Wednesday, June 25, 2003


Many religious groups were licking their chops when President Bush proposed his 'faith based initiative' a couple of years ago. Basically it would allow churches and religious groups to receive federal dollars in their charitable work. On the one hand I think not allowing religious organizations to compete equally for federal dollars is religious discrimination. But the reality of the situation--put aside the fact that I personally believe it improper for churches to engage in general 'charity' work--is that where federal money goes, federal control goes, too. Ask any college or any private company working under federal contract.

President Bush is now attempting to exempt churches and religious groups from federal hiring restrictions:
A White House position paper sent to Capitol Hill argues that “religious hiring rights” are part of religious organizations’ civil rights. “When they receive federal funds, they should retain their right to hire those individuals who are best able to further their organizations’ goals and mission,” the document says

Could a church doing charity work be forced to hire a homosexual activist otherwise qualified for the job? What about an atheist? Well, if you receive federal money the law is unclear:
Since 1972, Title VII of the federal Civil Rights Act has said that religious groups can hire staff members based on religious beliefs, which at least one court has interpreted to include views on sexual orientation. But the laws that authorize some federal social service programs, such as job training, prohibit any group that receives federal funds from discriminating on the basis of age, gender, race or religion.

And you see where the quicksand starts. The article explains how Congress balked two years ago at exempting religious groups from federal, state and local discrimination laws. This is really where government will ease its foot into the door of regulating religion. I'm an alarmist you say? Perhaps so. But even if Bush's exemption becomes law and churches become fat on federal money, how quickly will they give that money up if the exemptions are someday taken away? That's what I thought, too. And once government gets some churches under its thumb how long until they come after all of them.

Churches need to be careful before they sell their freedom for a mess of federal porridge.

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