Bush presses ahead with faith-based initiative

BY Advocate.com Editors

December 14 2002 1:00 AM ET

President Bush signed an order Thursday making it easier for religious groups to get federal money. The president said he wanted to "clear away a legacy of discrimination" against religious charities--even those that refuse to hire people of a different faith or those who they disagree with based on religious reasons, such as gay people. "The days of discriminating against religious groups just because they are religious are coming to an end," Bush said.

However, the guidelines acknowledge state and local antidiscrimination laws, something an earlier version of the initiative did not. The president's earlier proposal would have allowed faith-based organizations receiving federal money to discriminate in hiring and employment regardless of local civil rights laws.

Washington, D.C.-based gay advocacy organization the Human Rights Campaign commended the adjustment reflected in the Bush administration's new guidelines.

“We are pleased that the administration has proactively acknowledged that religious organizations receiving federal funds must comply with state and local civil rights laws,” HRC political director Winnie Stachelberg said. “We remain concerned, however, with the administration’s position that religious organizations receiving federal funding can discriminate on the basis of religion in hiring and employment practices. The Supreme Court has yet to rule on this issue, and we hold the position that no organization should be allowed to discriminate on any basis with federal funds.”

Currently, 12 states, the District of Columbia, and 140 cities and counties have civil rights laws prohibiting private-sector employers from discriminating based on sexual orientation when hiring.

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