Millions of Americans are desperately looking for work. In the midst of the employment crisis, however, President Obama has decided to help make it easier for employers to fire American workers, and to do so for no other reason than that the workers don’t have the same religious beliefs as their bosses.
The Constitution forbids employment discrimination on the basis of religion in clear terms. The original body of the Constitution states that “no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.” The First Amendment further forbids the use of government funds to create “an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof”.
In spite of this plain constitutional requirement to keep the government out of religious affairs, President Barack Obama has been operating a program that openly funnels public government funds into religious organizations. It’s the Office of Faith-Based Intitiatives begun under George W. Bush – and Obama has expanded it to something larger than even Bush thought it should be.
Through this program, the federal government gives large amounts of money to churches, and then allows those churches to hire people – as proxy government employees. These employees may not be in a “public office” by name, but they are certainly within a “public trust”, because their salaries come from Uncle Sam, not donations to the churches they work for.
Yet, President Obama allows these people to be fired for no other reason than their religious beliefs. Obama is allowing people to be refused employment with government money for no other reason than that they don’t belong to a religion that’s approved of. That’s a religious test for a public trust, and that makes it an unconstitutional violation of the separation of church and state.
Barack Obama justified this employment discrimination on the basis of religion this summer, saying that if a program paid for by the government is “closer to your core functions as a synagogue or a mosque or a church, then there may be more leeway for you to hire somebody who is a believer of that particular religious faith.”
Of course, if that government-paid program is closer to the core functions of a synagogue or mosque or church, that makes it a religious program, and not a social-service program, and that makes the program unconstitutional, a violation of the establishment clause of the First Amendment. Whichever way you look at it, these programs are a shameful rebellion against the Constitution. The government should not provide subsidies to organizations that discriminate on the basis of religion – period.
In the summer of 2008, presidential candidate Barack Obama promised to end the practice of government-subsidized religious discrimination. As President, Obama has not done one single thing to keep that promise. The Department of Justice confirmed this week that it is not even conducting a review of the discrimination.
This week, leaders of 56 religious, educational, civil liberties, legal, and other community organizations sent a letter to President Obama asking him to explain his policy on government-funded religious discrimination, and to move back to his pledge in 2008 to end the unconstitutional practice.
“The optimism prompted by your campaign statements regarding the Faith-Based Initiative has turned to disappointment,” the letter states. The coalition members indicate that they now “question whether the restoration of church-state separation protections is an Administration priority.”
Take a look at the list of the organizations that signed this letter, and you’ll see that it’s not just atheists who are upset at President Obama’s embrace of government-funded religious discrimination. The letter was signed by African-American churches, Baptists, Catholics, Hindus, Humanists, Japanese-Americans, Jewish religious leaders
Methodists, Muslims, Secular Americans, Sikhs, and the United Church of Christ.
Religious discrimination is bad for all Americans, whether they’re religious or not. The encouragement of discrimination bolsters economic and social inequality. The mixture of government and religion pollutes both realms.
During a time of economic troubles especially, it is inexcusable to support discriminatory firings of workers. Barack Obama needs to end his policy of defending job discrimination now, and make amends to the many Americans who have lost their jobs because of his unjust policy.