For Immediate Release
Contact: Paul Fidalgo
Phone: (207) 358-9785
September 18, 2009
Center for Inquiry Joins Coalition Partners in Urging Attorney General to Rescind Faith-Based Rule Allowing Discrimination in Hiring
Washington, D.C. -- The Center for Inquiry (CFI) has today added its signature to a letter from a coalition of 57 other organizations committed to civil rights and religious freedom urging Attorney General Eric Holder to review and withdraw a rule connected to "faith-based" funding that groups believe pave the way for discriminatory hiring practices.
The Department of Justice Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) in June of 2007 crafted a legal memo arguing that the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) grants religious organizations leeway to discriminate, as they see fit, on religious grounds when hiring staff in taxpayer-funded programs.
The joint letter
sent to Holder today presents a case against this interpretation of the RFRA. “CFI found it imperative to demonstrate our vigorous support for the withdrawal of this rule,” said Toni Van Pelt, Policy Director for the Office of Public Policy, the lobbying arm of the Center for Inquiry. “We are strongly opposed to religious discrimination in hiring and to the misuse of taxpayers’ funds for religious purposes. We hope that the Obama administration will see fit to reverse this assault perpetrated by the Bush administration on fundamental rights guaranteed under the first amendment."
Calling the Bush administrations interpretation of RFRA “far-fetched,” the letter goes on to declare that “The OLC Memo’s interpretation that the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 (“RFRA”) provides for a blanket override of statutory nondiscrimination provisions is erroneous and threatens core civil rights and religious freedom protections,” and is “not justified under applicable legal standards.”
The organizations argue that RFRA, passed in 1993, was “in essence…intended to provide robust protection of free exercise rights, restoring a standard of strict scrutiny to federal laws that substantially burden religion.” But RFRA, they say, was not intended to gut federal civil rights laws because the government has a compelling interest in enforcing them.
The Center for Inquiry, along with many other groups that endorsed this letter, is a member of the Coalition Against Religious Discrimination. The Coalition argues that religious groups that accept public funds should be required to meet federal civil rights laws.
In addition to the Center for Inquiry, the following groups signed the letter: African American Ministers in Action; American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee; American Association of University Women; Americans United for Separation of Church and State; Asian American Justice Center; American Civil Liberties Union; American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, AFL-CIO; American Humanist Association; American Jewish Committee; Americans for Religious Liberty; Anti-Defamation League; Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty; Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law; B’nai B’rith International; Central Conference of American Rabbis; Disciples Justice Action Network; Equal Partners in Faith; Friends Committee on National Legislation; Interfaith Alliance; Hadassah, the Women's Zionist Organization of America; Hindu American Foundation; Human Rights Campaign; Japanese American Citizens League; Jewish Council for Public Affairs; Lambda Legal; Leadership Conference on Civil Rights; Legal Momentum; NAACP; NA’AMAT USA; National Center for Lesbian Rights; National Community Action Foundation; National Council of Jewish Women; National Council of La Raza; National Gay and Lesbian Task Force; National Education Association; National Employment Lawyers Association; National Ministries, American Baptist Churches USA; National Organization for Women; National Partnership for Women and Families; National Women’s Law Center; OMB Watch; People For the American Way; The Rabbinical Assembly; Rainbow PUSH Coalition; Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice; Secular Coalition for America; Sexuality Information and Education Council of the U.S.; Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund; Sikh Council on Religion and Education; Texas Faith Network; Texas Freedom Network; Union for Reform Judaism; Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations; United Church of Christ Justice and Witness Ministries; United Methodist Church, General Board of Church and Society; Women of Reform Judaism; Women’s Law Project.
The Center for Inquiry (CFI) is a nonprofit, educational, advocacy, and scientific-research think tank based in Amherst, New York committed to fostering a secular society based on science, reason, freedom of inquiry, and humanist values. The Center’s Web site is www.centerforinquiry.net . CFI’s Office of Public Policy (OPP) is the Washington D.C .lobbying arm of the Center for Inquiry. The OPP’s mandate is to lobby Congress and the Administration on issues related to science and secularism. Their Web site can be found at www.centerforinquiry.net/opp