championing individual rights, promoting policies that protect both religion and democracy, and uniting diverse voices to challenge extremism. Founded in 1994, Interfaith Alliance brings together members from 75 faith traditions as well as those without a faith tradition to protect faith and freedom. For more information visit www.interfaithalliance.org.