Thursday, October 15, 2009
Steve writes, here, that it is "possible to exaggerate the need for faith-based organizations to discriminate in the provision of social services." I suppose that's right. That said, I will go into broken-record mode and say that, in my view, it is a mistake to refer to or think about hiring-for-mission as "discrimination." Hiring-for-mission is not bad. It is not something shameful that religious groups are asking the government to tolerate or overlook. It is entirely appropriate for faith-based programs to hire-for-mission, and the fact that they do should not, in my view, cause us any concern when we think about funding their social-welfare operations.
Steve says "the real issue is not about discrimination, but about proselytizing." Again, I do not think we are talking about "discrimination," properly understood, at all. As for proselytizing, we want to be careful about defining the term, but I think Steve's right, and that it is reasonable for the public authority to say "use our public funds for the public purpose that justifies our giving you these funds, and not for something else" (whatever that "something else" might be).
Here, the principle matters. And, as I see it, the principle is that there is nothing that should bother a decent political community about religious social-welfare organizations hiring for mission. (The hiring question, by the way, is different from the client-service question. I think it is clear that the government can say, "if you want the money, serve all comers.")