AU, Allied Groups Urge Obama To Restore Religious Liberty Protections In Federal Contracts

On Anniversary Of FDR Anti-Bias Order, Advocates of Civil Rights And Civil Liberties Are Asking Obama To Reverse Bush Rules Allowing Religious Discrimination

A coalition of religious, civil liberties and public policy groups today asked President Barack Obama to restore long-standing federal anti-discrimination protections undercut by the Bush “faith-based” initiative.

The letter to the president came as Americans are marking the anniversary of the nation’s first presidential executive order barring discrimination by federal government contractors. President Franklin D. Roosevelt on June 25, 1941, issued Executive Order 8802, which prohibited employment discrimination by defense contractors based on “race, creed, color, or national origin.” Later presidents extended the order to all government contracts.

In 2002, President George W. Bush rolled back these protections by issuing a new order that allows religious organizations that receive government contracts to discriminate in hiring based on religion.

Americans United and allied groups are asking Obama to rescind this order.

“Americans do not want taxpayer dollars used to subsidize religious discrimination,” said AU Legislative Director Maggie Garrett. “President Obama can ensure fairness by rescinding the misguided Bush-era order. All qualified people should be eligible for government-funded jobs regardless of their beliefs about religion.”

Americans United joined 51 other groups today in writing to Obama, urging him to use the anniversary of the FDR order to end taxpayer-funded religious discrimination.

The groups reminded Obama that he spoke out against tax-supported religious discrimination in faith-based programs while he was a candidate in 2008. During a July 1, 2008, speech in Zanesville, Ohio, Obama said that he would change the faith-based initiative so that “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.”

Observes the letter, “[A]lthough officials from your administration have said that the issue is being reviewed by the Justice Department, and have expressed a commitment to ensuring that partnerships with religious organizations are consistent with our law and values, we have seen no forward movement on this issue.”

U.S. Rep. Robert C. Scott (D-Va.) and other members of Congress have scheduled a press conference and briefing to mark the anniversary of the FDR order today at 3 p.m. in Room 2226 of the Rayburn House Office Building.

Americans United is a religious liberty watchdog group based in Washington, D.C. Founded in 1947, the organization educates Americans about the importance of church-state separation in safeguarding religious freedom.