While in office, President George W. Bush established the “Faith-Based Initiative.”  The Faith-Based Initiative set out rules that govern the partnerships between the government and religiously-affiliated organizations that receive federal grants to provide social services.  These rules were a radical departure from those that had historically applied to such partnerships.  For example, prior to the Faith-Based Initiative, religious organizations could give preference in hiring to employees of the same faith when using their own funds.  The Faith-Based Initiative, however, allows religious groups to take government funds and discriminate in hiring on the basis of religion with those funds.  Such federally-funded discrimination runs contrary to our constitutional principles of religious freedom.

AU chairs the Coalition Against Religious Discrimination (CARD), which fights to reinstate the church-state protections that existed prior to the Faith-Based Initiative, including restoring the bar against federally funded employment discrimination.  The Obama Administration has taken some steps towards restoring the protections lost during the Bush Administration.  Yet, it has done nothing to end federally-funded employment discrimination.  AU and CARD continue to work on this issue and urge the current Administration to change these rules.

Recently, CARD issued a sign-on letter to Attorney General Eric Holder, requesting that the Justice Department review and withdraw a Bush-era Office of Legal Council (OLC) Memo that interprets the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 (RFRA) as trumping non-discrimination provisions for faith-based organizations that want to discriminate in hiring on the basis of religion. Nearly 100 civil rights, women’s, religious, LGBT, and secular groups signed on to the letter.

Additional resources:

  • Faith-Based Initiative Timeline
  • CARD letter asking the Department of Justice to rescind the OLC Memo
  • CARD letter to Melissa Rogers, Executive Director of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships

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