White House Combats Religious Discrimination

  • August 8, 2016

On July 22, the White House hosted a Religious Discrimination Convening – culminating six months of community roundtables held across the country to highlight and institutionalize strategies to address religious discrimination.  Convening attendees heard from a number of federal officials, including Neil Eggleston, White House Counsel, Melissa Rogers, Faith-Based Office Executive Director, Jenny Yang, Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and Catherine Lhamon, Department of Education Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights.

The Anti-Defamation League’s Washington Counsel, Michael Lieberman, represented ADL on a panel on Preventing Religion-Based Hate Violence and Attacks on Houses of Worship.

(From left to right) John Walsh, US Attorney for Colorado Moderator;  Megan Mack, Department of Homeland Security; Robert Moossy, Department of Justice; Paul Montiero, Department of Justice; Michael Lieberman, Anti-Defamation League; Madihha Ahussain, Muslim Advocates.

(From left to right) John Walsh, US Attorney for Colorado Moderator; Megan Mack, Department of Homeland Security; Robert Moossy, Department of Justice; Paul Montiero, Department of Justice; Michael Lieberman, Anti-Defamation League; Madihha Ahussain, Muslim Advocates.

A number of new resources were unveiled at the event, including:

  • The Department of Justice (DOJ) released an excellent new report on religion-based discrimination,  The report presented findings from community roundtables, including disturbing trends of religion-based discrimination in education, employment, hate crimes, and land use.  Importantly, the report made a series of recommendations to address these issues and includes a comprehensive listing of federal resources to address religious discrimination.

 

DOJ has made fighting discrimination through the enforcement of the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA) a priority.  DOJ released an updated report on its enforcement of RLIUPA between 2010 and 2016.

  • The Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights unveiled a new section of its website devoted to Religious Discrimination.  The website aggregates relevant resources on bullying prevention and religious harassment.  In 2015-2016, for the first time, every public school in the nation will report to OCR on the number of religion-based bullying or harassment incidents in schools through the OCR data collection tool, Civil Rights Data Collection. Though they have collected bullying information since 2009, this is the first year they are asking for religious-based data.

In addition, OCR unveiled a revised online complaint form to clarify when it can investigate complaints from individuals who believe they have experienced racial, ethnic, or national origin discrimination involving their religion.

  • The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) announced it will collect more precise data about the religion of the individual alleging discrimination.  EEOC released released a fact sheet, in English and in Spanish, primarily designed for young workers to educate them about their rights under the law.

The Obama Administration has made addressing hate crimes and religious discrimination a priority.  These new resources and programmatic initiatives will help pave the way for further progress.

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