The Corner

Politics & Policy

Another Malicious Leftist Attack on Religious Freedom

This is getting tiresome:

On Thursday morning, 130 civil rights and religious organizations, unions, and other progressive groups sent a letter to President Obama urging that he direct the Justice Department to reverse a Bush-era legal opinion about the scope of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

The 2007 memo from the Office of Legal Counsel concluded that, under RFRA, religious organizations seeking federal grants could not be forced to adhere to religious nondiscrimination laws in hiring.

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.

David French is a senior writer for National Review, a senior fellow at the National Review Institute, and a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

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