Bush Authorizes Public Funding of Religious Discrimination

Executive Orders By-Pass Congress, Permit Religious Groups to Discriminate Using Federal Funds

The White House today ordered federal agencies to allow religious groups that discriminate in hiring to receive federal tax dollars to operate social services.

Before announcing his administration’s orders, President Bush criticized Sen. Trent Lott’s recent comments that the nation would be a much better place today if Strom Thurmond had won his 1948 presidential bid.

Bush called Lott’s comments “offensive and wrong.” The president then declared that his administration is guided by principles of equal dignity and equal rights for every American.

“President Bush says his policy is designed to put religious groups on an equal footing, but in fact he has created a special right for religious groups to discriminate using tax dollars, something other groups are forbidden from doing,” said Ralph G. Neas, president of People For the American Way. “Far from championing equal rights, the president is endorsing tax-funded discrimination.”

Speaking in Philadelphia to a gathering of religious leaders, Bush signed executive orders that will ensure that religious institutions can receive federal tax dollars even if they refuse to hire employees because of their religious beliefs or lack thereof. Such an exemption from federal civil rights laws will not be available to non-religious charitable groups.

Last year, the president failed to get his faith-based bill through Congress. Although the House passed the bill, the Senate could not muster enough votes, primarily because of the bill’s provisions allowing religious groups to discriminate in hiring.

This morning in an NPR interview, the Director of the White House office of faith based initiatives Jim Towey said that religious groups that refuse to hire certain people, such as nonbelievers or gays, should not be barred from federal funds to operate social services.

“The president’s words in support of equal rights for all Americans contrast sharply with his orders giving religious groups the ability to use tax dollars to discriminate against citizens who have different beliefs or no religious beliefs at all,” Neas said. “The president in fact has put the power of the federal government and our tax dollars behind discrimination.”

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