US Justice Department Religious Rights Division
March 7, 2005 10:45 AM   Subscribe

A Los Angeles Times article describes a Justice Department behavior rectifying years of "illegal discrimination against religious groups and their followers". Registration required. Found through the excellent How Appealing.
posted by the Real Dan (10 comments total)
More like "How Appalling." The Salvation Army case - what a twisted interpretation of constitutional law, and another compelling argument that workers' rights are almost a thing of the past.
Based on another complaint, the department investigated a biology professor at Texas Tech University two years ago who would not write letters of recommendation for students unless they affirmed a belief in the theory of evolution.

The professor, Michael Dini, said he was seeking to ensure that his students understood "the central, unifying principle of biology." He agreed to modify his policy under pressure from the Justice Department, requiring that students be able to explain the theory of evolution rather than actually believe in it.
Seriously? Wow. It is the central, unifying principle of biology, and anyone who doesn't understand (not believe) that deserves to fail. Chilling stuff all around, and an important read. Thanks.
posted by blendor at 11:05 AM on March 7, 2005

Dini, incidentally, is a devout Catholic, which made some of the caricatures of his position even more bizarre.
posted by thomas j wise at 11:39 AM on March 7, 2005

Well, this is a good thing, right? Because now I can get rid of people I don't like by firing them unless they support the religion I claim as my own.

Oh, wait, you mean it only works if the religion involves Jesus? So I can't fire you from my store because you won't sign a statement claiming fealty to [insert non-JeezyCreezy god here]?

posted by davejay at 12:00 PM on March 7, 2005

Further thought: does this mean that a punk rock record store can refuse to hire someone because they won't pay fealty to Satan, and get away with it?

Just askin'.
posted by davejay at 12:05 PM on March 7, 2005

I wasn't aware that there was widespread discrimination against overtly religious Christians at the federal government level during the Bush Adminstration.

Oh wait... that's because there isn't. In fact the DoJ and the federal government have been pushing hard to legally allow religious organizations to openly discriminate against non-Christians (DoJ, acc. to the article) and homosexuals (story here).

That whole "discrimination against the religious" argument seems like little more than a red herring.
posted by clevershark at 2:13 PM on March 7, 2005

The key paragraph in the article is:

"Bush has said he believes that, so long as they do not infuse their social programs with religious messages, religious groups should not have to sacrifice their religious character — by employing nonbelievers or followers of a different faith — in order to qualify for federal funds."

Of course, when Bush says religious groups, he means Christian groups. I could not find many links providing distrubution numbers, but the one (A Survey of Government-Funded Faith-Based Programs In 15 States) I did find spells it out:

2002 distributions in 15 states:
Evangelical Protestant 21%
Nondenominational Prot. 16%
Salvation Army 8%
Mainline Protestant 14%
Ecumenical 17%
Catholic 22%
Jewish 2%

Non-Christian charities need not apply.

One of the main barriers for Christian groups to applying for federal funding is the fear of losing control over such things as who they hire. These actions by the DOJ are an attempt to address those fears.
posted by Bort at 2:58 PM on March 7, 2005

Conservative Pre-2000: The gubbermint can't be trusted!!

Conservative today: The government is your friend. We make our own reality. Resistance is futile.
posted by UseyurBrain at 4:25 PM on March 7, 2005

If they're not going to infuse their social programs with religious messages, i.e. make religion an important part of what they do with the money they get from the state, then I'm not sure why it even matters what religion their employees are. You can say Christianity isn't "infused" into your programs, but if you go out of your way to only hire Christians (and only those from certain churches, as it sounds from the article), there's something not exactly religion-neutral going on there.
This article makes me mad at the admin. Again.
posted by PhatLobley at 6:06 PM on March 7, 2005

I am just so sick of this shit already.
posted by billsaysthis at 7:50 PM on March 7, 2005

Though I am not religious, I can see many justifications to not severing religious activities from governmental largess. And, I might add, that is exactly what we are talking about here. Because there is no constitutional framework for the federal government to be doing *any* funding of *any* group, not explicitly outlined in the constitution.

So, in for a penny, in for a pound. If the government feels no constraints on its expansion to a ridiculous degree beyond its constitutional limits, why should it feel limited in any way to obeying the Bill of Rights?

Expect to see this paradox crop up more and more when the federal government does the outlandish.

Now, some administrations like certain elements of the constitution and Bill of Rights, and decide to follow their interpretation of them. But it is only as a whim. There is no real constraint in that "scrap of paper", created so many years ago. No ethic that it should either be followed, or changed to reflect new circumstances, or discarded entirely.
Hardly a new phenomenon, George Washington ignored the constitution to launch his violent supression of the Whiskey Rebellion. Of late, I even wonder how many political leaders have even read the silly thing?

Surely King George III laughs at us from the grave.
posted by kablam at 8:22 PM on March 7, 2005

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