Q:If a church or other religious organization receives government funding, should it follow all government rules, including those against discrimination based on sexual orientation? Or should government exempt such organizations from requirements that violate particular religious beliefs?
If you get a federal grant, you can’t use that grant money to discriminate on the basis of your religion. These are not my words, but the words of a well-known former Constitutional Law professor from the University of Chicago. Presidential candidate Barack Obama delivered them in a speech about faith-based initiatives in Zanesville, Ohio, on July 1, 2008.
Despite his own admirable words, President Obama still lets stand this Bush-era violation of separation of church and state. Rather than simply prohibiting faith-based discrimination completely, the administration says discrimination will be decided on a case-by-case basis. I oppose the use of any taxpayer money going to religious institutions, but especially money that condones discrimination. Religious freedom allows religions to discriminate, but not on the taxpayer’s dime.
The Obama administration did the right thing in the case of Catholic Charities by not exempting them from the laws of the land. And Catholic Charities certainly has the right to formulate discriminatory policies consistent with its religious principles, but not while taking taxpayer money.
By the government not providing such religious exemptions, I’m hoping some religions will modify their discriminatory policies. This happened gradually with a religion, which some call an academic institution, in my home state of South Carolina. Fundamentalist Christian Bob Jones University, in danger of losing its tax-exempt status, changed in steps from not admitting blacks, to admitting married blacks (1971), to admitting unmarried blacks (1975), and finally (gasp) to ending its ban on interracial dating (2000).
If religious freedom means anything, it means that government can’t favor one religion over another, or religion in general over non-religion. We must not promote an Orwellian society where all people are equal under the law, but some people are more equal than others.