When the government provides services, no one should be turned away because of religious objections—whether it’s a clerk whose duty is to issue a marriage license or it’s a government-funded organization delivering social services. 

Yet we see efforts across the states and in the federal government to allow government officials to discriminate. 

We also see efforts to allow taxpayer-funded social service providers to:

  • discriminate in hiring with those funds;

  • refuse to provide services to which they have religious objections—frequently reproductive healthcare—even if those services are required under their government contract; or 

  • refuse to serve certain people, most often our LGBTQ neighbors.

We oppose legislation and policies that permit government-funded discrimination.

Discrimination In Employment

Our government has a profound and enduring commitment to eradicating discrimination in employment. Just as the government should not discriminate in hiring for federal jobs, it also should not allow any organization with which it partners to discriminate in hiring with government funds. Unfortunately, in some instances, state and federal government policies allow taxpayer-funded entities to discriminate on the basis of religion when hiring employees to provide these services.

Under these policies, grantees or contractors can take government money to provide a social service, such as programs for at-risk youth, and yet refuse to hire anyone who doesn’t follow its particular religious beliefs. Qualified Jews, Muslims, atheists, and adherents to any other religion could be disqualified from taxpayer-funded jobs at a religiously affiliated Christian organization simply because of their religious beliefs. Similarly, non-Christian faith-based organizations could refuse jobs to all Christians.

We have long led the fight to roll back policies adopted during the George W. Bush administration, commonly known as the Faith-Based Initiative, that allow federal dollars to fund religious hiring discrimination. And we continue to fight similar policy proposals in Congress.

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Discrimination In Services

This type of discrimination comes in different forms. First, there are efforts to permit government employees themselves to discriminate in providing services under the guise of religion. They seek to be able to refuse to provide government services to certain individuals or families—or refuse to provide a service altogether. 

Second, some religious organizations argue that they should be allowed to take taxpayer funds to provide social services but then refuse to serve certain people or to even provide the very services required by the contract or grant they accepted—all in the name of religion. 

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First Amendment Defense Acts (FADAs)

Legislation known as First Amendment Defense Acts would allow government-funded discrimination. First introduced in Congress, and now seen across the states, these bills, generally, would allow private businesses, government-funded social service providers, and even government employees to discriminate against same-sex couples, unmarried couples, people who have remarried, single mothers, those who have had sex outside of marriage, and others. Some state versions are narrower or broader than the federal FADA; however, all of these bills would sanction discrimination, allowing individuals and entities to ignore laws that conflict with their religious beliefs about marriage. 

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Discrimination By Student Groups

State legislatures have considered bills that would forbid public colleges and universities from enforcing non-discrimination policies that require officially recognized and funded student groups to allow any student to join, participate in, and seek leadership in those groups or would specially exempt religious clubs from these nondiscrimination rules. 

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