ADL, 130 Organizations Join Letter Calling For an End to Taxpayer-Funded Religious Discrimination

New York, NY, August 20, 2015 … The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) today sent a letter to President Obama with 130 other religious, education, civil rights, labor, LGBT, women’s and health organizations urging him to review the Justice Department’s legal justification for government-funded religious employment discrimination in faith-based social welfare service providers.

The letter calls on the President to direct the Justice Department to review its erroneous 2007 internal interpretation of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 (RFRA) allowing federal faith-based grant recipients to hire on the basis of religion for government-funded jobs. 

Barry Curtiss-Lusher, ADL National Chair, and Jonathan A. Greenblatt, ADL National Director, issued the following statement:

We have a deep appreciation for the vital role of religious institutions in addressing many of our nation’s most pressing social needs.    We have no desire to interfere with the ability of religious organizations to hire on the basis of religion with respect to their own, privately funded positions.  However, religious discrimination in hiring and firing for taxpayer-funded jobs is wrong. 

We applaud the fact that President Obama has addressed many of the original problems with the Bush Administration’s faith-based initiative.  Earlier this month, we welcomed the publication of the President’s proposed regulations designed to safeguard against proselytizing and discrimination for program participants and beneficiaries. 

However, the OLC RFRA Memo has not yet been addressed – it is unfinished business and an obstacle to establishing appropriate relationships between government and faith-based organizations that provide essential benefits for all Americans.

We urge the President — who was vocal about his opposition to these discriminatory practices during his first campaign in 2008 — to direct the Justice Department to review its flawed interpretation of RFRA to help end government-funded employment discrimination in faith-based social welfare programs.

Since it was first issued under the Bush Administration in 2007, the OLC Memo has been cited by other federal agencies and extended to other programs and grants, including, most recently, the 2013 Violence Against Women Act reauthorization.