ACLU of Louisiana Opposes Renewed White House Push for Taxpayer Funded Religious Discrimination

Affiliate: ACLU of Louisiana
January 15, 2004 12:00 am

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ACLU of Louisiana
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NEW ORLEANS — Responding to President Bush’s renewed lobbying for his controversial faith-based initiative in New Orleans yesterday, the American Civil Liberties Union of Louisiana today reiterated its concern at the unilateral way in which the White House is pushing its agenda — which was rejected by Congress — and warned that the new approach would permit religious organizations to use taxpayer funds to discriminate in employment and the provision of services based on religion.

“”The White House had its hat handed to it by Congress and is now trying to use the regulatory process to steamroll through its unpopular plan to allow federally funded religious groups to discriminate in employment and to divert federal dollars, meant for key social services, to religious activities,”” said Joe Cook, Executive Director of the ACLU of Louisiana.

“”Let’s be absolutely clear, this is about giving churches and other houses of worship unregulated tax dollars to do with as they will,”” Cook added. “”With our tax dollars, religious organizations will be able to hire or fire people because they believe differently than the prevailing faith. The question isn’t can churches do the work — they can and do it well while playing by the rules. The question is whether we, the people, want to pay for discrimination in America.””

At its core, the faith-based initiative is not about providing additional social services to the needy — many religious organizations, including the Catholic Charities, already do so while agreeing not to discriminate in the actual administration of those services. Accordingly, they retain their religious character, fulfill their charitable mandate, and do so in a way that ensures that the best-qualified people are the ones providing the services.

As the ACLU and others have pointed out, the “faith-based initiative” is purely about giving these tax-dollar funded groups a blank check to discriminate in how they hire and to whom they provide services. Also, importantly, a Ford Foundation-funded study out of Indiana University disputes the central premise of the Bush plan: that faith-based programs are more effective than their secular counterparts at delivering social services.

Additionally, the tactics used by the President to circumvent a Republican-controlled Congress are further evidence of the complete lack of popular support for the plan. Congress wouldn’t accept taxpayer-funded religious discrimination. But rather than compromise and work within the political process, the President has decided to circumvent public and congressional opinion — through the obscure federal regulatory process — in his quest to allow religious discrimination in the workplace.

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