The PJ Tatler

Another Left-Wing Assault on Religious Freedom

BuzzFeed is reporting that 130 radical, far-left organizations have sent a letter directly to President Obama asking him to reverse a Bush-era policy that granted religious organizations an exemption from non-discrimination laws when seeking federal grants

The policy is contained in a Justice Department memo signed in 2007 that concluded the Religious Freedom Restoration Act protected religious groups from being forced to adhere to religious nondiscrimination laws in hiring.

The 130 organizations — including the ACLU, Anti-Defamation League, Human Rights Campaign, NAACP, and Planned Parenthood — counter in their letter to Obama that the opinion “relies on flawed legal analysis” that RFRA “provides a blanket override of a statutory non-discrimination provision.” A copy of the letter was provided to BuzzFeed News.

Members of the group have been asking the Justice Department or White House to rescind the OLC Memo since Obama took office, but this is the first time that the letter has been sent directly to the president. Previous letters were sent to then-Attorney General Eric Holder, as in 2009 and 2014, as well as to the head of the White House Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships in 2013.

In the new letter, the group tells Obama:

RFRA was intended to provide protection for free exercise rights, applying strict scrutiny, on a case-by-case basis, to federal laws that substantially burden religious exercise. RFRA was not intended to create blanket exemptions to laws that protect against discrimination.

Yet, in contrast to this, the OLC Memo relies on flawed legal analysis and wrongly asserts that RFRA is “reasonably construed to require” a federal agency to categorically exempt a religiously affiliated organization from a grant program’s explicit statutory non-discrimination provision, thus permitting the grantee to discriminate in hiring with taxpayer funds without regard to the government’s compelling interest in prohibiting such discrimination.

NRO’s David French explains what’s at stake:

In plain English, the letter — signed by the usual alphabet soup of leftist special interests – is asserting that the federal government has a “compelling interest” in prohibiting a religious organization from using religious criteria when hiring its employees, including key leaders of the organization. The Bush-era letter stood for the simple proposition that a religious grantee could only those people who affirm and practice the group’s faith. Unless one is consumed with malice for orthodox faith, this is one of the most common-sense principles imaginable. Precisely what real state interest — much less compelling interest – is preserved by forcing Jewish groups to hire Muslims, Christian groups to hire Hindus, or requiring Christian groups to retain employees who flout Christian doctrine and practice?

Religious charitable organizations tend to be the most effective organizations in the country in helping the poorest and most vulnerable citizens — and in helping those who struggle with drug addiction or are attempting to build new lives out of the ruin of a criminal past. They are effective precisely because of their faith, not in spite of it, and if the government undermines a group’s faith, it will also undermine its faith-based work. A government seeking to intelligently spend money on private grantees would do well to spend money where it will do the most good. But none of that matters to the Left, because somewhere a Christian group — for faith-based reasons – might be asking its employees to dissent from any given doctrine of the sexual revolution. And we can’t have that, because sex is god.

This is precisely the kind of oppression that universities try to impose on Christian student groups — slandering them as virtual segregationists for having the audacity to require Christian faith and practice from Christian leaders. It was sheer exclusionary bad faith when campuses started imposing this rule on Christian groups as early as 2000 — fifteen years ago. And it’s sheer exclusionary bad faith now. Intolerance in the name of tolerance and exclusion in the name of inclusion — the radical is now mainstream.

The left won’t consider the job done until all religious activity in the U.S. is overseen and regulated by the government. Faith of any kind is incompatible with the leftist worldview — except faith in their own moral superiority. Their objection to organized religion is that they view their independence of thought as apostasy.

It isn’t just a question of religious groups disagreeing with the left about some things; it’s that they don’t acknowledge liberals as the arbiters of moral behavior and beliefs.

For this, they must be forcibly brought to heel.