Pew has a good Q&A with GW law prof Chip Lupu on the jurisprudence governing (or not) faith-based hiring when you’ve got a federal grant. To say it’s a bit of a legal thicket is a bit of an understatement. But while I’m no lawyer, one aspect of the Bush administration’s argumentation for allowing such hiring seems profoundly wrong-headed: that it unfairly burdens religious institutions to be forced to obey non-discrimination rules when hiring under a government grant. Compare it to the “unfair burden” argument regarding the IRS rules against partisan politics, where the courts have repeatedly held that churches don’t have a free speech right to be exempt from taxation. In this case, taking the public dollar is a choice to perform a secular social service that hardly merits the right to be exempt from federal hiring rules. Legal niceties aside, the compelling principle to me is that the government ought not be in the business of underwriting the religious character of faith-based institutions. And that’s what letting them hire only their own kind with public funds does.