Bush is on his Faith Based Charity wagon again. I will have to admit, I am not totally against tax dollars going to religious based charity groups. They can often be more efficient and more agile in their response to critical needs. It all depends on how the services are delivered (religion neutral or not).
But here is the problem. A religious group can legally discriminate against employees' not of that faith. A Catholic church can legally not hire a Muslim because of his/her religious beliefs. I have no problems with this, but using federal dollars to fund discrimination is not right. So, if federal funds go to a Presbyterian charity, all non-Presbyterians are excluded from applying for jobs in that charity group. Say you are a Methodist social worker who loses your job with the government because of budget cuts. And now the funds are now going to a Catholic charity instead. You would have to convert your religion to Catholicism in order to apply for the new position. This is state sponsored endorsement of religion. If you don't think that Congressmen will favor their own religious sects when doling out the money, think again. If there is one thing that is constant in politicians, it is favoritism.
The only way to make this plan justifiable is to do away with a charity's legal decimation based on religion. A person should not have to change faiths just to land a job. Charitable organizations should be held to the same non-discriminatory hiring standards as any other group that receives federal funds. Everyone should have equal access to jobs created with federal funds.
Bush Says Faith Should Figure in Charity Jobs
By Peter Wallsten and Tom Hamburger, Times Staff Writer
WASHINGTON — President Bush on Tuesday threatened to impose controversial new policies to let federally funded religious charities make hiring decisions based on the religious beliefs of potential employees.
Calling for an expansion of his faith-based initiative, Bush said that if Congress did not vote for the changes in hiring law this year, he would consider doing it himself through "executive action." Administration officials later said it remained unclear what powers the president had to affect hiring laws through executive order.
The president's remarks came on the eve of a House vote on the hiring issue. Administration officials say that some religious charities have been dissuaded from applying for federal grants out of fear that they would lose their religious identities in having to comply with civil rights laws that prevent discrimination in hiring.
Opponents say the change would be tantamount to government-sponsored discrimination, a fear that led Senate Democrats and skeptical Republicans to block the initiative during Bush's first term.
"One of the key reasons why many faith-based groups are so effective is a commitment to serve that is grounded in the shared values and religious identity of their volunteers and employees," Bush said. "In other words, effectiveness happens because people who share a faith show up to help a particular organization based on that faith to succeed. And that's important, now, for people in Washington to understand."
Bush's faith-based initiative has been credited with boosting the GOP vote in battleground states last year among African Americans and Latinos. Under the initiative, the administration has encouraged federal agencies to funnel more money to religious organizations that Bush says often perform social services more effectively than the government.
The House is expected to approve legislation today that, among other things, would allow religious organizations that receive federal job-training grants to consider religious beliefs when hiring staff. The measure's fate is less certain in the Senate.
Bush, speaking Tuesday at a conference of groups involved in the faith-based initiative, said Congress should pass the measure to clear up a confusing web of laws regarding whether federally funded religious groups can restrict hiring to people with matching beliefs.
President Clinton signed laws that the White House was now contending permitted such hiring practices, including a landmark 1996 welfare measure that permitted preferential hiring by faith-based organizations engaged in welfare-to-work programs.
But other laws prohibit discrimination under federally funded job-training and education programs.
Opponents charged that Bush misinterpreted the laws signed by Clinton, and that the measures being sought by Bush represented a sharp shift in U.S. policy, creating an historic rollback of civil rights laws.
Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Church and State, which opposes the House bill, said the legislation being considered by the House would roll back existing discrimination statutes.
"It is astonishing that the president would put his so-called moral power behind a rollback of the nation's civil rights principles," Lynn said. He said that he would defend any religious organization's right to hire whomever it pleased for jobs and programs not funded by the federal government. But, he said, "this is about tax dollars being used affirmatively to fund discrimination."