Friday, August 21, 2015

130 Organizations Urge Obama To Rescind 2007 Justice Department Interpretation of RFRA

Yesterday a coalition of 130 religious, civil rights and advocacy organizations sent a letter (full text) to the President urging that the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel reconsider a 2007 Memorandum interpreting the interaction of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act with non-discrimination provisions in federal grant programs.  The letter reads in part:
[T]he OLC Memo relies on flawed legal analysis and wrongly asserts that RFRA is “reasonably construed to require” a federal agency to categorically exempt a religiously affiliated organization from a grant program’s explicit statutory nondiscrimination provision, thus permitting the grantee to discriminate in hiring with taxpayer funds without regard to the government’s compelling interest in prohibiting such discrimination....
...[S]ome have cited the OLC Memo in arguing that RFRA should broadly exempt religiously affiliated contractors from the nondiscrimination requirements in Executive Order 11246, including those you added just last year that bar government contractors from discriminating against LGBT workers. And, some are trying to extend its reach beyond the context of hiring: Several grantees and contractors have cited the OLC Memo to support their arguments that the government should create a blanket exemption that would allow them to refuse to provide services or referrals required under those funding agreements, specifically in the context of medical care for unaccompanied immigrant children who have suffered sexual abuse. 
 ADL and Americans United each issued its own press release on the letter.