Across the Bow

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The ADL, which doesn’t always think so clearly before it sounds off, has sent a well calculated shot across OFANP’s bow, in the form of a letter to the president expressing concerns about his Feb. 5 executive order establishing his faith-based office. The letter goes beyond the hiring issue to make it clear that additional safeguards are needed, including separation of religious and secular functions, oversight, and the assurance of secular alternatives to faith-based service provision. And then there’s the central question of process:

We believe that the proposed case-by-case review by the Justice
Department is insufficient because this approach misses the opportunity
for prophylactic guidance and Presidential leadership against
employment discrimination by faith-based grant recipients.  During the
campaign, you stated that the Bush Administration faith-based
initiative lacked essential safeguards against proselytizing and
discrimination.  Yet, the failure to establish new standards by which
the Justice Department will judge whether an organization is entitled
to an exemption to the religious nondiscrimination laws means that the
old, inadequate safeguards remain the legal standards.  This is
especially troubling in light of last June’s deeply-flawed Office of
Legal Counsel opinion holding that the Religious Freedom Restoration
Act can be construed to exempt a religious organization from certain
religious nondiscrimination provisions.

The one caveat I’d raise is with the ADL’s desire that “extremist, terrorist or hate mongering groups” be ineligible for federal funds. What criteria are to be used to place organizations in such a category, and who’s to do the categorizing? Careful here.