Religious hiring rights the focus of House hearing


WASHINGTON, D.C. (EP) — The day after a presidential executive order was signed to amend the way faith-based organizations interact with the federal government, a hearing was held by a House subcommittee to consider policies related to faith-based social service providers.

The House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Civil Liberties heard testimony from two "separation of church and state" advocates and one for the constitutional protection of religious hiring rights.

The hearing took place on Nov. 18.

Rep. James Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., who sits on the committee, said faith-based organizations should not be discriminated against based on their religious viewpoint.

"If Planned Parenthood can receive federal funds and continue to staff based upon ideological views regarding abortion," Sensenbrenner said, "If religion is to be treated equally, religious organizations should also retain their ability to staff on a religious basis."

Rep. Bobby Scott, D-Ga., argued that religious hiring protections were discriminatory.

"If this bigotry—based on religion—is tolerated, racial and sexual discrimination disguised as religious discrimination certainly follows—based on things like things like single motherhood, divorce, premarital sex," Scott said.

The Democrat also pressed the issue farther, suggesting government intrusion in private sector hiring practices.

"If we don't enforce discrimination laws in federal contracts in secular programs, where is our moral authority to tell a private employer, who may be devoutly religious, what he can and can't do with his own private money?" he said. "A policy of religious discrimination in employment is wrong in the private sector and it is certainly wrong with federal funds."

Douglas Laycock, a professor of law and religious studies at the University of Virginia, said the changes advocated by Scott and secular activists would obstruct the vital work performed by faith-based groups.

"It uses the power of the purse to coerce religious organizations, to become less religious and more secular," Laycock said.

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