Should Religious Groups be free from Anti-Discrimination Laws?

The Rev. Jim Wallis, a political voice in his own right, has responded to a recent action by religious leaders who have asked that the Attorney General remove protections for religious groups who discrimination in hiring. His basic answer is that theses religious groups should discriminate in providing services (note, that they groups are those who receive money from the ‘Faith-Based’ office in the White House (something I have been against since the last Administration created it.) but can hire to preserve religious identity.

This post responds to the following question posed on The Washington Post’s “On Faith” forum: Dozens of major religious groups and denominations are urging Atty. Gen. Eric H. Holder Jr. to renounce a Bush-era memo that allows faith-based charities that receive federal funding to discriminate in hiring. Should religious charities that receive federal grant money be allowed to discriminate in hiring?

The question is wrongly asked. It should have been asked like this: Should religious organizations be allowed to hire people of their own faith tradition and persuasion in order to maintain their identity? To that, my answer is yes. Nobody likes the word “discriminate,” nor wants to do it. And faith-based providers of social services should never “discriminate” in who is receiving their services, nor should they demand religious requirements or commitments for those services. When it comes to offering our compassion and comfort, we should be adamant in our “non-discrimination.” The government should be extremely vigilant in making sure that no discrimination in services is occurring, especially if the faith-based organization is receiving any public funds in the provision of those services. But service provision is not the same thing as hiring.

Discrimination in Services — No. Protection of Faith Identity — Yes – Jim Wallis – God’s Politics Blog.

Joel L. Watts
Joel L. Watts holds a Masters of Arts from United Theological Seminary with a focus in literary and rhetorical criticism of the New Testament. He is currently a Ph.D. student at the University of the Free State, analyzing Paul’s model of atonement in Galatians. He is the author of Mimetic Criticism of the Gospel of Mark: Introduction and Commentary (Wipf and Stock, 2013), a co-editor and contributor to From Fear to Faith: Stories of Hitting Spiritual Walls (Energion, 2013), and Praying in God's Theater, Meditations on the Book of Revelation (Wipf and Stock, 2014).

4 thoughts on “Should Religious Groups be free from Anti-Discrimination Laws?

  1. In a word: sorta. When religious groups enter the public square either commercially or through public subsidy, they should be bound by the same equal treatment laws as any other privately-held enterprise.Churches are greedy–they want their tax-exempt status & related benefits, but they also want to break the law by discriminating, endorsing candidates/bills, and conducting other political activities. They should have to organize according to their actual activities, not their perceived goals.

  2. Now, Rob, what churches do you know what really do what you listed in the second paragraph? Surely they wouldn't break the law?I believe that the worse thing a church can do, well, among the worse things, is to take money from the government. You are right, when they start to take public money, then they should answer to public laws. Again, this is why I am against the faith based office, of any administration.

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