Tuesday, August 25, 2015
There was a fair amount of hoopla occasioned by the release of this letter, from Americans United for the Separation of Church and State (formerly "Protestants and Other Americans United . . . .). and about 130 other advocacy and activist organizations. In a nutshell, they are complaining about -- and want the Administration to abandon -- the practice of allowing religious social-welfare organizations that cooperate with the federal government (or, as they put it, "receive federal funding") to address important and entirely "secular" needs and problems to staff and hire for mission (or, as they put it, to "engage in religious discrimination").
The Administration's policy is the correct one. No discrimination by these religious institutions *against beneficiaries* is permitted (nor should it be) but the government has wisely said (so far) that religious institutions that provide valuable services -- services that it is entirely appropriate for the government to fund -- are not tainted or otherwise rendered unworthy by virtue of the fact that they hire in accord with their religious mission. If this hiring is "discrimination", it is not wrongful discrimination, and so the federal government is right not to be bothered by it.
What's really going on here, of course, is troubling: These groups know full well that there is no pressing problem of religious social-welfare institutions denying employment opportunities to those who do not embrace those institutions' mission and animating values. In the long tradition of groups like Americans United, the signatories to this letter oppose Catholic schools and other institutions -- they object to the content of what those schools and other institutions teach and do -- and so they are hoping to roll back the principle underlying the Supreme Court's acceptance of school-voucher programs.