Wow! I’m impressed.
The debate is raging and activists at the ACLU and among some Christian churches are disappointed that Obama did not follow through on a campaign promise to disallow a Bush Administration policy that permits “religious” groups taking taxpayer money to discriminate in hiring practices.
I’m hopeful this whole debate will further educate the taxpaying public to the fact that we are funding churches, and sometimes preventing a complete financial collapse of some churches in America, with our taxes.
I’ve been a critic of the reporting at the Tennessean on any issue relating to refugees, but I have to give this reporter, Bob Smietana, credit for the clearest article I’ve seen on the brewing storm over federal funding of non-profits. See my post about the controversy in Chicago, here, a couple of days ago.
From the Tennessean:
Today, that has changed. New employees at World Relief* have to prove they are Christians. They sign a statement of Christian faith and must get a letter of recommendation from their minister before being hired. At most workplaces, that would be illegal.
But religious nonprofits, even those that get government grants, get special exemptions. They can hire and fire employees based on their religion or sexual orientation — something other employers can’t do.
Civil rights groups like the ALCU, and some religious groups like the United Methodist Church, want to see those exemptions outlawed. They want religious nonprofits to play by the same rules as other businesses or stop getting federal funding.
But charities like World Relief say that would violate the First Amendment by giving government too much say in how religious nonprofits operate.
When you take government money, you play by the government’s rules! By the way, this is why some colleges, only Hillsdale comes to mind, and truly Christian schools eschew any taxpayer money. And, frankly it is this government money that is the hook the Obama Administration wants to have in every group, school and business in the US.
The exemptions for religious charities began with Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. That law allows such organizations to hire only members of their own faith when their programs are funded by private donations.
Under President George W. Bush, those exemptions were extended to religious groups that receive government grants.
That’s unfair, says Ron Winkler, general secretary of the United Methodist Church’s General Board of Church and Society.
All citizens — from Muslims to Methodists — pay taxes, he said. So everyone should be eligible to work at charities funded by the government.
Winkler’s group is part of the Coalition Against Religious Discrimination, which seeks to overturn the Bush-era rules
Our position is that if a charity receives government funds, they should play by the same rules as everyone else,” Winkler said.
Can World Relief survive without government funding? I’m pretty sure the figure for how much funding World Relief gets from you is much higher than the Tennessean reporter has been given.
Nationwide, World Relief receives about two-thirds of its $50 million budget from state and federal governments. In Nashville, those funds pay for the refugee resettlement program.
We won’t change our mission for money!
Jan Kary, a senior vice president at World Relief’s national office, said hiring rules ensure that the charity remains true to its Christian mission. The policy on hiring only Christians has been in place since the 1940s but was never put in writing or enforced until this year.
If the exemptions are eliminated, Kary said, the charity would stop taking government money.
“We are not going to change our mission for money,” she said.
I repeat, Wow!
Read the whole Tennessean article, there is much more.
*World Relief is an Evangelical Christian organization and one of nine (or ten?) federal refugee resettlement contractors. We have reported on several occasions about World Relief’s hiring practices as well as its religious profiling of volunteers. Use our search function to find those earlier reports by simply typing in ‘World Relief.’