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House Allows Religious Discrimination in Hiring

The House passed a measure yesterday that will allow religious groups receiving federal funds for job-training programs to discriminate in their hiring practices on the basis of religion. The bill, which passed 220-204, is part of the reauthorization of the 1998 Workforce Investment Act, which provides $6.6 billion for job-training programs for over 19 million people through One-Stop Career Centers, according to the Associated Press. A 1982 law prohibited religious organizations from discriminating on the basis of “race, color, religious, or sex”; the current bill removes “religion” from that list, according to Cox News Service.

This move by the House is the latest in a series of regulatory and legislative efforts to increase taxpayer funding for “faith-based” organizations and to infuse religion in politics. Last December, Bush signed an executive order allowing religious groups to receive federal funding even if they discriminate in hiring on the basis of religion.

Meanwhile, the job training guidelines for religious organizations seeking grants have been altered by the Employment and Training Administration of the Department of Labor. Guidelines published on April 4 specifically prohibit instruction in “religion or sacred literature,” but in revised guidelines published on April 18 the words “sacred literature” have been removed. Likewise, the April 18 text omits entirely a line in the April 4 guidelines reading, “The services provided under these grants must be secular and non-ideological.” The Boston Globe could not get comments from the Department of Labor about why the guidelines were changed. “They went to the trouble of putting out an amended notice to strike [a] section and to strike out ‘sacred literature,’ ” said Christopher Anders, legislative counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union, according to the Globe. Anders called the change “a wink and a nod to religious organizations” to use religious materials in their job training programs, the Globe reports.

Sources:

Associated Press 5/9/03; Cox News Service 5/9/03; Federal Register 4/4/03, 4/18/03; Boston Globe 5/8/03; Feminist Daily News Wire

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