Many Americans are involved in churches or religiously-affiliated organizations, and it is common for those groups to sponsor programs that provide valuable services to American society.From Catholic hospitals to Baptist charities, people of faith form a vast coalition that offers help and assistance to those in need.
With this reality in mind, after George W. Bush was elected President of the United States, he issued an executive order to establish an Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships to allow the government to partner with local groups to provide social services.From the beginning, liberals fought against the idea that the government would give funding to groups that hold religious beliefs (even though they are more than fine with the government giving hundreds of millions of dollars to liberal groups).
Liberals were even more incensed this week when, on November 17, President Obama issued an executive order on the Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships which made minor changes but, overall, did not greatly deviate from President Bushs guidelines.Their main beef was with the fact that President Obamas executive order did not address the issue of faith-based hiring by religious organizations.In their minds, even though religious organizations have rights under the law to hire those of like-minded beliefs, they should be forced to secularize if they receive federal funding.
On November 18, the House of Representatives held a Judiciary subcommittee hearing on faith-based initiatives to discuss this very issue.Representative Jerry Nadler (D-New York), an aggressive opponent of faith-based hiring practices, oversaw the hearing as the subcommittee chairman and did not hide the fact that he wanted religious organizations to be stripped of their hiring rights if their programs received federal funding.
Most of the witnesses called to testify attacked the rights of religious groups to hire like-minded individuals of faith, with the exception of Professor Douglas Laycock of the University of Virginia.Professor Laycock gave a strong argument for religious-based hiring, pointing out that if religious groups were stripped of their rights to hire those who supported their mission, they would no longer be able to carry out their purposes as religious organizations and would be forced by the government to become secular entities.
The purpose of the hearing, simply put, was to blast the religious-based hiring practices of faith groups.This became all too clear when Barry Lynn of Americans United for the Separation of Church and State stated his disgust at the thought that religious groups accepting federal funding for their social programs would be allowed to discriminate in their hiring and ensure that they hired individuals who supported the beliefs of their religious creed.
Thankfully, as conservative Republicans on the Judiciary committee later pointed out, the incoming Republican majority in the House will transform the committees ideological make-up and will hopefully be more supportive of religious freedoms for faith-based groups.In the meantime, liberals are using the lame duck session to try to shame the Obama administration into forbidding religious-based hiring practices.
As loud as the liberals pounded their fists in the House hearing, they cannot deny the reality that even the liberal White House recognizes that religious groups have a protected right to engage in faith-based hiring.It is a matter of religious freedom religious groups are religious groups, and they should not be coerced by the federal government to become secular ones.