The Russell Amendment Is The Worst Of The Bush Faith-Based Initiative

Image by franckreporter/Getty Images

Image by franckreporter/Getty Images

For decades, faith-based organizations have partnered with the federal government to perform secular social services. When they did, they played by the same rules as secular organizations, including that they did not discriminate in hiring within those federally funded programs.

The Russell Amendment, a provision attached to the must-pass National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), seeks to turn that concept on its head. If passed, all faith-based providers would be allowed to discriminate in hiring within federal contract and grant programs. It is an extreme and sweeping provision.

Unfortunately, this idea isn’t new. It was the main goal of President George W. Bush’s Faith-Based Initiative. Congress, however, rejected Bush’s efforts to allow such hiring discrimination within all federal social service programs. So, Bush went around Congress, implementing parts of his agenda  piecemeal, through executive orders and regulations.

If the Bush Faith-Based Initiative scared you in the 2000s, the Russell Amendment will terrify you. The Bush Faith-Based Initiative allowed faith-based employers to prefer co-religionists. So, for example, a Lutheran organization could refuse to hire non-Lutherans within a government-funded program. Outrageous, right?

The Russell Amendment would do that and more.  It would also let faith-based organizations hire only people who abide by their religious teachings and tenets. These organizations, in taxpayer-funded programs, could refuse to hire— or even fire— someone because the person uses birth control, is in a same-sex marriage, or is a single mother.

That’s beyond outrageous.

After more than a decade of saying no to Bush Faith-Based Initiative, Congress certainly shouldn’t say yes to a more extreme version now.

To Tell your Senator to Oppose the Russell Amendment, click here.

For more info on the Russell Amendment, click here.

For more info on the Faith-Based Initiative, click here.

Follow Maggie Garrett online at @maggiefgarrett