Tuesday, March 08, 2005
Thanks to our distinguished colleague Doug Ireland for alerting us to the following L.A. Times article on the Justice Department's three-year-old religious-rights unit, which is doing its level best to erase the wall of separation between church and state:
The Salvation Army was accused in a lawsuit of imposing a new religious litmus test on employees hired with millions of dollars in public funds.The same DoJ unit intervened a couple of years back when Texas Tech professor Michael Dini refused to write letters of recommendation for biology students who did not believe in evolution.
When employees complained that they were being required to embrace Jesus Christ to keep their jobs, the Justice Department's civil rights division took the side of the Salvation Army.
Defending the right of an employer using public funds to discriminate is one of the more provocative steps taken by a little-known arm of the civil rights division and its special counsel for religious discrimination.
The Justice Department's religious-rights unit, established three years ago, has launched a quiet but ambitious effort aimed at rectifying what the Bush administration views as years of illegal discrimination against religious groups and their followers.
Many court decisions have affirmed the rights of individuals in the public sector not to have religious beliefs imposed on them — the Supreme Court ruling banning school-sponsored prayer in public schools among them. And courts have ruled that the rights of religious groups sometimes need protection too — upholding, for example, their right to have access to public buildings for meetings.
But the argument that a religious institution spending public funds has the right to require employees to embrace its beliefs — and that it will be backed by the Justice Department in doing so — has changed the debate. It is an argument the Bush administration is making in Congress as well as in the courts . . . .
The department's position in the case — that religious groups should be able to hire or fire people based on their religious views, even when administering publicly funded programs — is a cornerstone of President Bush's faith-based initiative. The initiative is channeling hundreds of millions of U.S. taxpayer dollars to churches and other religious groups to deliver social services.