White House to Congress: Let religious organizations use religion in hiring decisions
In a position paper released to members of Congress, the White House says "religious hiring rights" are part of faith-based organizations' civil rights, and should not be restricted even if the organizations receive public money.
"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" says the nine-page booklet, Protecting the Civil Rights and Religious Liberty of Faith-based Organizations: Why Religious Hiring Rights Must Be Preserved. (Weblog can't find the booklet online, but it might later be posted here.)
Whether federally funded religious organizations can use religious criteria in making hiring decisions has been the sticking point on a number of bills lately, from the faith-based initiative bill to a restructuring of the Head Start education program. Opponents claim allowing such hiring distinctions amounts to government-sponsored bigotry, while supporters say it's bigotry not to give religious organizations the freedom to make such employment decisions.
"A secular group that receives government money is currently free to hire based on its ideology and mission," says the White House booklet (according to a Religion News Service story not available online). "Allowing religious groups to consider faith in hiring when they receive government funds simply levels the playing field—by making sure that, when it comes to serving impoverished Americans, faith-based groups are as welcome at the government's table as nonreligious ones."
In fact, the Civil Rights Act of 1972 already gives religious organizations such hiring rights, but other laws apparently contradict this freedom, ordering all federally funded organizations to hire regardless of "age, gender, race, or religion." (Some local laws add "sexual orientation" to the list.)
Whatever the constitutional questions, many faith-based organizations simply won't take federal funds if it means they'll have to hire employees at odds with their mission. "It's been abundantly clear that the religious hiring issue is a real barrier for a lot of faith-based organizations," Jim Towey, director of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives, said in a telephone press conference yesterday. "And if faith-based organizations are deterred from providing services, the real losers are the poor."
A front-page Washington Post article about the White House's position paper notes that the timing is exquisite: Rep. Robert C. "Bobby" Scott (D-Va.) hopes to "introduce legislation today that would nullify regulatory decisions by the Bush administration that permit employment discrimination by some religious organizations."
Both the Clinton and Bush administrations have supported hiring freedoms for faith-based organizations, but never so explicitly as in this booklet. Ron Sider, president of Evangelicals for Social Action, says it's a good thing. "It indicates that they're serious—and they darn well better be, because it's crucial to a whole lot of us," he told the Post. "I think the administration understands that the very identity of faith-based organizations is at issue in hiring rights."
Department of Justice tells school district to allow Bible club flyers
In 2001, Child Evangelism Fellowship's Good News Club made headlines for winning a Supreme Court decision allowing it to use public school facilities. Now it's back in the news. Schools in Montgomery County, Maryland, are are letting the club meet, but barring the distribution of promotional flyers.
"An integral part of CEF's evangelical mission is to locate children who have not yet accepted Jesus Christ as their Savior," the school district's attorneys say in court documents. "Requiring teachers to force students to accept and distribute CEF's materials would result in the unconstitutional coercion of the students to proselytize on CEF's behalf."
Baloney, says the U.S. Department of Justice. "Through its Good News Clubs, CEF strives to foster self-esteem in youth and to instill morals and character in children while providing a positive recreational experience. … That CEF does these things from a religious viewpoint does not change the fact that its activities meet the [school] board's criteria for inclusion in the take-home folders."
"U.S. courts have generally ruled that if a school district provides an open forum for many different groups, religious organizations must be allowed to use it," notes The Washington Post. It's absolutely right: the only way to bar Good News from sending home flyers is to bar everyone from sending home flyers. Unfortunately, according to the Montgomery County Gazette, the PTA is willing to take that extreme action.
Church of England debate over gay bishop:
- Synod keeps gay debate off the agenda | The Church of England's bureaucrats have drawn up an agenda for the forthcoming general synod meeting in York without finding space for any mention of the debate on homosexual clergy raging through the Anglican communion (The Guardian, London)
- Dissent over gay bishop spreads around globe | Bishops from Nigeria, Australia, and elsewhere oppose recent actions (The Independent, South Africa)
- Church of Uganda joins fight against gay bishop in London | Archbishop Livingstone Nkoyoyo says church will wait and see what happens before taking next step (The Monitor, Kampala, Uganda)
- Sydney bishop does a U-turn on ban | Given the Archbishop of Canterbury's failure over the past 24 hours to condemn the appointment of a gay priest to the Church of England's episcopacy, blacklisting him from the Sydney diocese would be the logical thing to do, said Sydney's Anglican archbishop—but later said it won't be done for the sake of unity (The Sydney Morning Herald)
- Church in danger of double split over bishop | Anglo-Catholic priests might leave Church of England if gay theologian Jeffrey John is not appointed as bishop (The Times, London)
- Anglican unity under threat around world | There seems little common ground between the two camps, and the risk of a profound and lasting schism in the Anglican Church, with Sydney playing a leading role, is now real (Editorial, The Australian)
More sexual ethics and marriage issues:
- Don't legalize gay marriage | The unique sanctity of the heterosexual family is not only the bedrock of American culture — it is the first principle of all human societies (Editorial, The Washington Times)
- Massachusetts weighing same-sex marriages | The Supreme Judicial Court could rule by July 12 (The Hartford Courant, Conn.)
- Church leaders mount last effort to halt prostitution bill | Labour MP Tim Barnett has accused them of church leaders of arrogance and ignorance (Stuff, New Zealand)
- Church vows to stay inclusive | Their minister may have been removed from the pulpit, but the congregation of Mount Auburn Presbyterian Church plans to carry on with its history of challenging traditions (The Cincinnati Enquirer)
- Also: Church vows continued policy of inclusion (UPI)
- Also: Church choice: Stay or go | Mt. Auburn at odds with local Presbytery (The Cincinnati Post)
Missions & ministry:
- Pastors deliver message of peace | Benton Harbor's church leaders now must rebuild after riots (Chicago Tribune)
- Serving Christ in the borderlands | Robin Hoover strongly defendes putting Christian charity ahead of the rule of law in dealing with illegal migrants from Mexico (UPI)
- Faithful gather at ballpark for day of prayer and unity | One year after Rev. Billy Graham came to town, Cincinnati residents continue to pray for change in the city (The Cincinnati Enquirer)
- Steering bikers to salvation | Woonsocket man rides with Jesus into a tough mission field (The Providence Journal, R.I.)
- 9,000 Promise Keepers turn out | Responsibility is message as protesters denounce the group (Times Union, Albany, N.Y.)
- A 'holy place' in the hoosegow | There is a sacred place in the Hernando County Jail where even the toughest ruffians are as meek as lambs (Hernando Today, Fla.)
- A hair-raising theology lesson | The message of The Million Volt Man: Science actually provides evidence of a divine plan for creation (Daily Herald, suburban Chicago)
- Churches should offer more than preaching to prison inmates | If someone is starving, are you going to feed him first or are you going tell him that man doesn't live by bread alone? (Sean Gonsalves, Seattle Post-Intelligencer)
- Religious leaders looking at new ways to help world's poor | There is increasing agreement that throwing money at the problem of poverty just doesn't work (Vancouver Sun)
- Church protest in Franklin | Group targets Gwen Shamblin, saying her "Weigh Down Workshop" is becoming cultish (WKRN, Nashville)
- Firms lift charities in 2002 | Charitable donations for 2002 set a new high, rising 1 percent over 2001's total in current dollars, according to Giving USA (The Christian Science Monitor)
- Right wing objects to Bush aide as a justice | Alberto R. Gonzales, activists say, is a moderate who would support affirmative action and uphold the right to abortion, two positions many conservatives find unacceptable (Los Angeles Times)
- Separation of church and county | Steve Hammond faces critics who say he won't keep his ministry out of County Council work (King County Journal, Wash.)
- All president can do is ban church | President Museveni was reported in the press warning Christian bishops to stay out of politics. This was ill-informed, unfair and dictatorial (Winnie Byanyima, The Monitor, Uganda)
- Namibian president accuses some churches of fuelling the spread of AIDS | Operating through the night encourages spread of disease, says Sam Nujoma (The Namibian)
- Three faiths, one God? | Do Jews, Christians, and Muslims worship the same God? (Carl Feit, Darrell L. Bock, and Jamal A. Badawi, Kansas City Star)
- Muslims studying American religion | Hosted by Boston College's Boisi Center for Religion and American Public Life, 16 academics spent one recent weekend, for example, attending Saturday services at Temple Shalom in Newton and heading the next day to the New Covenant Church in Mattapan, an African-American charismatic church (The Boston Globe)
- Marrying faiths in Tanzania | At a time when the world religions sometimes seem far apart, Tanzania, in keeping with its peaceful history, sees more than a few marriages between Muslims and Christians (BBC)
- Christians duped by Muslims? | Reform-minded Islamic sages in the Western world agree on a number of essential points: the affirmation of the pluralistic secular state, the rejection of theocracy and its closed-minded advocates, and the need for an honest dialogue with other religions, especially Christianity and Judaism (Uwe Siemon-Netto, UPI)
Crime and violence:
- 'Bigger lie' netted millions in scam, victim's lawyer says | Using a mix of financial lingo and religious mumbo-jumbo, Donald Barry Tamres lured investors with promises of quick, huge returns from his overseas, risk-free investment program (The Indianapolis Star)
- 'Christian' graffiti daubed on bandstand | Vandalism condemned by churches (Express and Star, Wolverhampton, England)
- Jury hears man accused in slayings at church | Peter J. Troy, accused of murdering a Long Island priest and a parishioner during Mass, told jurors in his trial today that he had been framed by a neighbor with a grudge against the Roman Catholic Church (The New York Times)
- Clergy plead for Ugandan children | Religious leaders in the northern Ugandan town of Gulu have spent the night out in the open with thousands of children, who leave their homes every evening for fear of abduction by rebels (BBC, audio1, audio2)
- Also: Bishops sleep on streets, seek UN support against rebels (New Vision, Uganda)
- Pastor's arrest fuels anti-Laos rally | More than 200 Hmong protest arrest of pastor (Pioneer Press, St. Paul, Minn.)
- Also: Furor over arrest of journalists, pastor in Laos | International protests are being leveled at the Laotian government (Asia Times)
- In Chiapas, missionaries battle for converts | Since the arrival of U.S.-based Protestant missionaries decades ago, this southernmost state bordering Guatemala has been wracked by violent clashes as faiths compete for souls (Knight Ridder)
- Blasphemy law: open to abuse | Reports of mobs trying to lynch people present a savage picture, which goes against the very grain of such a great religion (Saad Anis, Daily Times, Pakistan)
- How much religious freedom is too much? | Case of Florida woman's refusal to remove veil for driver's license photo raises question of when public interest should trump religious liberty (Charles Haynes, First Amendment Center)
- Also: Modesty prevents | When religious preference clashes with law, law wins (Lynda Guydon Taylor, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)
- The exception of the church | The Cuban government allows the Catholic Church to publish about a dozen independent magazines, whose content does not have to be authorized or pre-censored (Reporters Without Borders)
Law and courts:
- Woman cleared to sue city over Jesus sign | Sybil Peachlum has been fighting York City Hall for a decade over a lawn sign with an anthropomorphized peach holding a newspaper with the headline, "Peachy News. Jesus is Alive" (Associated Press)
- Trial set in zoning restriction on church | Banned from worshiping in an industrial park warehouse, the members of a North Shore church will argue in a federal trial scheduled to start Monday that Northbrook has violated their religious freedom (Chicago Tribune)
- Clergy to withhold absolution for child abusers | Child abusers who confess to Church of England priests will not be granted absolution until they tell the police or social services under guidelines to be debated by the General Synod next month (The Times, London)
- High Court passes on Mormon church case | The Supreme Court declined Monday to hear arguments on whether The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints should be allowed to limit speech it deems offensive in a park it purchased from Salt Lake City (Associated Press)
- Blair rejects law to ban smacking | Campaigners hope backbench bill will close 'abuser's loophole' (The Guardian, London)
- Earlier: Pressure grows over smacking law | Two parliamentary reports out on Tuesday call for an end to the defence of "reasonable chastisement" in England and Wales (BBC, video)
- Few contenders so far for creationist's reward for proof of evolution | Kent Hovind has a quarter of a million dollars burning a hole in his pocket. He'll give it to anyone who can convince him that evolution is more than just a theory. (Stars & Stripes)
- Darwin faces a new rival | A Roseville high school parent urges that 'intelligent design' also be taught in biology (The Sacramento Bee)
- Evolution vs. creation | The debate continues to flourish (The Express-Times, Penn.)
- Lehigh professor shakes up Darwinists | In his research, Michael Behe concluded Darwin's evolution did not hold up for molecules. (The Express-Times, Penn.)
- Putting belief aside: pragmatism versus the Bible | "A necessary evil" is how Richard Edlin, a Christian educator and advocate of parent-controlled schools, views the Higher School Certificate examinations (The Sydney Morning Herald)
- Praying for keeps | Religion plays a central role in the Booty home, and it helped deliver a top quarterback prospect to USC (Los Angeles Times)
- Spurs are fans of Christianity | Next season the team will be without David Robinson's spiritual leadership, but there are other Spurs who share his faith and have no problem letting the fans know it (San Antonio Express-News)
- Playing basketball at Duke aids Suddath in sharing his faith | Jim Suddath never has a problem striking up a conversation. All he has to do is mention he played basketball at Duke University for Coach K, and a five-minute chat is guaranteed. That comes in handy when he feels a need to share his faith with someone new. (The Jackson Sun, Tenn.)
- Players use diamond as pulpit to spread the word | Indianapolis Servants play in the Great Lakes Collegiate League (The Indianapolis Star)
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