Americans United for Separation of Church and State today told Congress that Bush-era rules governing the “faith-based” initiative are unacceptable and should be promptly overturned.
In testimony to a U.S. House subcommittee, the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, Americans United executive director, noted that President Barack Obama promised to fix the constitutional problems but so far has taken only modest steps in that direction.
Yesterday, the White House issued an executive order that added stronger beneficiary protections and more transparency about funding recipients. But a George W. Bush rule allowing publicly funded “faith-based” charities to discriminate on religious grounds in hiring remains in place.
In remarks submitted to the House Committee on the Judiciary’s Subcommittee on Constitution, Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, AU’s Lynn said the Bush policy on employment discrimination and other civil liberties concerns is in dire need of correction.
“At the end of the Bush administration,” said Lynn, “nearly every social service program was governed by the faith-based initiative: The traditional safeguards that had protected religious liberty had been stripped, and civil rights protections barring the federal funding of religious discrimination had been abrogated. The Administration had even instituted a policy of allowing federally funded religious discrimination in instances where federal law specifically barred such discrimination.”
Lynn said the Bush policy is unconstitutional and unfair and should be addressed immediately by the Obama administration.
“Each day that no action is taken,” Lynn said, “applicants for federally funded jobs are subject to blatant religious discrimination and the religious liberty rights of social service beneficiaries are compromised… It is past time for President Obama’s administration to fix the faith-based initiative as promised.”
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.