Faith-based leaders urge Congress to reject proposed law restricting freedom of religion

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WASHINGTON — Leaders from more than 100 religious organizations have urged Congress to protect the hiring rights of faith-based organizations.

Congress is considering pending legislation that would deny religious charities who are receiving federal grants from hiring people who share their religious beliefs.

Leaders from World Vision, the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America (UOJCA), the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission and other prominent organizations presented a letter to all members of the Senate and House of Representatives August 25.

Richard Stearns, the president and CEO of World Vision, says the letter and other efforts are targeting not just pending legislation, but also calls for Congress to ban religious hiring exemptions in an expected continuing budget resolution later this fall.

"Too much is at stake – especially among the tens of millions who receive help, care and support from faith-based charities," says Stearns. "Our nation needs religious charities. For decades, we have relied on and benefited from religious charities receiving federal grants. There is no good reason – nor a compelling legal justification – to jeopardize those organizations and, more importantly, the people they serve."

"We respectfully ask you to uphold and protect this fundamental right, allowing faith-based charities to be treated equally as secular groups when competing for federal funds and to hire employees who share their faith, whether Muslim, Buddhist, Jewish, or Christian," said the 108 signers in the letter. "These groups adhere strictly to the law, forbid the use of public funds to proselytize or for any religious activities, and serve all people in need, regardless of faith."

Most of the leaders who signed the letter represent organizations and educational institutions that do not accept federal money, according to World Vision, the Christian aid organization that led the effort.

Meanwhile, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled August 23 that World Vision USA could hire based on religious belief. In a 2-1 decision, the court agreed that World Vision is a religious organization that qualifies for an exemption from religious job discrimination under the 1964 Civil Rights Act.

The ruling was in response to a lawsuit filed by three former employees who were dismissed after World Vision learned that they no longer believed in the deity of Christ. All three former employees had agreed with the statement of faith upon hiring and provided testimonies of their faith when they were hired.

The former employees are expected to appeal the ruling.

According to Dean Owen in a press statement, World Vision applauded the ruling by the court for upholding the legally protected practice of hiring people of like-minded faith.

"Our Christian faith has been the foundation of our work since the organization was established in 1950, and our hiring policy is vital to the integrity of our mission to serve the poor as followers of Jesus Christ," said Owen.


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