Faith Czar Towey Defends Job Discrimination by Religious Charities

Article excerpt

White House "Faith Czar" James Towey has been traveling the nation assuring religious groups that the Bush administration will protect their right to receive tax funding while engaging in employment discrimination.

In August, Towey met with leaders of Catholic Charities of Maine, telling the group that the administration would seek to override local ordinances that ban discrimination in job hiring.

"Sometimes you see local governments that bully faith-based organizations and basically tell them that they have to compromise their religious beliefs and tenets if they want to partner with government," Towey told the Portland Press Herald. "That may be their prerogative when it's state and local money, but when it's federal money, that raises a whole different set of issues."

The controversy has resonated in Maine, where some communities have ordinances that ban private groups from discriminating in hiring if they accept tax aid. Although conservatives talk a lot about the importance of local control, the White House seems determined to override those laws under its "faith-based" initiative.

In Portland, city leaders have refused to allocate federal funds to Catholic Charities and the Salvation Army because the organizations refuse to comply with a municipal ordinance that requires contractors to provide certain benefits to employees' domestic partners.

Former Portland mayor James Cloutier said the city's policy is fair because it treats all groups equally. …