Saturday, September 24, 2005

Republican-Led House Passes Bill Allowing Religious Discrimination

This is what happens when you have Republican leaders who don't respect separation of church and state.

The House voted Sept. 22 to allow religious institutions running preschools to practice religious discrimination when making hiring decisions -- and still receive federal Head Start funding.

The Associated Press reports the amendment passed 220-196, essentially split along party lines.

Rep. John Boehner (R-OH), chairman of the House Education Committee, said the bill ensures that faith-based centers "aren't forced to choose between relinquishing their identities or being shut out of the program altogether."

But that's just empty conservative spin. In reality, Boehner is saying that the bill ensures that faith-based centers aren't forced to choose between religious discrimination and being shut out of the program altogether.

Taken a step further, ending protections against religious discrimination just opens the door for another member of Congress to propose ending protections against racial discrimination. Or discrimination against the disabled. And ending those protections would be just as ludicrous as ending the protection against religious discrimination. The only difference -- conservative Republicans, working on behalf of the religious right, have no interest in fighting the other discrimination protections.

Does one have to be Catholic to teach in a Catholic pre-school? Jewish to teach in a Jewish pre-school? In most cases, yes. And that' s why Catholics apply for Catholic school positions and Jews apply for Jewish school posts. But does an English as a Second Language teacher need to be any particular religion? What about an art teacher? A music teacher? Let's be clear, the provisions don't only affect full-time teachers -- they affect part-time staff, volunteers, and any other "hires."

The Republican-led plan would allow for religious schools to discriminate against worthy applicants of other religions. The schools could ask what religion an applicant is -- going against other federal guidelines -- and then, for the sake of not "relinquishing their identities," could justify not hiring worthy candidates of other religions, solely because of their religion.

***

To be sure, the House (and potentially the Senate, which is considering similar legislation) are following the directive of President Bush, who in May announced an executive order setting such a policy for federal administrative agencies. He then wrote a letter encouraging the House and Senate to remove "hiring rights" restrictions affecting religious schools.

"Hiring rights," as you may have guessed, is the Orwellian (aka Luntzian) term for allowing religious schools to discriminate.

You have to wonder why such a provision was necessary. According to civil liberties experts, in the 33-year history of Head Start, no participants -- religious or otherwise -- have been hindered by the provision.

Why was it necessary? Because our Minister in Chief is beholden to the religious right, which has for more than two decades made a concerted effort to weaken, if not eliminate, separation of church and state.

***

Democrats voiced their displeasure on the House floor.

Rep. George Miller of California, the ranking Democrat on the Education Committee, said the religion provision marred an otherwise strong bill. "That is wrong," Miller said. "It is a violation of our civil rights laws and it has sunk the chances of making this important bill a truly bipartisan bill."

"Congress should not be in the business of supporting state-sponsored discrimination," said Rep. Alcee Hastings (D-FL).

***

Should the legislation proceed as expected, a court battle may follow.

"Head Start should be about putting qualified teachers in the classrooms, and not about using public money to require people to pass a religious litmus test," said Caroline Fredrickson, Director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office.

In addition to the ACLU, and a broad coalition of over 100 religious, education, civil rights, civil liberties and social service providers, the National Head Start Association opposes the attempts to roll back the civil rights protections, and has stated that it will oppose the underlying bill if the amendment is adopted.

11 Comments:

Blogger Unadulterated Underdog said...

Nice post and nice site David!

I am very much a Christian (though nowhere near a good one) but I happen to believe strongly in the separation of church and state. I've been telling people for years that Bush and the GOP'ers aren't truly religious but to no avail. He has given them each a Jesus hood to pull over their face whenever a liberal or other reality-based person comes near. As to the NeoCon Party, they are using religion to get votes only so they can do whatever crooked thing their black little hearts desire. They give a few rewards to the religious zealots just to remind them that the NeoCon Central Committee hasn't forgotten them and then they continue to gauge America. Nothing they do is pro-American or truly pro-Christian. Jesus would never have endorsed what they do and yet they still do so many terrible things in his name. Hypocrites...

8:51 PM  
Blogger Unadulterated Underdog said...

PS- I've added your site to my blogroll.

8:51 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

1:24 AM  
Blogger Buckeye Beauford said...

Can you please explain HOW allowing a religious organization to maintain its religious identity while providing Head Start services amounts to a collusion of "church and state?" The Civil Rights Act of 1964 makes it pretty clear that faith-based organizations can hire on the basis on religion and it is not discrimination -- it's a first amendment right to assemble as they wish, not to mention a first amendment right against government telling them who they may and may not hire. Faith-based organizations participate in other federal programs - including ones created by the Clinton Admin - and they're allowed to hire who they feel is best. What makes this different?

5:13 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think you are misreading the act. Maybe you heard this version of things on conservative talk radio, but a lot of other people out there think that it's discriminatory to practice religious discrimination.

10:17 AM  
Anonymous marmar said...

My country 'tis of thee... I never thought I'd see such a scary socio-political environment in this country.

10:17 AM  
Anonymous tanyev said...

Welcome to the Republic of Gilead.

10:18 AM  
Anonymous renie408 said...

Ahhh....The Hits Just Keep Coming

10:18 AM  
Blogger Jeff said...

In the original post, David wrote: "But does an English as a Second Language teacher need to be any particular religion? What about an art teacher? A music teacher?"

I have seen and heard about plenty of instances where the teacher/professor bluntly spoke about their beliefs even though the class was not religion-based, often undermining Christianity in subtle but not uncertain terms. Yet it seems liberals are fine with New Age practices and teaching children to learn Muslim prayer customs by acting them out, etc.

4:41 PM  
Anonymous rob of wilmington, del. said...

Jeff, that's a B.S. statement, and you know it.

Who is suggesting that a religious school should hire someone to teach New Age (or Atheist) beliefs? Or beliefs of another religion?

That's not the point, and you know it.

The point is, should a Catholic school be able to deny a Protestant art teacher from taking a part-time position, simply because they are Protestant? Should a Hebrew school be allowed to nix a school administrator who happens to be Catholic, just because they are Catholic?

In all cases, we are talking about candidates of equal value. In the twisted world you have created, Jeff, you are suggesting a Catholic school be forced to select a lesser candidate who would teach Atheist or Muslim songs, in an effort to destroy the religious school.

That sort of twisted logic may make for good discussion on conservative talk radio, but those of us in the reality-based universe know better.

5:05 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"I have seen and heard about plenty of instances where the teacher/professor bluntly spoke about their beliefs even though the class was not religion-based, often undermining Christianity in subtle but not uncertain terms."

Jeff, it sounds like you are talking about a public school. That has nothing to do with the legislation being considered, which only affects religious schools.

5:06 PM  

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