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December 12, 2002

Bush to Federal Contractors: Religious Discrimination OK

Listed in: Separation of Church and State, NJDC News, Press Releases

Washington, DC: According to an Associated Press report this morning, "President Bush is enacting by executive fiat key pieces of his divisive 'faith-based initiative,' including one that lets federal contractors [engage in] religious favoritism in their hiring. ...By far the most explosive of the changes is Bush's directive informing federal agencies that religious organizations refusing to hire people of any faith can still win contracts. ...Federal contractors also can no longer be denied federal money for displaying religious icons, such as a cross or a menorah."

"There is nothing 'compassionate' about government-funded religious discrimination," said National Jewish Democratic Council Executive Director Ira N. Forman. "It is simply wrong for federal contractors to discard the resumes of people with names that sound 'too Jewish' or 'too Muslim' when hiring substance abuse counselors and other professionals with government money. Such presidential actions send a strong green light to social service providers to discriminate against whomever they like, while using our tax dollars to do so.

"Last fall an American Jew by the name of Alan Yorker applied for a therapist position at the United Methodist Children's Home in Georgia, which receives state government funds. The interviewer terminated his interview at the start when she realized he was Jewish, and she noted that the home does not hire Jews. She later told another UMCH staffer that Yorker had been the leading candidate, and that it was UMCH's practice to 'throw in the trash' any resumes from candidates with Jewish-sounding last names. Our government must not condone such behavior by encouraging providers to engage in it while using federal dollars - it's just that simple. Yet such a case is a portent of what we have to look forward to, given President Bush's directives regarding federal funds.

"If this is President Bush's idea of 'compassionate conservatism,' it has no place in 21st century America."