Friday, November 02, 2007

DoJ Says RFRA May Trump Anti-Bias Rules For Faith-Based Grantees

Carl Esbeck reports in The Hill that the Department of Justice has ruled that the Christian organization, World Vision, may retain a $1.5 million grant to fight juvenile crime in Northern Virginia, even though the organization employs religious criteria in hiring of employees. The grant was awarded under the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act, which is subject to provisions of the Safe Streets Act that ban religious discrimination in use of the grant funds. In a more general policy statement (full text) recently posted on its website, the Justice Department says that the Religious Freedom Restoration Act can override these anti-discrimination provisions. In order to qualify for RFRA protection, a faith-based organization must certify that it "is a religious organization that sincerely believes that providing the services in question is an expression of its religious beliefs; that employing individuals of particular religious belief is important to its religious exercise; and that having to abandon its religious hiring practice in order to receive the federal funding would substantially burden its religious exercise." [Thanks to Michael Lieberman for the lead on the Esbeck op-ed.]