Today's revelation in The Washington Post that the Bush administration has been negotiating a secret quid pro quo - support for its proposed government funding for religious groups in exchange for immunity from some state and local anti-discrimination laws - offers strong evidence that the administration's so-called "faith-based" proposal would imperil fundamental rights. The deal is reportedly directed in particular at state and local laws that protect gays and lesbians from employment discrimination.
Responding to the published details of this secret deal, People For the American Way's President Ralph G. Neas said:
"It is appalling that President Bush is even considering trading away America's promise of equal protection under the law in exchange for lobbying help for his misguided and unconstitutional proposal. Using taxpayers' money to fund religious organizations is a stunningly dangerous idea for freedom and this secret deal between the administration and the Salvation Army is the proof.
"This proposed arrangement would create a kind of civil rights-free zone in which religious organizations that receive federal money would be able to flout laws passed by state and local governments to protect their citizens from workplace discrimination. It is a shockingly hypocritical agreement, especially coming from an administration that claims to be committed to the protection of state and local rights.
"The administration's denial that it has reached an agreement with the Salvation Army only makes matters worse, since it acknowledges that negotiations are in the works. The reported Bush-Salvation Army arrangement powerfully illustrates why government money and government policy must not become entangled in religion and previous administrations have wisely sought to maintain government neutrality toward religion. Religious groups that choose to discriminate against any group of Americans must not be rewarded by the federal government for doing so. President Bush should learn from his predecessors, and Congress should learn from this terrible blunder and vote down the President's government-funded religion proposal."