Statement on Employment Discrimination by Faith-Based Organizations

June 25, 2003

I am appalled that President Bush wants to make it easier for federal grantees to engage in employment discrimination.  I welcome legislation introduced today by Congressman Bobby Scott to overturn this affront to civil rights.

Faith-based organizations provide important social services in this country.  But when they use taxpayer dollars to deliver those services, certain basic legal rules apply.  One of those rules is that a recipient of federal funds may not hire or fire an employee because of race, gender, religion or sexual orientation.

Last December, President Bush issued an Executive Order that expressly permits such employment discrimination.  And yesterday he urged Congress to make it easier for religious organizations that receive federal funds to discriminate.
The President's radical proposal may please his far-right base, but it violates the Equal Protection Clause of the Constitution.  As the Supreme Court has said: "the Constitution does not permit the state to aid discrimination.

The Constitution protects the free exercise of religion, but it prohibits the use of public funds for religious discrimination. 
Now Congressman Scott has introduced legislation to nullify the executive order.  I applaud Bobby Scott for defending the civil and constitutional rights of American workers, and I support his bill.
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