House Passes Job Training Bill That Undermines Equal Opportunity

Bill Would Permit Religious Organizations to Discriminate in Hiring While Receiving Federal Funds

The House of Representatives passed a bill lifting anti-discrimination requirements from the nation’s primary adult job training program. Defeating efforts to preserve civil rights protections that have been part of America’s modern job training program for decades, the House passed the “Workforce Reinvestment and Adult Education Act."

“Maintaining the separation between church and state is fundamental to protecting the religious freedoms of all Americans,” wrote People For the American Way President Ralph G. Neas and Public Policy Director Marge Baker in a letter to Representatives. “This can not be accomplished when organizations effectively use federal funds to deny employment opportunities based upon an individual’s religious beliefs.”

Proponents of removing the anti-discrimination language claim that the civil rights protections somehow interfere with the establishment of an organization’s religious identity. “This is simply not true,” said Neas. “Religious organizations have successfully partnered with the government to provide social services for decades successfully by separating their worship from their good work.”

Earlier this year, the Senate resisted efforts to include language which could have similarly removed restrictions on religious discrimination for faith-based organizations in the CARE Act. Nevertheless, the Bush administration has moved this type of work forward by executive fiat in several instances. Neas said these actions call for serious judicial and congressional oversight.

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