Obama pressed on faith-based hiring
July 22nd, 2011
04:28 PM ET

Obama pressed on faith-based hiring

President Obama signaled Friday he has no intention of rescinding a controversial executive order that permits some faith-based organizations that receive federal funding to discriminate against non-believers in their hiring practices.

The president’s comments on the matter came during a town hall event in Maryland, when a questioner who identified herself as an atheist pressed Obama on statements he made as a candidate in 2008 suggesting he was against permitting discriminatory hiring among faith-based organizations backed by taxpayer dollars.

“It’s very straightforward that people shouldn’t be discriminated against for race, gender, sexual orientation, and - or religious affiliation,” Obama said Monday. “What has happened is, is that there has been a carve-out, dating back to President Clinton’s presidency, for religious organizations in their hiring for particular purposes.”

The executive order in question, issued by President Clinton and affirmed by President Bush in 2002, states that while religious organizations that receive federal funds cannot discriminate against beneficiaries of their programs, they “may retain religious terms in its organization's name, select its board members on a religious basis, and include religious references in its organization's mission statements and other chartering or governing documents.”

A string of organizations called on the president to rescind the executive order last month, including the ACLU and the Secular Coalition for America, of which the questioner was an employee.

Dozens of faith-based groups responded, writing a letter to the president earlier this month maintaining that “religious hiring by religious organizations in the context of government funding simply allows religious organizations to do what secular organizations do while receiving government funding: employ persons who agree with the organization’s mission.”

Speaking Monday, Obama said the current framework provides a good balance.

“I think that the balance we’ve tried to strike is to say that if you are offering - if you have set up a nonprofit that is disassociated from your core religious functions and is out there in the public doing all kinds of work, then you have to abide generally with the non-discrimination hiring practices,” he said. “If, on the other hand, it 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.”

Amanda Knief, the questioner, issued a statement after the event saying the president dodged a key point of her question.

“Unfortunately, the president didn’t address the most egregious aspect of this policy – that religious discrimination is occurring on the taxpayer’s dime. Discrimination is wrong in all forms, especially when it is being funded by taxpayers,” she said.

Candidate Obama's comments came during a July, 2800 speech in Zanesville, Ohio, during which he endorsed faith-based programs, but said the beneficiaries of such government aid should be forced to cease all discriminatory practices.

"If you get a federal grant, you can't use that grant money to proselytize to the people you help and you can't discriminate against them - or against the people you hire - on the basis of their religion," Obama said then.

Obama issued a separate executive order in 2009, that specifically did not rescind the previous provisions, but instead provided a legal process for organizations to go through in order to ensure hiring practices stay within the boundaries of the law.


Topics: President Obama • The News

« Previous entry
soundoff (37 Responses)
  1. ThinkAgain

    Faith-based organizations shouldn't be receiving funding IN THE FIRST PLACE. This is a direct violation of the Constitution's statement that "government shall establish no religion."

    And in the meantime that these organizations do receive funding, they should have to abide by the rules of all federal funding recipients and NOT DISCRIMINATE, based on ANY criteria.

    July 22, 2011 at 5:26 pm |
    • TheDudeness

      but if the government funds every religious organization equally, then what's the problem? they aren't establishing a set religion.

      July 22, 2011 at 7:22 pm |
      • El

        hahahahahahahahahahahaha...they fund all religious organizations equally?? Got a source for that nonsense? Or am I just missing a joke you're trying to make?

        July 23, 2011 at 9:26 am |
      • DENNA

        @ TheDudeness but if the government funds every religious organization equally, then what's the problem? they aren't establishing a set religion.
        ________________________________________________________________________________________________
        Good answer. You know, all of you "Constitution scholars" seem to have forgotten that President Obama is actually well-versed on the Constitution. The Constitution of the United States is a lot like the Bible – people read whatever they want to into it, not what is actually there. Since the Tea Party has embraced this venerable document as their guideline, I am highly suspicious of the document. It seems that all the Tea Party sees is ways to destroy the lives of other Americans. Scary.

        July 23, 2011 at 9:29 am |
      • Rara

        Mark N: And no amount of weeasl-wording will cause statements like those to be regarded merely as errors or blunders. They were flat out lies. Thank you. I now know that you're a total whack job. Hopefully for you, your candidate and the near-homo-crush that you have on him will prevail in November.The funny thing is that you have to spend an entire paragraph explaining in a round-about kind of way exactly how their statements can be construed as likes. Then you conclude that they're flat-out lies. Your rhetorical approach belies this assertion.You're also ignoring the fact that every piece of intelligence that they looked (pro-wmd and anti-wmd) was made available to Congress to view for days in closed session. So if it's as straightforward as you make it, so Congress lied, people died even Biden lied, people died is equally accurate.Mark N: Youe2€™re simply interested in upholding and sustaining the election laws, and no criticism of the foreign asshats who would rather see Obama elected President was intended on the basis of their preference.Your poor reading of my statement underscores why you're not qualified to tell if anyone is lying.My sentence assumes that we (upholders of state law) don't allow them to vote. This is a factual statement with no normative content. If you wish to dispute this, then I really don't know what to tell you.It also asserts that there is a reason why we don't allow them to vote. This alone is ambiguous. By itself, it could be normative or non-normative. A non-normative reason would be that it's against the law.I resolve this ambiguity by calling the people described in the article and British PM James Brown asshats. By using the term asshat, I make it clear that I believe that they ought not to vote. All of this is pretty basic English 101 type stuff. It's truly astonishing to me that I have to actually break this down for you. Perhaps you aren't a nut-job after all, and I'm simply dealing with someone of sub-par intelligence.Furthermore, I do not elaborate on why they ought not to vote in the post, but in my in response to Lincoln Cannon's rant, I state:Theye2€™re asshats for presuming to warn Americans, because it posits that they should have some sort of unofficial say in American elections.

        August 1, 2012 at 4:26 am |
    • kefa34

      congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion

      or prohibiting the free exercise there of or abridging the freedom of speech
      orof the press or the right of the people peaceably to assemble and
      to petition the government for a reddress of grievances
      the constitution is the supreme law of our land
      and it govern our action as citizens
      only the laws of G-d which governs our conscious are superior to it .

      or

      July 25, 2011 at 11:22 am |
    • kefa34

      establishment an establishing
      a buiness the establishment
      powerful elite of a nation.
      what faiths are powerful over the government
      the constitution is the supreme law of our land
      and it govern our acton as citizens only the
      laws of G-D which govern our conscious are superior to it
      .stop putting out those old smoke sreens
      those old fights have hurt the american -people
      we need jesus in this country and in our lives.
      and if not him then who i am sure the lord is watching .
      so carefull how you answer ,

      July 25, 2011 at 11:44 am |
  2. jay in cali

    Uh Oh! Incoming army of anti-Obama zealots who just happen to be white republicans but are not racists.

    July 22, 2011 at 5:28 pm |
    • Rich Wilson

      Um, I think your army is more likely to be people who value separation of church and state. That, traditionally, is not white republicans.

      July 22, 2011 at 5:48 pm |
    • Parveen

      I can't believe Smurfs didn't get a XXX rantig, given that there's a scene where Hank Azaria as Gargamel bends my five year old self over a pinball machine and sodomises me on screen.Disgusting what Hollywood does these days.Now if it had been a threesome with Hermoine Grainger from the Harry Potter films, I'd be fully supportive!

      August 1, 2012 at 1:43 am |
  3. ps

    This is why faith-based organizations should NOT be receiving taxpayer money in the first place. If they're getting public money, they should not require anyone to participate in a particular religion or religious act as a condition of employment or receiving that charity.
    This is another area where Obama has split from the liberal wing of the party and gone Republican on us.

    July 22, 2011 at 5:53 pm |
    • jean2009

      I fully agree. Separation of church and state should be just that total separation: it should be separation of all churches from the state's purse-strings and business dealings. I think this would come under the term "wall of separation".

      The constitution does not say "if we treat them all equally they can be included and hire as they please".

      Article Six of the United States Constitution provides that "no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States". Prior to the adoption of the Bill of Rights, this was the only mention of religion in the Constitution.

      How does discrimination in hiring square with the "no religious test" clause besides Office it also states... or "public Trust" If you are working in and unelected position, for a religious entity receiving government funds, wouldn't "public trust" be a requirement?

      July 23, 2011 at 10:58 am |
  4. BobnLA

    Yep- he's running for re-election. Pander,pander, pander.

    July 22, 2011 at 6:16 pm |
    • jean2009

      Of course he is running, that is a customary given.... I don't think you just determined that. As for serious pandering, I would ask you listen to the eight, or more, running on the other side, and you will hear all kinds of pandering.

      Goose=Gander; Pot=Kettle.

      OBAMA-BIDEN – 2012

      July 24, 2011 at 11:40 am |
      • Andrew

        I think everyone knows that I'm supriptong McCain-Palin in the election. But I've got to say, I wish they would stop making a big deal out of this comment. I don't believe for a minute that Obama was trying to make some slur against Palin by his lipstick on a pig comment. It's a common phrase that made his point and it had absolutely nothing to do with Palin's lipstick joke. It's frankly embarrassing that the McCain camp is making such a big fuss about it. I know it's politics, but it's just this kind of contrived political controversy that turns people off. They need to let it go.

        August 2, 2012 at 12:23 am |
  5. NVa Native

    This was a sleazy (as usual) Bush policy to reward his fox followers by going against everything that is American by allowing discriminatory hiring while blending a radical religion with our governement. Obama should have ended it right away. But Bush/Cheney and all the many criminals in their administration should be in jail too, you just can't get everything you want or in this case you deserve.

    July 22, 2011 at 6:39 pm |
  6. False Left Right Paradigm

    "Uh Oh! Incoming army of anti-Obama zealots who just happen to be white republicans but are not racists."

    What about the black ppl I know that don't like Obama? Are they racist?

    For the record, I am against BOTH parties! I don't like Obama AND George W. equally.

    July 22, 2011 at 8:55 pm |
  7. ConsrvIt

    This keeps the sleezy attorneys at bay. A religious organization should be able exclude an atheist from hiring when they don't believe in what the organization is doing. Because if they ask the atheist to do something, but atheist says no because I don't believe in what they're doing. Then the organization wants to fire the person, but in comes the stupid ACLU to file a lawsuit. Its a no win situation for the organization. This is a good executive order.

    July 22, 2011 at 10:22 pm |
    • jean2009

      Being an atheist, doesn't mean that the person isn't for helping needy people, or working for worthy causes. It only means they do not believe in a deity.

      July 24, 2011 at 9:52 am |
    • Pratha

      I should get to inlsut people, but then they fight back, thate2€™s negative campaigning.e2€9dInsult people? Bill, have you lost your mind? Obama used a common, older-than-dirt, classical colloquial idiom, and the only reason mindless Republicans are pretending to take offense to it is because Palin described herself as a bulldog with lipstick. Anyone who thinks this is an attack is either a shady, lowlife opportunist or a blithering idiot, period.

      August 2, 2012 at 1:21 am |
  8. Catca

    @NVa Native

    Perhaps you should re-read the article – this is not a Bush policy, it was initiated by President Clinton. This also doesn't allow discriminatory hiring for an accountant, for example, but only carves out an exception for Board Members, who after all, set the the organizations policies and strategies. The policy simply says that an organization like the Roman Catholic Church that receives federal funding for some type of service it offers the community that does not discriminate against beneficiaries for their religious faiths, will not be restricted to hiring non-catholics to a board of their charity. If their board had to be multi-faith and/or secular in composition, how could they practice their faith? The federal money is to support the organization's charitable activities, and the beneficiaries of those funds cannot be discriminated against. I see no constitutional issues here, as the federal funds are not being used in a discriminatory manner nor are being used to promote a particular religion.

    July 22, 2011 at 11:15 pm |
  9. J.V.Hodgson

    Discrimination illegal, federal funding of religious organisations unconstitutional, So cut all that including exec orders. Trying to make some fine definition of its OK for hiring is nonsense.
    If you hire ( by mistake ooops) into your organisation or somoene who fools you in his beliefs can be covered by an employment contract that says any breach of the organisations objectives and policies/ rules of employment is instant dismissal without compensation, because they lied on thier employment application and breached contract .
    People who dont agree are unkiley to sign the contract BUT those that do just like companies have employee rules and regulations which if not followed can lead to dismissal, thats the risk you take if you lie just to get a job.
    This is not discrimination because Non believers can apply but the have to work in the interests of the organisation and its rules if not they are out, I have often had disagreements in the details of my corporate rules and employment contract, but signed many of them.
    Regards,
    Hodgson.

    July 23, 2011 at 1:31 am |
  10. DENNA

    With all the crap that is going on with the budget, why are people even bothering him with the nonsense? And Miss Atheist, just keep on not believing. You are in for a huge shock. Not believing does not remove God's existence. It just gives you guilt free time to do whatever you want without thought to your mortal soul. Good luck with that!

    July 23, 2011 at 9:35 am |
    • John Richardson

      @Denna Secular people, including secular atheists, are among the most moral of people, as they, among other things, are not in the habit of going on rampages in the name of some god or other. And while god's existence doesn't depend on belief, that cuts both ways. Believing in god doesn't make "him" real. Moreover, if a god does exist, the question is which god? Good luck explaining yourself to Allah or Brahma or Ahura Mazda.

      July 23, 2011 at 5:41 pm |
      • jean2009

        Totally agree.

        July 24, 2011 at 9:42 am |
  11. DENNA

    @John Richardson – The True God exists. I respect your preference not to believe or to feel however you feel. I think if we all believed in God a little harder, we would be a bit happier. Again, John, I respect your opinion, because I believe in God. Have a nice day. :-)

    July 23, 2011 at 5:52 pm |
    • John Richardson

      As I've stated elsewhere, it would be a significant improvement if those who describe themselves as god fearing actually feared god. Instead, the typical believer is convinced that their version of the "true" god is correct, everyone else's version of the "true" god is wrong and that they got their "true" god locked into an ironclad contract that assures them of eternal bliss. Oh, for the Calvinist days when it was widely believed that those who are haughtily sure of their place in heaven are almost surely destined for damnation!

      But back on the secular plane where rationality has at least half a chance of ruling the discussion, don't go around defaming atheists of being immoral just because YOU (supposedly) behave yourself not out of a sense of right and wrong, but out of crass fear. It was fear that turned a generation of Germans into tools of Nazi sociopaths, after all.

      July 23, 2011 at 10:53 pm |
      • DENNA

        John, I don't defame atheists. They have the absolute right to believe or not believe. Since I am merely mortal I have ZERO right to judge them or anyone. I recognize that, okay? I try to believe correctly, not our of fear of God, but out of respect for my fellow man. I don't have the right to make someone else's life miserable just because I want to.

        Your final sentence is telling, John. It can be amended to apply to our present day situation and read: " It was hate that turned a generation of Americans into tools for the Tea Party sociopaths." I admit, that is not a Christian assessment of the Tea Party, but it is accurate. Have a wonderful Sunday. :-)

        July 24, 2011 at 7:43 am |
      • John Richardson

        @Denna If you are going to retract your prior comments, good for you. But don't deny them. And mindless obedience to perceived authority has been a problem with many religions and many political movements of both the right and left. As someone once said: "More violence has been done in the name of obedience than in the name of rebellion." Hatred is another problem. Yes, you can see it in many Tea Party types, but you also see it in people who tried to pin the shooting of Congresswoman Giffords on Sarah Palin. There are too many things wrong with Sarah Palin to bother to list here, but she is neither a murderer nor the instigator of murder and those who said she was were fanning the very flames of wild-eyed hatred that they claimed to deplore. Just one example of real ugliness from people other than the Tea Party fanatics.

        July 24, 2011 at 9:26 am |
  12. Aaron

    Under Obama's reasoning, the KKK could call it itself a church, receive federal money to pass out in aid, and hire only other KKK members as long as it gives aid to non-KKK members. So much for the separation of church and state. Give the religious fanatics a buck, and they'll take a billion.

    July 23, 2011 at 7:46 pm |
  13. Richard S Kaiser

    Hello to ALL Religious Federallies,

    President Obama's Stance is IMO, Correct, ThinkAgain's Posting saying; This is a direct violation of the Constitution's statement that "government shall establish no religion." is a Misgnomer! GET OFF THE POT! President Obama is NOT by NO MEANS "ESTABLIHING A RELIGION"!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    July 23, 2011 at 10:02 pm |
  14. Richard S Kaiser

    My Comment is awaiting "Moderation" Geeeese

    July 23, 2011 at 10:06 pm |
  15. Richard S Kaiser

    C'MON U MODERATORS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Just Because I Use Flavered Wordisms YOU are going To SCREEN ME?

    July 23, 2011 at 10:23 pm |
  16. Richard S Kaiser

    "What Ever Happened to FREE SPEECH?" I DID NOT SWEAR AND I DID NOTHING TO ABASE OTHERS IN FRAUDULENCY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    July 23, 2011 at 10:26 pm |
  17. Richard S Kaiser

    Dear Moderators.
    I am now writing a comment regarding your moderation of my Blogs by not Posting the one About Nationalized Perspectives of Religous Federalism. If you do not allow my Blog-Posting to be viewed by Others who Blog, then I take it that you are violating my Freedom of Expressionism, Which is a Violation of Lawful Exercising of One's Rights! I await your comments.

    Richard S Kaiser
    07/23/11

    July 23, 2011 at 10:46 pm |
  18. Haime52

    The one aspect that I see in this is that if you had to hire anyone who is capable for your charity and they were covertly hoping to destroy or discedit you, you have little way to safeguard yourself because for couldn't screen out those who have little or no sympathy for your core beliefs. It is a tactic some would and do use, to destroy from within.

    July 24, 2011 at 10:23 am |
  19. DENNA

    @ John Richardson – Denna If you are going to retract your prior comments, good for you. But don't deny them.
    ------------------------------------------------
    You are absolutely correct John, I should not deny my prior comments and I apologize if I seem to be doing that. You make some valid points and I have enjoyed exchanging posts. I find no real fault with your opinions, including those regarding Sarah Palin. I, too, thought her targets on Ms. Giffords could have caused the problem. However, I feel that the individual who sought to murder Congressman Giffords was completely at fault and should have chosen a non-violent way to express his displeasure. We all need to do that. Have a good day, Sir. :-)

    July 24, 2011 at 1:38 pm |