Catholic Charities of Washington, D.C. joins World Relief in discriminating based on religious affiliation
Posted by Christopher Coen on March 16, 2010
Catholic Charities of Washington, D.C. is now joining the evangelical group World Relief in creating a new employee policy that discriminates based on religious affiliation (see here).
Meanwhile, officials with Catholic Charities of Washington, D.C., have begun requiring new employees to sign a statement promising that they will not “violate the principles or tenets” of the Catholic Church. It’s a sweeping statement – one that would allow Catholic Charities to dismiss employees for virtually any infraction of church rules, from failure to attend religious services and using artificial contraceptives to cohabitation and publicly criticizing church leaders.
The Establishment Clause of the Constitution prohibits discrimination in government-funded programs. Nevertheless, President George W. Bush issued executive orders allowing faith-based social service groups that receive public money to discriminate in their hiring practices. In addition, Federal and D.C. laws also explicitly give religious groups exemptions from bans on religiously based employment discrimination (see here).
Our position is this — while it may now be legal (by law, although not by Constitution) to discriminate against workers based on religious affiliation, any private organization that does so does NOT belong in the U.S. Refugee Resettlement Program. Their participation is purely voluntary, both by them and by the federal agencies that oversee the program. They don’t HAVE to take part in the program, and they should NOT be allowed to take part.
Why? Because their religious beliefs mean that they will ban people who are the MOST qualified from being interpreters, translators, and case workers for incoming refugees. This type of religious discrimination is incompatible with the refugee program. It also just plain violates common sence. If it violates common sence then it has no place in the national, public refugee program.
For example, why would we allow Iraqi interpreters to come into the U.S. on Special Immigrant Visa’s (SIV visas) and then let them be banned from being Arabic interpreters and translators for the other Arabic-speaking refugees simply because most of them are Muslim? Do we have hundreds if not thousands of Christian, Jewish, or other, Arabic interpreters to take their place? No. Then it makes no sence for us to allow a organization to take part in the program that is going to ban their employment. As it stands, what will happen is that Arabic-speaking refugees just won’t get essential Arabic interpretation and translation services if we allow this type of religious discrimination.
World Relief kept Iraqi SIV immigrant Saad Mohammad Ali as an interpreter volunteer in Seattle for six months before he applied to work with them. They decided that his religion was incompatible with employment — that is, receiving a paycheck — but it wasn’t incompatible with doing the work for free for six months. Does that make any sense at all? The best reason they could give for refusing to hire a non-evangelical Christian, or in this case a Muslim, was that the person might feel uncomfortable while they do their praying at staff meetings.
Something tells me these people spend far too much time in meetings and not enough time assisting refugees. Federal oversight agencies must invite World Relief and the Catholic Church (USCCB) to change their new employee policies or consider leaving the refugee program. Although they have the right to discriminate, according to laws and executive orders, they don’t HAVE to. It’s a choice, and a choice that is incompatible with this program. It’s also our choice to allow them to continue to take part in this public program.
Here is our post about World Relief refusing to hire an Arabic interpreter in Seattle simply because he is a Muslim and not an evangelical Christian.
Here is out post about World Relief requiring a volunteer to sign a “spiritual assessmen”‘ in Spokane, Washington.