Church execs criticize White House policy on hiring rules
6/26/2003 News media contact: Tim Tanton · (615) 742-5470 · Nashville, Tenn.
NOTE: A photograph is available.
By United Methodist News Service
Rev. Eliezer Valentin-Castanon, program director of children and
church-government relations for the United Methodist Board of Church and
Society, talks with a reporter after a June 25 press conference in the
Longworth House Office Building in Washington. Valentin-Castanon spoke
against a Bush administration executive order enabling some federally
funded religious organizations to make hiring decisions based on a
candidate's faith. U.S. Rep. Robert "Bobby" Scott, D-Va., announced at
the press conference the introduction of legislation to overturn
provisions of the order. A UMNS photo by Vince Isner, United Methodist
Board of Church and Society. Photo number 03-220, Accompanies UMNS #338,
No Long Caption Available for this Story
United Methodist officials are voicing support for a
bill that would nullify a presidential order exempting some federally
funded religious groups from anti-discrimination guidelines in hiring.
Rep. Robert "Bobby" Scott, D-Va., announced the legislation June 25,
with other members of Congress as well as religious and civil rights
President George W. Bush signed the order in
December, exempting some faith-based organizations that receive federal
funds from adhering to prohibitions against using religion as a
criterion in hiring. The order applies to federal agencies providing
direct funding to faith-based organizations. It is part of the Bush
administration's broader effort to provide equal access to federal funds
for social service programs operated by religious organizations.
then, the White House has intensified efforts to allow religious
organizations that receive federal dollars the freedom to base hiring
decisions on a job candidate's faith. On June 24, Bush called on
Congress to enact legislation that would do just that and supersede
existing state and local laws. The Washington Post reported that the
White House has sent a position paper to lawmakers stating that
faith-based hiring is part of a religious organization's civil rights.
Winkler, top staff executive of the United Methodist Board of Church
and Society, issued a statement June 25 expressing support for Scott's
bill. "President Bush's executive order will allow faith-based groups
receiving government funds to discriminate," Winkler said. "For us, this
is not acceptable."
The Board of Church and Society, with offices in Washington, is the denomination's social action and advocacy agency.
noted that Bush's executive order overturns earlier orders signed by
President Franklin Roosevelt in 1941 and President Lyndon Johnson in
1965, "which were meant to create civil and human rights protections for
people working for companies under federal contracts."
administration's action "goes to the heart of our denomination's concern
with the charitable choice provisions and the president's Faith-Based
and Community Organizations Initiative," Winkler said. The changes "will
allow churches and religiously affiliated social service providers,
under contract with the government, to discriminate in their hiring and
firing practices based on the applicants' faith or lack of faith."
noted that the denomination's Book of Resolutions states that the
church believes "government resources should not be provided to any
church-related agency unless it meets minimum criteria." Among those
criteria: "Skill, competence and integrity in the performance of duties
shall be the principal considerations in the employment of personnel and
shall not be superseded by any requirement of religious affiliation."
statement from Scott's office described the executive order as a
"rollback on civil rights protections" that was "unwarranted and
unnecessary." "Since the 1965 order, many faith-based organizations have
sponsored federally funded programs; they must comply with the same
anti-discrimination laws as everyone else."
The Rev. Eliezer
Valentin-Castanon, a staff executive with the Board of Church and
Society, read Winkler's statement during Scott's press conference.
told United Methodist News Service that board executives have met with
Bush administration officials a number of times and shared concerns
about the faith-based initiative. The board has expressed support for
strengthening the relationship between church and government to provide a
stronger connection for religious organizations in providing services.
providing federal funding to a local church, and allowing the church to
discriminate in hiring and firing based on faith, is "not acceptable,"
he said. "If we want to discriminate, we can discriminate with our own
money. â€¦ With tax dollars, it is a different ball game."