CFI Pushes Federal Agencies on Religious Discrimination

December 16, 2011

The following is a news update from the Center for Inquiry’s Office of Public Policy:

The Center for Inquiry (CFI) has again joined dozens of religious, education, civil rights, and health organizations working on the issue of federally funded religious discrimination, writing 13 faith-based offices within federal departments and agencies to clarify how they handle the issue of hiring discrimination by religious organizations receiving federal grants and contracts.

The letters were sent to the directors of faith-based offices within the Departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Labor, Health and Human Services, Justice, Housing and Urban Development, Education, Veterans Affairs, Homeland Security, along with the Environmental Protection Agency, the Small Business Administration, the U.S. Agency for International Development, and the Corporation for National and Community Service.

CFI previously joined member groups of the Coalition Against Religious Discrimination (CARD) on June 21, 2011, and again on Sept. 19, 2011, in writing President Barack Obama to issue an executive order that would reverse a 2002 executive order by President George W. Bush and close a loophole allowing religious discrimination on the taxpayers’ dime. Our letters reminded Obama of a pledge he made while campaigning in Zanesville, Ohio, on July 1, 2008. At the time, Obama said: “If you get a federal grant, you can’t use that grant money to proselytize to the people you help and you can’t discriminate against them — or against the people you hire — on the basis of their religion.”

The Obama administration did not formally reply to either letter, and has instead repeatedly told concerned secularists that it has “struck the right balance” on the subject, and determines whether religious groups are discriminating on the basis of religion with federal funds on a “case-by-case” basis. However, it has not defined what standards — if any — are used.

The new round of letters ask a number of questions on these supposed standards, including:

  1. What is the process for how your agency begins the “case-by-case” review of an organization that seeks to discriminate on the basis of religion with federal funds?
  2. Is there a process for a person who suspects federally funded religious discrimination is taking place to report a potential violation?
  3. If there have, in fact, been cases forwarded from your agency for review, (a) how many have there been; (b) what were the facts of those cases; and (c) what was the decision reached in each case?

You can join CFI in asking President Obama to end federally funded discrimination today by clicking here.