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eNews for Faith-Based Organizations
November 30, 2010

Editor: Stanley Carlson-Thies
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in this issue
Lame Duck Mischief?
Persistent Myths About Religious Hiring
Is Giving to Religion Up or Down?
Using the State To Impose Your Views
Apple Apps Caught up in the Culture War Against Supporters of Marriage?
More Evidence: The Societal Importance of Religion and Religious Freedom
Important Reading
Will You Support IRFA?
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Lame Duck Mischief

What will be in the budget bill that Congress passes within the next few days?  Will it be a status quo, short-term measure that simply keeps the federal government running until sometime in January, when the new Congress, with its new--drastically different--membership, swings into operations?  Or will it be a last-gasp effort by the lame duck Congress, with its many members who were repudiated at the polls, to promote activist government?  And if it is an activist measure, will it include the language that radicals have been aiming for:  language banning religious hiring by any faith-based organization that gets federal dollars? 

Such a universal ban would be unprecedented--in many federally funded programs (including those administered by state and local governments), there has never been a restriction on religious hiring by participating faith-based organizations.  But activist groups (ACLU, Americans United, Human Rights Campaign, and others) and congressional opponents of religious hiring have been angling for such a ban, disappointed that the Obama administration has not acted on its own to ban the freedom.  A ban applied through a continuing resolution would expire when the resolution does.  Still, while it is in effect the many faith-based organizations that consider it essential to pay attention to the religious convictions of staff and applicants would be faced with the hard decision of how to maintain services without the aid of federal money. 

How did we end up facing the possibility of a "stealth" universal ban on religious hiring?  Well, the federal government will have to shut down if Congress does not pass a budget bill by Friday, December 3.  That's the day that the current continuing budget resolution, which was adopted just before Congress took a break before the November elections, expires.  And Congress had to pass that stop-gap resolution to keep the government going because, although the federal fiscal year began last October 1, Congress has yet to pass any of the dozen appropriations bills that are the approved way to fund the operations of the federal government. 

Because a budget bill is a "must-pass" bill, the opportunity for mischief is heightened.  Staff in many congressional offices are watching carefully for damaging language.

Faith-based organizations and their supporters need to remain vigilant over the next few days.  Many organizations, including IRFA, will send out an emergency alert asking that Capitol switchboards be flooded with calls if bad language is sneaked into the budget bill.
Persistent Myths About Religious Hiring
The Executive Order on "Fundamental Principles and Policymaking Criteria for Partnerships with Faith-Based and Other Neighborhood Organizations" that President Obama issued on November 17th (story here) essentially ratifies the rules for government funding of faith-based organizations that were developed during the Clinton administration ("Charitable Choice" laws) and the Bush administration ("Equal Treatment" regulations).  The Executive Order was silent about the important issue of religious hiring by faith-based organizations that receive federal funds. 

That silence prompted predictable outrage by critics of the religious hiring freedom.  Alas, their protests contain predictable myths about the freedom.

The New York Times fumed that President Obama had again failed to institute the complete ban on religious hiring by recipients of federal funds that candidate Obama had promised.  The Times editorialized:  "Groups running worthy social service programs should not be disqualified from receiving federal financing simply because they have a religious affiliation.  But they should get no special exemption from antidiscrimination laws.  Public money should not be used to underwrite discrimination."

Oops.  Religious hiring is a protected freedom structured into our premier civil rights law, the 1964 Civil Rights Act (Title VII).  It is emphatically not a "special exemption from antidiscrimination laws."  Moreover, according to that Civil Rights Act, religious hiring by religious organizations (for any and all positions in the organization) is emphatically not discrimination--action that must be stamped out.  Instead, it is a carefully and fully protected freedom and right.

Robert Marus' report on the Executive Order for the Associated Baptist Press promoted another of the perennial myths:  "As a candidate in 2008, Obama promised to reverse President George W. Bush's policy of [allowing] government-funded religious groups to take faith into account when hiring."  Indeed, candidate Obama did promise an unprecedented universal ban. 

But religious hiring by faith-based organizations that receive federal funds is a practice that long predates the Bush administration.  Only a few federal programs (for example, Head Start) have ever banned religious hiring by participating organizations.  The Bush administration only clarified how extensive the religious hiring freedom actually is (and expanded it slightly:  authorizing faith-based organizations that hire by religion to accept federal contracts to provide services to the federal government--an entirely different matter than federal grants to organizations to provide social, educational, and health services to other people). 

Because the religious hiring freedom was not created by the Bush administration but already existed in most federal programs, many faith-based organizations that consider religion to be an important job qualification have for many decades partnered with the federal government to provide many important services.  And they have reminded the federal government that if that important hiring freedom were to be banned, they could no longer collaborate with the federal government to serve the needy. 

My guess:  the Obama administration knows that the religious hiring freedom was not created by the Bush administration but instead is a long-standing and widespread practice by very many of the federal government's trusted and long-term partners.  Banning the practice would cause utter chaos in federally funded services and result in great hardship for many individuals, families, and communities that depend on federally funded services delivered by faith-based organizations that preserve their religious identity by considering religion when hiring.  That's why President Obama hasn't fulfilled the rash promise of candidate Obama.
Is Giving to Religion Up or Down?
The news about charitable giving in general is not heartening.  As the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability recently noted, the Chronicle of Philanthropy reports that giving to the 400 US charities that raise the most money from private donors fell 11 percent in 2009 compared to 2008, while a Giving USA Foundation report says that during the same period giving to charities across the nation dropped 3.6 percent.

On the other hand, ECFA says that giving to its members dropped only 0.7 percent in 2009 compared to the previous year, and giving to some of its member charities--including those involved in adoption, child sponsorship, and orphan care--actually went up considerably. 

Similarly, a recent report from Empty Tomb Inc. says that giving to churches is down significantly, while noting a continued decline in spending by churches on outward activities such as evangelism and community services.  In sharp contrast, donations to parachurch organizations are up significantly.  It is not likely a coincidence that parachurch organizations are dedicated, in the main, exactly to: outward activities such as evangelism and service to the poor and needy.
Using the State to Impose Your Views
Greg Baylor, a top church-state lawyer with the Alliance Defense Fund, notes that the US Conference of Catholic Bishops will engage in a review of how faithful to Catholic views Catholic colleges and universities are, and points out how unpopular such a review is for many critics of the Catholic hierarchy (both inside and outside of Catholic institutions).  Some regard such a review as an unacceptable threat to academic freedom and think that academic institutions subject to such religious review ought not receive accreditation as authentic institutions of learning.  The review is an outcome of Pope John Paul II's 1990 document Ex corde Ecclesiae, which set out criteria for Catholic higher education institutions.

Baylor comments that, whether the bishops' review is advisable or not, "this is exactly the sort of internal dispute that the civil government should stay out of.  It is up to the church to decide how its universities should operate.  The secular government should not interfere.  Many--particularly those on the secular left--are so focused on achieving what they believe is the 'right' outcome that they have little regard for the constitutional and prudential limitations on the role of government in such situations.  They are less solicitous of 'sphere sovereignty' or 'subsidiarity' than they ought to be.  Let us hope that dissenters from Ex corde Ecclesiae are unable to invoke the power of the civil magistrate to achieve their desired results.  Genuine religious freedom demands nothing less."


HT to Richard Garnett.
Apple Apps Caught Up in the Culture War Against Supporters of Marriage 
Apparently the App Store has removed the Manhattan Declaration App in response to an online petition claiming that the Declaration is anti-woman and anti-gay.  In fact the Declaration stands up for the pro-life cause, marriage as we've known it, and religious freedom that enables believers and their organizations to follow their convictions even when those convictions don't mirror the current consensus. 

Robert Vischer comments at the Mirror of Justice Catholic legal blog, "To be clear, I do consider some of the rhetoric employed in opposition to SSM [Same-Sex Marriage] to amount to hate speech (under virtually any imaginable definition of "hate speech"), but I fear that we're approaching the point where opposition to SSM itself is considered hate speech, regardless of the rhetoric employed."

Besides Apple's action, note the recent labeling by the Southern Poverty Law Center of various organizations as hatefully anti-gay because of their strong pro-marriage positions (which may not always be perfectly expressed, of course).
More Evidence:  The Societal Importance of Religion and Religious Freedom
From Robert D. Putnam and David E. Campbell, American Grace:  How Religion Divides and Unites Us (Simon & Schuster, 2010):  Regular church-goers are more likely than others to volunteer for both religious and secular causes.  Religious people "give more to both religious and nonreligious causes" than do secular folks.  And religious people "are up to twice as active civically as secular Americans."

From a Chuck Colson Breakpoint commentary, reflecting on an October conference on "Religious Freedom and National Security Policy" held at Georgetown University's Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs:  "University of Texas professor Will Imboden . . . showed how any erosion in a country's religious freedom invariably signals the erosion of all other liberties and human rights.  Governments that are not committed to religious liberty become increasingly intolerant and coercive, insisting that they have a monopoly on truth that must be forced on others."
Important Reading
Robin Fretwell Wilson, "Insubstantial Burdens:  The Case for Government Employee Exemptions to Same-Sex Marriage Laws," Northwestern Journal of Law and Social Policy, Fall, 2010.  [make article title a link to :
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The Institutional Religious Freedom Alliance works to safeguard the religious identity, faith-based standards and practices, and faith-shaped services of faith-based organizations across the range of service sectors and religions, enabling them to make their distinctive and best contributions to the common good.