Groups press Obama on religious hiring

September 19, 2011

WASHINGTON (RNS) Dozens of religious and civil rights organizations
challenged President Obama to fulfill a campaign promise to end
religious discrimination in federally funded jobs.

"Mr. President, we have been patiently waiting," said the open
letter sent on Monday (Sept. 19). "If you have reversed your policy
position on the issue of government-funded religious discrimination, we
need to know that."

The coalition of 56 religious, education, civil rights and health
organizations expressed "deep concern" about comments Obama made in July
that religious organizations have "more leeway" to "hire somebody who is
a believer of that particular religious faith."

The letter also confronts Obama with a statement he made in
Zanesville, Ohio, in July 2008: "If you get a federal grant, you can't
use that grant money to proselytize to the people you help and you can't
discriminate against them -- or against the people you hire -- on the
basis of their religion."

The coalition also listed several instances when the Obama
administration failed to take steps "to overturn or otherwise address
the troubling hiring discrimination policies adopted by the previous
administration."

For example, they charged, the Obama administration did not respond
to a request this summer from 52 organizations that it restore an
executive order that bars government contracts from funding positions in
which religion is a hiring factor.

The coalition asked for a meeting with White House Counsel Kathryn
Ruemmler "to explore these issues further."//
A White House spokesman could not be reached for immediate comment.