The Right Balance for Religious Freedom

Letter to the Editor

Published December 15, 2010, issue of December 24, 2010.
  • Print
  • Share Share

Your December 10 editorial “Hiring Rights and Wrongs” notes several ways in which President Obama’s recent executive order “include[s] important safeguards” for constitutional principles, but you then criticize the president for refusing to deny faith-based organizations the right to hire their staff on the basis of religion. Moreover, you assert that it “was the law” before the Bush administration that a faith-based organization receiving a federal grant could not act in this way.

President Bush did expand the scope of federal grant programs in which faith-based groups could participate, and his Justice Department issued a formal legal opinion supporting the right of faith-based groups to hire on the basis of religion. But faith-based groups that hired on the basis of religion were already receiving federal grants prior to his administration.

President Clinton signed into law four statutes that permitted faith-based groups to receive federal funds without waiving their hiring rights. This approach is consistent with the values of the First Amendment and the 1964 Civil Rights Act. Indeed, the 1964 Civil Rights Act explicitly allows religious organizations to hire based on faith, a provision that was later strengthened by Congress and endorsed by a unanimous Supreme Court ruling.

A faith-based charity utilizing federal funds to serve the needy must not, as the president’s order states, discriminate on the basis of religion regarding those it serves. But to require a faith-based charity to forego its legally recognized religious liberty as the price of partnering with the government is also religious coercion, and thus equally objectionable.

By essentially leaving this policy in place, the president is indeed striking the careful constitutional balance required.

Nathan J. Diament
Director of Public Policy
Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America
Washington, D.C.

The writer served on President Obama’s Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • What does the Israel-Hamas war look like through Haredi eyes?
  • Was Israel really shocked to find there are networks of tunnels under Gaza?
  • “Going to Berlin, I had a sense of something waiting there for me. I was searching for something and felt I could unlock it by walking the streets where my grandfather walked and where my father grew up.”
  • How can 3 contradictory theories of Yiddish co-exist? Share this with Yiddish lovers!
  • "We must answer truthfully: Has a drop of all this bloodshed really helped bring us to a better place?”
  • "There are two roads. We have repeatedly taken the one more traveled, and that has made all the difference." Dahlia Scheindlin looks at the roots of Israel's conflict with Gaza.
  • Shalom, Cooperstown! Cooperstown Jewish mayor Jeff Katz and Jeff Idelson, director of the National Baseball Hall of Fame, work together to oversee induction weekend.
  • A boost for morale, if not morals.
  • Mixed marriages in Israel are tough in times of peace. So, how do you maintain a family bubble in the midst of war? http://jd.fo/f4VeG
  • Despite the escalating violence in Israel, more and more Jews are leaving their homes in Alaska to make aliyah: http://jd.fo/g4SIa
  • The Workmen's Circle is hosting New York’s first Jewish street fair on Sunday. Bring on the nouveau deli!
  • Novelist Sayed Kashua finds it hard to write about the heartbreak of Gaza from the plush confines of Debra Winger's Manhattan pad. Tough to argue with that, whichever side of the conflict you are on.
  • "I’ve never bought illegal drugs, but I imagine a small-time drug deal to feel a bit like buying hummus underground in Brooklyn."
  • We try to show things that get less exposed to the public here. We don’t look to document things that are nice or that people would like. We don’t try to show this place as a beautiful place.”
  • A new Gallup poll shows that only 25% of Americans under 35 support the war in #Gaza. Does this statistic worry you?
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.