For Immediate Release
(Washington, DC, September 17, 2009) Today the American Humanist Association, alongside a broad coalition of 57 other religious, civil liberties and education organizations, called for the review and withdrawal of a 2007 Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) memo that threatens religious liberty and civil rights. The groups, who issued their request via a letter sent to Attorney General Eric Holder, argue that the Bush-era memo inaccurately interprets the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) as allowing religious organizations to discriminate on the basis of religion when hiring for taxpayer-funded positions.
“The Bush administration used the OLC memo to subvert federal law and allow religious groups to side-step important civil rights protections,” said Roy Speckhardt, executive director of the American Humanist Association. “It’s high time it’s this legally unjustifiable rule is rescinded.”
RFRA was enacted in 1993 and prohibits substantially burdening religious exercise without a compelling reason. The 2007 OLC memo broadly interpreted that right to the free exercise as granting an exemption for religious organizations from federal non-discrimination law.
“The argument that requiring religious groups to abide by civil rights law unlawfully curtails their free exercise of religion simply doesn’t stand up to legal scrutiny,” said Speckhardt. “If religious groups want to only hire others of the same religion they are allowed to do so with their own money. But taxpayer dollars should never be used to fund discrimination. Religious groups that accept government money need to play by the same rules as everyone else.”
The letter can be found here: http://www.americanhumanist.org/Action_Alerts/RFRAmemo.
Many of the organizations signing the letter are members of the Coalition Against Religious Discrimination. Aside from the American Humanist Association, the following groups signed the letter: African American Ministers in Action; American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee; American Association of University Women; Asian American Justice Center; American Civil Liberties Union; American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, AFL-CIO; American Jewish Committee; Americans for Religious Liberty; Americans United for Separation of Church and State; Anti-Defamation League; Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty; Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law; B’nai B’rith International; Center for Inquiry; Central Conference of American Rabbis; Disciples Justice Action Network; Equal Partners in Faith; Friends Committee on National Legislation; Interfaith Alliance; Hadassah, the Women’s Zionist Organization of America; Hindu American Foundation; Human Rights Campaign; Japanese American Citizens League; Jewish Council for Public Affairs; Lambda Legal; Leadership Conference on Civil Rights; Legal Momentum; NAACP; NA’AMAT USA; National Center for Lesbian Rights; National Community Action Foundation; National Council of Jewish Women; National Council of La Raza; National Gay and Lesbian Task Force; National Education Association; National Employment Lawyers Association; National Ministries, American Baptist Churches USA; National Organization for Women; National Partnership for Women and Families; National Women’s Law Center; OMB Watch; People For the American Way; The Rabbinical Assembly; Rainbow PUSH Coalition; Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice; Secular Coalition for America; Sexuality Information and Education Council of the U.S.; Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund; Sikh Council on Religion and Education; Texas Faith Network; Texas Freedom Network; Union for Reform Judaism; Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations; United Church of Christ Justice and Witness Ministries; United Methodist Church, General Board of Church and Society; Women of Reform Judaism; Women’s Law Project.
The American Humanist Association (www.americanhumanist.org) advocates for the rights and viewpoints of humanists. Founded in 1941 and headquartered in Washington, D.C., its work is extended through more than 100 local chapters and affiliates across the United States.
Humanism is a progressive philosophy of life that, without theism, affirms our responsibility to lead ethical lives of value to self and humanity.
For more information contact:
Karen Frantz, communications and policy manager
American Humanist Association