ACLU Blasts Bush Executive Order Allowing Discrimination in Workplace

December 12, 2002 12:00 am

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WASHINGTON – In response to President Bush’s new executive order that imposes by White House fiat much of his plan for government-funded religion, the American Civil Liberties Union said the sure result of the move will be blatant discrimination by religious groups in how they hire and to whom they provide taxpayer-funded services.

The ACLU also suggested that the President’s decision to circumvent a solidly Republican Congress is further evidence of the complete lack of popular support for the plan.

“Congress wouldn’t accept taxpayer-funded religious discrimination last year – and President Bush knew it wouldn’t in 2003 either,” said Christopher Anders, an ACLU Legislative Counsel. “But rather than compromise and work within the political process, the President has decided to circumvent public and congressional opinion in his quest to allow religious discrimination in the workplace.”

President Bush traveled to Philadelphia today to make the announcement. According to media reports, the executive order gives the federal government a freer hand to funnel public money for social services to religiously based providers. The ACLU and other civil rights groups object strongly to the plan because it would allow these religious groups to use taxpayer dollars to discriminate in hiring and the provision of services.

As an example of the behavior that would be validated by the President’s plan, the ACLU pointed to a Georgia lawsuit, filed by the Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund against the United Methodist Children’s Home in Decatur. In it, a Jewish psychotherapist named Alan Yorker is demanding damages because the home explicitly denied him employment based on his religion — even after it admitted that he was the most qualified candidate. In fact, an administrator freely told Yorker that he was rejected because he is Jewish and told another applicant that resumes with Jewish names are automatically thrown out.

Ironically, Yorker’s grandfather had, a century before, faced similar discrimination by the New York Central Railroad, which laid off dozens of Jewish and African-American workers during a national recession. In response to being fired, his grandfather actually changed his name to Yorker in the hope that such discrimination would never visit itself on his children or grandchildren.

The ACLU said that despite the Administration’s inclusion of the faith-based initiative among its top priorities for the last two years, charities and the American public have shown a remarkable lack of enthusiasm for the program.

“The President should listen to the real concerns of America’s charities,” Anders said. “The wide consensus is that what’s needed is more money and better training – not the ability to refuse to help or to fire people because they happen not to agree with one’s religious beliefs.”

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